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Behind the Scenes: Union Essential Employees

While the doors of our buildings Memorial Union and Union South are closed for now, dozens of employees continue to work at both buildings to support our campus community and visitors. Their work is helping us still serve our community in a variety of ways and ensure our buildings are ready when we can welcome back Wisconsin Union members and guests.

Take, for example, Brandon Kelly, the assistant director of restaurants at Union South. Before COVID-19, Brandon worked extensively with the Union team to complete projects like menu and recipe development, planning special events such as Badger Bash and the Campus Farmers Market, assessing our restaurants’ financial performance, as well as assisting with day-to-day operations of our restaurants.

“When the governor issued the first Safer at Home order, my team’s immediate response was to pivot and figure out how to continue to serve the campus community,” Brandon said.

Brandon Kelly, assistant director of restaurants at Union South

Some of Brandon’s team continue to operate the Sett Pub, make food videos like these, and tackle various projects. Brandon’s favorite part of his work at the Union is working side-by-side with his team. He says this teamwork is what makes the Union able to serve our non-student members, student members and guests on a daily basis.

Additionally, the facilities team’s work behind the scenes at our buildings never stopped.  These talented, dedicated individuals keep our buildings functional, beautiful and clean.

For these team members, no two days are the same. And that certainly rings true for our Operations Manager Nicolette Manning. She supervises student building managers as well as oversees the daily operations of Memorial Union, Union South and the Red Gym.

Nicolette’s work changed when the COVID-19 pandemic caused campus to shift to essential operations. With the shift, students employees are temporarily not working on-site, including the student building managers, and there is less need to be in the buildings.

“It is definitely a lot slower-paced, but working from home has allowed me time to make updates to our building manager training program and to provide the support my students need right now,” Nicolette said.

Nicolette Manning, Wisconsin Union operations manager


One of her favorite parts of working at the Union? Seeing folks create lifelong memories each and every day.

“I really value and appreciate our frontline staff who have remained in the buildings providing food for the UW-Madison community and for maintaining the integrity and safety of our facilities,” Nicolette said.

Additionally, our custodial team continues progress on many projects, such as extensive hard-floor disinfecting, seat cleaning in common areas, high and low dusting, disinfecting tables in service areas, as well as future electrostatic disinfection of all office spaces and common areas. 

As spaces reopen to members and guests, the custodial team will ensure high standards of cleanliness continue.

We hope to make more memories with you in-person soon, but for the time being, we offer Meals To-Go pick-up dining, the Wiscard Office office hours, and ways to enjoy experiences for a lifetime online

We are grateful for the talent and dedication of our team members that are helping ensure we can serve our community during our buildings’ closure and be prepared to welcome guests back. If you would like to share a message of thanks to our essential team members, you’re welcome to send that message to union@union.wisc.edu. We will ensure your messages are shared with these hardworking Union teams. 


To learn more about the Wisconsin Union, visit http://union.wisc.edu.

For more photos of our team working behind the scenes to make experiences for a lifetime possible, check out this story from UW-Madison here.

Author: Katherine Kermgard

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