Staff Profile

Staff Profile: Penni Corcoran

Current Position at UConn Dining Services: Validine Operator at McMahon for the last 5 years – validine operators greet all the students and guests at the dining hall and assist them with questions, tapping their OneCards, and meal purchase transactions.

What was your journey before coming to UConn? I graduated from nearby E.O. Smith High School, taught English in Brazil for 3 years, worked at CT Bank and Trust and also as a nurse aide.

What has been your journey at UConn Dining? I started at UConn in 1994 as a validine operator at Russell A&B. Other positions included receptionist at the Dining main office, receptionist at Jonathan’s Restaurant, chef assistant, location lead, and kitchen assistant. Although I retired from full-time employment, I am still at McMahon on a part time basis.

What do you love about your job? I love interacting with the students and visitors. I treat the kids like they are mine. I love listening to their stores and adventures. I am a huge sports fan and over the years I have bonded and kept in touch with a lot of the student athletes and other students on social media.

What is your favorite menu item at UConn? I love the food at McMahon! My favorite item is salmon and steamed veggies.

What are some fond memories you have of your time at UConn? We used to have a barbecue every week at Jonathan’s Restaurant. I liked helping serve and prepare food. My special memories are working with different types of people. South was my favorite dining hall. I trained a lot of kitchen assistants.

Celebrating Penni's birthday!

Staff Profile: Baker Matt Beckwith

Current Position at UConn Dining Services: Baker in the UConn Dining Services Bakery

How did you get into the food industry?: I was raised in a big Italian family so cooking has always been a big part of my life. I grew up in and out of the kitchen and used to love watching cooking shows growing up so I decided food was going to be my future. I started my cooking journey at Windham Tech and that's essentially how I got my job here but continued on to Manchester Community College where I received an associates in Food Service Management.

What has been your journey at UConn Dining?: I have been working here in the bakery for about 15 years. I started as a student worker in high school for work-based learning and then ended up getting a full time spot here in college where I worked up from a kitchen assistant to the baker I am now.

What do you love about your job at UConn/UConn Dining?: Baking is so rewarding! There's nothing better than watching a fresh loaf come out of the oven. I always love trying to think up new ways to get bread out to the students and coming up with new recipes. 

What do you like to do in your spare time? I'm a big foodie at heart so when I do travel, its eat and drink. Aside from that I enjoy powerlifting and practicing Muay Thai. I'm also an avid gamer and enjoy playing all types of games.

What activities or events have you enjoyed being a part of at UConn?: Some of my favorite events we participate in is the Spring Fling cake/cupcakes and setting up the Thanksgiving Pie Sale.

Fun Facts From the Bakery: We make on average about 3000lbs of pizza dough a week.

Matt Beckwith
Matt Beckwith
Loaf of Sliced Bread

Staff Profile: Sue Meduna

Current Position at UConn Dining Services: Location Supervisor for 3 years at Mango

History at UConn Dining:  I started working at UConn Dining when I was in high school - Commons Dining Hall in 1984. I have worked at UConn for most of my life. Positions have included:

Jonathans Restaurant Supervisor
Production Kitchen
Location Lead & Location Supervisor at Union Street Market

What do you love about your job at UConn/UConn Dining: I love working with the students and value all the friendships I have gained throughout the years. I like to believe that I have made a little difference in the students lives that I have worked with. I know that I continue to learn every day from the diversity of students that I come in contact with. I do believe this career keeps me young at heart.

What is something you like to do in your spare time? photography, drone photography, going to the beach, mountains, and sunrises on Horsebarn Hill

Do you have a favorite menu item at UConn: UConn Dairy Bar ice cream

What activities or events have you enjoyed being a part of at UConn?: I love to promote special events for Dining. Some events have included: Opening day baseball, Superbowl, Hawaiian shirt days, Mardi Gras, Spirit Weeks. These special events were accompanied by special menus and included the Dining staff to participate with fun attire to match. Most recently we did a UConn Final Four event at Mango which included blue and white smoothies and our own Mango Mike!

Hawaiian shirt day
Hawaiian Day at Mango

Chef Profile: Angel Soto

Angel Soto: Q&A

With almost four decades of creating menus and serving students, you could say chef Angel Soto is a familiar and welcome face in the dining halls at UConn. After graduating from the culinary arts program at EC Goodwin Tech, Angel got his hands-on experience serving large groups through food services in the Army. In 1996 he retired from the Army with 20 years of service, four years in active duty and the remainder in the reserves. After leaving active duty he joined UConn Dining Services and also returned to EC Goodwin Tech for a few years as a chef instructor for the adult bilingual education program.

