Balancing schoolwork and a job is difficult under normal circumstances. Throw in a global pandemic, a double major, and working at your family’s restaurant and you’ve got Carson Allen ’23’s stressful spring semester.
The international studies and entrepreneurship major has been spending 10-11 hours per day at Edge by Chef Dustin Allen, the family’s farm-to-table eatery in Peoria Heights, Ill. In addition to helping however needed, Allen handles all marketing and social media for the restaurant, impacted by the devastating effects of COVID-19.
“Every day, we’re rewriting our business plan,” Allen said. “Edge is known as a fine dining place. It’s not quick service; it’s a very slow pace. We want to create experiences. That core part of what we were — or are, I guess — has changed, so now we just want to create great food that comforts people.”
The restaurant has switched to carry out service only, offering burgers, hearty family meals and even a combo that includes a bottle of red wine. Through the changes, the eatery has held firm to its mission.
“No matter what, we’re sticking true to our goal of using local ingredients from local farms,” Allen said. “(There’s) no time like now; you have to support these local businesses.”
Making the transition to remote learning took a lot of time management. Allen had only one live class per week, with the majority of his professors opting to record lessons and push videos to students. He admitted to sometimes struggling but recognized the transition was difficult for faculty, too.
“Learning has changed. It is hard to stay motivated to do classwork. … Keeping that reminder that you are still in school, that you still have assignments to do — that’s hard.
“There are some professors who are very, very apologetic when they can’t get a video out on time. What’s nice is that a lot of Bradley students understand ... It‘s an experience for all of us.”
The Bradley Brave missed being in class and around his friends but is grateful they are staying connected through social media. Allen added one positive from the pandemic has been spending more time with his family.
“Being self-quarantined in our bubble as a family, we’ve just been able to hang out, so that has been nice,” he said, although they miss their work family.
“It’s a little upsetting with none of the employees here at work. It was a decision that was hard for my father to make, but we had to do what we had to do for the best of them. No matter what, when this is all over, they have a place with us. The people who work for us are basically like another sister, another brother, another uncle, all of them.”
While the struggle to maintain that balance between work and school weighed heavily, he and his peers are grateful to the university for what it’s done to support students during this unprecedented time.
“What’s nice is that Bradley faculty and professors and everybody there are very understanding that things have changed now … With everything that Bradley’s been sending out and doing, we understand where Bradley is coming from, and we know they’re doing their best. We really appreciate that they’re trying to do their best.”
— Wendy Vinglinsky