Students know her as mom, aunty, or Miss Minnie. And after nearly 35 years working for UNLV Dining, Minnie Epps was one of 200 people selected — out of 250,000 across 21 countries — for food service company Aramark’s 2017 Ring of Stars. It wasn’t just excellent customer service that landed Epps in the Ring of Stars — it was her commitment to community. Epps volunteers on a weekly basis at multiple nonprofit organizations, one specifically dedicated to assisting teenage girls that are victims of sex trafficking in the Las Vegas area. She also volunteers on weekly basis to help feed the homeless.
What about UNLV strikes you as different from other places you have worked?
The diversity. I get to work with students from all over the world and learn about their culture, their food, and their lifestyle. We make a family here.
Tell us about a time in your life when you have been daring.
I used to work here in catering. At the end of events we were supposed to throw out the leftover food, but I did not. I made boxes out of the leftovers and gave them to staff to take home for their kids. I knew their kids needed a good meal. This was the only time I’ve ever been written up in 35 years on campus.
Where did you grow up and what was that like?
I grew up in Mississippi and was raised in an era where I didn’t have much opportunity. I was raised by my grandparents and was very close with them. I also was close with a women who taught me how to bake. Miss Mary said, “If you can cook well, you will always have a job. People need to eat.” I moved to California, and had to learn how to take the bus, live on my own, and that’s where I learned that you have to let people help you, and put your pride aside. It was a difficult time, but a good time in my life. I came to UNLV almost 35 years ago, and started in dining. I saw when we built the Dining Commons, and I’ve watched this campus community grow.
What can colleagues on campus do to make your job easier?
Practice more togetherness. Talk to each other and respect each other. Let the so-called “buck” stop with you.
Finish this sentence, “If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to ...”
I would own a large house that could accommodate about 12 young women. I’d help them put their lives back together and I’d help them get back out there. Recently I helped a young woman learn how to open and maintain a bank account; she had never known how. I also helped her buy bed frames and box springs for herself and her kids. You’d have thought she won a million dollars.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I love to read and I love to cook.
Any tips for success at UNLV?
Learn your job first, then learn how to give and earn respect. Be passionate about your career and find what you want to do.
This story was co-written by Anna Brandenberger and Jennifer Gray of UNLV Dining and the Division of Student Affairs, respectively.