Today you can find Angel in Buckley Dining Hall whipping up omelets for students to start their day. He also currently serves as the UNITE Here Steward and Executive Board Member.

What do you love about working at UConn?

What I enjoy about working at UConn is the interaction and service we provide to our students. The greatest satisfaction for me is receiving the many thanks and compliments from students on a daily basis and for that I’m grateful!

Working at UConn has allowed me to meet many people with skills that have influenced me in many ways. With skills gained along the way, I’ve been able to continue my passion for creating menus and keeping my love for the culinary arts alive.

I have achieved many accomplishments throughout my 39 years in food service here at UConn, but the two achievements that stand out the most for me was receiving the SUBOG Employee of the Month in 1985, voted on by the students and Employee of the Year in 2011, voted by my peers.

What is your favorite thing to cook at UConn?

I enjoy cooking all types of food, but my favorite would have to be whipping up omelets at the omelet station. We provide students with many options to create their omelets and working at this station allows me to interact with the students and for me, that is so rewarding!

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

I cook many meals at the home front, but believe it or not I’m not the head chef at home, my wife is!  She’s a great cook and I appreciate her taking that duty on. But when I do cook at home my family would say that their favorite is my Puerto Rican cuisine dishes. I grew up in a very large family with six brothers and four sisters. You would often find my mother in the kitchen creating Puerto Rican dishes for my siblings and me. I would say she and many of my aunts influenced me to become a chef!

Chef Profile: Kelly Haggerty

“I love coming up with new concepts, every day brings a different challenge and a new solution.”

Production Chef Kelly Haggerty takes her inspiration and passion for cooking from the backgrounds and cultures of the many different people she meets in life. Because she is a chef, the topic of food usually comes up and the traditions and stories of food that others grew up with inspire her to be creative and to put her own unique spin on it.

Kelly’s culinary background began at the Western Culinary Institute (Le Cordon Bleu) in Portland, Oregon where she obtained her associate’s degree. She then worked for five years at Todd English’s Tuscany at Mohegan Sun, a high volume fine dining restaurant, where she became the first woman master cook. She was also a pastry chef for Latitude 41 in Mystic, CT and helped the company with their sister restaurants Mystic Market West and Aspen in Old Saybrook, CT.

Arriving at UConn in 2010, Kelly started as a chef assistant at Union Street Market and within a year was promoted to chef and then production chef. In April 2019 she made the move to Whitney and Buckley dining halls as their production chef.

What’s her favorite meal to cook? Outside of UConn Kelly keeps dinners at home very simple but if she is going to a gathering or feeling creative, her go-to is rustic Italian food which usually consists of a four-course meal.

Kelly’s diverse skills as a chef have allowed her to participate in two American Culinary Federation competitions during her time at UConn. With each year there is a new food trend, so recipes are always evolving which she feels keeps on her toes.

Chef Profile: Crystal Russell

UConn’s Bakery “Not Just Desserts” produces hundreds of thousands of desserts and baked goods each year – over 90,000 just in chocolate chip cookies! Pastry Chef Crystal Russell has been with the team since 2003 creating sweet treats for the campus community.

Crystal arrived shortly after she graduated from Windham Tech’s Culinary program where she had received the Baker of the Year Award – an award that hadn’t been given out in 3 years.

Over the last 16 years she has built up her skills with hands on learning from the bakery managers. What she loves most about her job is the freedom to experiment, create and seeing her recipes on a menu. Her favorite pastry to make at UConn is Danish because there are so many options with shapes and fillings.

Although she is creating thousands of sweet pastries each year, don’t count her out of the savory game! At home she is known to make a mean crab rangoon and beef wellington!

Chef Profile: Susan Chang

Susan Chang’s love for cooking began as a child growing up in Taiwan. With no formal education, she learned everything with on-the-job training. Her grandfather was also a chef and she recalls that he always had a stern look on his face since he took his work so seriously.

Being in family-owned restaurants has been the backbone of her culinary career. In 1985 she moved with her family to the United States where she was part owner and operator of the restaurant they opened in Nebraska. She then moved to New York to work in another family-owned restaurant, eventually landing in Storrs.

