Coffee with Scott O’Rourke

Scott O’Rourke. Credit: Kate Wilkinson ’17

Scott O’Rourke starts each morning going out for a walk with a 3 year old german shepherd he’s fostering. O’Rourke said, “Just to see the day start out and have it open up in front of me has been a good experience for myself. It really starts my day off in a good way.”

O’Rourke the New General Manager of Dining Services at Wheaton. He started in August and since the he has had to hit the ground running, an experience he describes as a bit of a “whirlwind.”

“When you work in higher education, you really look to that summer to be your planning for the fall,” said O’Rourke. “So that you can kind of put programs in place and design things. I was fortunate to walk into a situation where the team was already working on some stuff, but at the same time it was 30 days of me trying to get up to speed and make sure we put the right programs in place and we executed a good opening.”

You might have seen O’Rourke around the dining halls. As he puts it, he’s the “nearly bald guy with a tie” that you may seen behind the counters, talking to students, or racing from one place to the next.

Since the Dining halls have opened their doors, noticeable changes have been made, changes like the new allergen station in Chase: a station that provides food without seven of the eight largest allergens.

“I have a son and a daughter who avoid gluten and dairy,” he said. “So when students come to talk to me about those types of issues I feel like I have some sensitivity to that particular piece.”

Having six kids, a wife, a cat named Beans, and that german shepherd that he’s fostering, O’Rourke places a strong emphasis on his family life.

“This Saturday will be the first time we’ve had all six together in one spot in two and half years so it’ll be a great day for all of us.”

Having most of his kids either in or out of college or in the Navy, O’Rourke draws some of his ideas for dining services from his kids’ experiences.

“I’ve been around to different campuses and seen different things. And I always ask [my children] for their feedback about how dining is going on on their campus so it gives me an interesting perspective.”

Working for 30 years for Aramark, O’Rourke has gotten a solid lay of the land when it comes to dining. In starting at Wheaton, he has the goal of making Dining Services more apart of Wheaton life.

“We want dining to be part of the overall community. We want it to be everybody’s program. The fun thing for me is to be able to engage students and engage faculty and staff in different ways.”

One way that O’Rourke is trying to do this is by reaching out to communities like Hungry Lyons and doing community service jobs with Head Start. He also plans to have events like student chef challenges.  But with all of these ideas, the greatest challenge he faces is time.

“I would like enough hours in the day to be able to one: be out and visible enough to talk to students and customers about how things are going and at the same time spending time at my desk to take care of the behind the scene stuff.”

But overall, O’Rourke wants to make the dining plan better. According to him, one way student can help is by providing feedback.

“We’re in this business because we like it and in this environment of higher education we want to take care of people. We want to make sure people are satisfied and that their needs are met.”