By Mary McLean, Staff Writer
Published in print Aug. 27, 2014
Brenda Joyce, better known as Mrs. Brenda by most of the student population, sports one of the friendliest faces on campus. Always ready with a grin and a greeting, she is well known by freshman and faculty alike for her sunny disposition as she swipes ID after ID into the dining hall cash register. But Mrs. Brenda is so much more than just a staff member. Behind her silver hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and irresistible smile is a woman who makes it a personal mission to help others in ways big and small.
“I feel like each one of us has to encourage one another,” explained Mrs. Brenda on a sunny Thursday after her shift in the caf. “No one likes to be around a grumpy person. If you are smiling it is kind of contagious, it catches on to the next person and it has a rolling ripple effect.”
After working at UNCG for seven years those ripples have spread far and wide, affecting the thousands of students she has interacted with. “I say that I have lots of children,” said Mrs. Brenda. “I think of everyone here as mine.” And just like any experienced parent, she has many pieces of wisdom for those who are just starting out.
“My advice to freshman would be to realize that they are here for studying and keep focused on that, but also don’t be so intense with it. After all, you have to have a little bit of fun too. And if you have a disappointment, realize that it is just a single thing, it is not all consuming, so you’re not a failure. Everyone has a bad day once in a while, so shake it off and think positive about yourself and know that you’ve done something to even get into college, so you have the ability to do this.” Mrs. Brenda’s philosophy summed up. “Think positive and just keep going, don’t give up.”
But students aren’t the only ones who get to interact with her unique brand of unrelenting optimism. “She is a very wonderful person to work with, an ear to talk to, and a shoulder to lean on,” said another dining hall staff member who goes by Mildred. Mrs. Brenda won’t take any praise without returning it tenfold though, and cannot say enough about all the people she works with. “Everyone here is so supportive and kind. I call this my fun job,” she said. “I look forward to coming to work every day.”
As far as actually eating and working in Fountain view goes, Mrs. Brenda is all thumbs up. “I think the new facility is fantastic, I love all the light that streams in the windows,” she said. And even her eating habits might be more like yours than you would expect. “I love Adrian’s pizzas, I love the variety. But I guess I’m terrible in that I don’t eat as many veggies as I should.”
In her free time, Mrs. Brenda is sort of like the grandmother we all wish we had. She enjoys flower arranging, sewing, crafts, baking, and spending time with her family. She has three kids and a pack of grandchildren that she speaks of proudly, a few of whom are entering college soon themselves. Mrs. Brenda says that she thinks of them and wants to make the transition easier for any new student.
“If somebody is shy and away from home for the first time, they need somebody they can just say hi to or get a smile from,” Mrs. Brenda said. “Because this is a new experience and it is frightening, and I want to make each day as pleasant for them as I can.”
While the value of a friendly hello can’t be overstated, Mrs. Brenda is an important fixture on campus for another reason as well.
She is a remarkable example of what we can all try to be for the people we interact with on a daily basis. “I do try to listen to people, because you can’t be a friend if you don’t listen,” she explains. “I love the staff and I love the students.”
We wouldn’t have it any other way.