In 1998, Susan and her family purchased a restaurant in downtown Storrs and opened Chang’s Garden, serving authentic Chinese food to the UConn community for many years. Although Susan and her sister have since sold the restaurant, it is still called Chang’s Garden and in operation today.

Dining Services Culinary Competition

After leaving the restaurant business, Susan started as a kitchen assistant at UConn Dining in 2010, eventually working her way up to a chef three years later. She currently works as a chef at South Dining Hall where a variety of international foods are served. For Susan, food and family have always gone together and she often brings specialty/authentic foods from home to share with staff and managers. She takes a great deal of pride in her work and food, loves her job and says the students at UConn help to keep her young!

Get to Know Chef Chang:

Favorite Quotes: “Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman — not an artist. There’s nothing wrong with that: The great cathedrals of Europe were built by craftsmen — though not designed by them. Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable, and satisfying.” – Chef Anthony Bourdain

“The way you make an omelet reveals your character. – Chef Anthony Bourdain

Cooking Philosophy: I love to cook and watch students (and others) enjoy the food I make.

Cooking Secret: Using pizza dough to make scallion pancakes.

Chef Profile: Bruce Haney

Hard work and dedication are the ingredients in chef Bruce Haney’s career. In his almost 48 years as a full time chef at UConn Dining Services, he has also held eight other jobs as a chef and caterer in his spare time. If that wasn’t enough, Haney also serves as the treasurer for his union, Unite Here Local 2527T, on the Pension Committee and as co-chairman on the Retirement Plan Committee.

Shortly after receiving his associate’s degree in Culinary Arts, from the Culinary Institute of America, he joined the Army Enlisted Aide Program as part of the Quartermaster School. As an aide under the command of a Lieutenant General he was responsible for purchasing, menu planning, food preparation and serving for all meals, dinner parties and special functions. During his time in the Army he rose to the rank of sergeant and received the Commendation Medal and Good Conduct Medal.

After he was discharged, Bruce began his career at UConn in 1972 as a chef and dining hall manager. During his 31 years in this role he would also bring his talents as an executive chef to numerous venues in the area:

Owner/Executive Chef – Thistles A Caterer, Inc (Pautipaug Country Club), Baltic, CT
Perry’s Restaurant, Willimantic, CT
Frank Davis Resort, Moodus, CT
Pasquaney Inn, Bridgewater, NH
Willimantic Motor Inn, CT

From 1969-1985 he also took on a third job of catering private parties, weddings and banquets for 25-350 people.

In 2003, Bruce received the Dining Services Employee of the Year Award and  became a kosher chef at Gelfenbien Commons Dining Hall. Gelfenbien is the only dining hall on campus that offers a kosher kitchen that is certified by the Kashrut Commission of Greater Hartford. All kosher dishes are prepared under the close supervision of our resident Mashgiachs.

Bruce has been married for 47 years and makes his home in South Windham, CT. He has three children, and four grandchildren.

“Since high school I have enjoyed working in food service, with the changing trends, and working at UConn, especially given the diversity of the students. I have especially enjoyed the opportunity to venture into new and varied menus and ethnic foods.”


Chef Profile: Sean Hawkins

I love cooking for the creativity, taking simple ingredients and enhancing their flavors to create a new dish.

Connections to UConn for Chef Sean Hawkins have truly come full circle.

Growing up in Mansfield, Hawkins attended Windham Tech, during which he took on internships at UConn’s South Dining Hall and Union Street Market. After graduating from Windham Tech, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America and completed an internship at Le Cellier Steakhouse, one of Disney World’s most-booked restaurants. After receiving his Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts in 2009 he went on to work at country clubs in Florida and Connecticut.

Sean’s first sous-chef position brought him to the Spa at Norwich Inn, named “Best Destination Spa in New England” by Yankee Magazine. He continued his passion for cooking locally, refining his skills at places like Dog Lane Café, The Whelk, a farm-to-table restaurant in Westport, and Fenton River Grill in Mansfield.

Sean returned to UConn in November 2018 and has worked as a chef at Putnam Dining Hall, Northwest Dining Hall, and the campus restaurant, Bistro On Union Street, where he helped to create the menu for Connecticut Farm-to-Chef Week featuring locally sourced ingredients.


Chef Profile: Chef Sean