Staff Spotlight: Alex Ovia

Alex Ovia describes himself as laid-back, easy-going, focused and serious.

When you sit down and speak with Ovia, you quickly realize it’s an apt description of the new general manager at Garden Commons.

Ovia isn’t new to Miami University. He’s in his 18th year on campus, spending his first 17 at Bell Tower Place in the same role. While Garden Commons is only a short walk from Bell Tower, the shift isn’t without some adjustment as Ovia now oversees the operations of not only the busy Garden Commons buffet, but also Garden Market and Dorsey Market.

There’s a little bit of challenge knowing the different market and the different clientele here,” said Ovia. “Obviously, I’m up to the challenge.”

Ovia is quick to point out that he isn’t alone though. The work his staff puts in is invaluable, including the work done by student employees and student managers who are often rotating across different stations and must be flexible and adaptable.

“Without the student help, we wouldn’t make it,” said Ovia. “They’re very resourceful and are a tremendous help to our organization and to our team. I am really excited working side-by-side with them, along with my staff, employees and team. They’re a very, very important element of our business.”

Like many students who work during their college years, Ovia got his first taste of working in food service during college where he worked as a busboy and a cook before taking an interest in management. After college, he worked at Bob Evans for nearly 12 years in a management role and moved to Miami in 1998, to work at the newly constructed Bell Tower Place.

Ovia is focused and driven professionally, but he doesn’t let work consume him.

“Family is very important to me. I’ve been married for 26, 27 years now … my wife is going to kill me,” said Ovia with a smile. “If I have to say my preference, I’d say God first, family and then work. So, that’s just very important to me.”

Ovia attends church, values family time with his wife and three kids, and finds time for some of his other hobbies, including “football” (soccer), ping pong, watching American football and, most importantly, traveling.

“Oh, I love traveling,” said Ovia, who is originally from Nigeria. “My favorite place in the states is Arizona, specifically Sedona. It’s very, very peaceful. My wife and I went to this rural forest area. You could drop a pin and you could hear the sound of the pin drop. It could just connect to your soul and spirit. We were just there and just relaxing. I will never forget that, really. It was so beautiful.”

While Ovia’s serious approach is invaluable in directing his team, it’s his easy-going nature and appreciation for new opportunities that allow him to thrive with the diverse people who work at – or visit – Garden Commons.

“I love my guests,” said Ovia with a grin. “Those are the kind of people that put a smile on my face. I love my guests. The students I interact with. The student managers that we help to shape their futures. I think we are very special here at Miami.”

Whether interacting with customers or working with staff, Ovia enjoys what he does and enjoys the challenges that come with the job.

“At the end of the day, when you know that your customers, your students, your staff, your parents and your management team is satisfied, you go home knowing you accomplished something that day.” said Ovia. “It makes you feel good.”

The Hard Questions

Favorite dish to prepare? To eat?

PrepareOh boy, I have to go back home. I’m originally from Nigeria, West Africa, so it’s called jollof rice. It’s a mixture of rice, sauce, all the spices you want … curry, thyme … just mix it and you can use beef or shrimp or whatever mix you want. It’s similar to stir-fry rice.

EatWell, I grew up eating a lot of carbohydrate food like rice, beans, meat, steak and stuff like that. One thing I don’t really eat a lot of is sweets. We’re not a big fan of cake, dessert and we don’t eat a lot of that. I don’t care too much for it.

What’s your favorite TV show?

I like action movies. “X-Men” … movies like that. There’s “How to Get Away with Murder.” That’s what I’m watching on TV right now.  

Cat or dog? Neither, but if I had to choose, it would definitely be dog.

Cake or pie? If I have to choose, probably cake.


  1. opal Tipton says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Alex a few times during the summer at Miami. He was a joy to be around! His love for God and family was always so evident to all who came in contact with him! Miami is very blessed to have him as an employee! Bravo Alex!


  2. mary menke says:

    This is my first year of working with Alex, and it is a pleasure. His comments of “Mary I am here to help you are music to my ears as we are feeding the best food for our guests!!!”


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