The Charger Blog

University’s Campus Dining, Havenly Treats Create Employment Equity Program

The University of New Haven’s Dining Services and Havenly Treats, a New Haven-based nonprofit, are working together to champion the hiring of refugee and immigrant women for quality jobs that foster growth, innovation, and equity.

April 19, 2021

Two chefs prepare to place icing on a tasty treat.
The University’s Dining Services and Havenly Treats are working together to champion the hiring of refugee and immigrant women.

When Hala Ghali, a Syrian refugee, joined the University of New Haven’s Dining Services team in 2019, she became the first Havenly Treats Fellowship alum to do so. Working as a baker with cross-training on multiple stations, she has excelled in her role, enjoying the many opportunities for professional development. She also enjoys her coworkers and appreciates the flexibility of her schedule.

“It’s the perfect job for me,” she said. “I feel very supported in the long-term. I’m thrilled to watch the program grow, and I hope that one day it will be open to not only Arab women, but all refugees.”

Ghali’s experience has been the result of an affiliation Sodexo Dining Services at the University of New Haven formed with Havenly Treats, a New Haven based nonprofit food business whose mission is to help refugee and immigrant women prosper, uplift their families, and shape their communities through a six-month fellowship. The fellowship offers refugee and immigrant women such as Ghali culinary training, the opportunity to learn English, obtain their Servsafe food handling certification, develop their financial and digital literacy, and prepare for the workforce.

As the relationship between the University’s dining services team and Havenly Treats continues to grow, Ghali has agreed to become an ambassador between them. Dining services has hired its second Fellowship alum, who will work closely with Ghali to develop her skillset and become a fully integrated member of the workforce. Ultimately, the goal is to establish Havenly Treats’ fellowship into long-term employment with dining services.

‘This is an exciting opportunity’

Juan Dominguez, the University’s dining services general manager, hopes to certify Havenly Treats Café as an authorized vendor so the pastries can be purchased and offered in the various dining locations across campus.

“This would allow the affiliation to come full circle by supporting participants while they’re in the fellowship program and providing them with full-time employment opportunities upon completion of the program,” explained Dominguez

Aside from the social and economic benefits, the relationship enables sustainable sourcing by utilizing a local vendor. It also fosters inclusion and diversity within the team, and in the community at large.

Caterina Passoni, executive director and co-founder of Havenly Treats, and Camila Guiza-Chavez, fellowship director, say they never imagined getting their pastries from their café onto campus would evolve into such a far-reaching opportunity.

“We hope to continue growing our relationship with Juan and his team using the University of New Haven as a starting point to solidify a formal program with Sodexo,” said Passoni. “In the future, we’d love to be able to use our alliance with Sodexo as a model for other potential employer partnerships throughout the community.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for the fellowship program,” added Guiza-Chavez. “It can become something great. I’m proud of Hala, and I have enjoyed watching her grow throughout the experience.”

For more about Havenly Treats please visit: