University Dining Center: fresh food and helping dreams come true

Nourishment is one of the most important aspects in any individual’s life. The source, quality and type of nourishment also play a vital role in determining how an individual develops throughout their lifetime.

The University Dining Center on campus is one of the main sources of nourishment for students, faculty and staff. The dining center is also one of the youngest buildings on campus and has been in operation for less than a year and is closely related in administration with the Residential Life office. Offering quality, freshly prepared food along with fine service in providing sustenance for all on campus is among the main goals of the University Dining Center.

Cindy Janney, director of the Residential Life office, states that the University Dining Center is a sustainable building, meaning it not only provides fresh, customizable food for students but also reduces the waste that comes with food service operation through the use of recycling, reducing and composting waste.

“After about a decade of conducting extensive studies on dining areas, it was decided that instead of constant renovations of the facilities that were present, building one center that had all the functions of food service operations and that would accommodate all that is needed in terms of dining would be best,” Janney said. “The design of the University Dining Center is such that it promotes staff interaction with the people they get to serve and offers transparency in that one can clearly view the food as it is prepared.”

Richard Wheeler, assistant director for environment in the Residential Life Office, was the project manager during the the building of the University Dining Center. He states that the element of natural light is unique in this building as everyone receives it through the numerous windows in the building.

“The aspect of lighting was one that was taken into consideration when plans were being set forth and the benefits it would have to people especially for the staff working in the University Dining Center was key in the designing the building,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler also said that, with the new University Dining Center, quick solutions to small challenges are easy to come up with, as there is a good amount of space to work with and make able modifications to suit the required needs.

The attractive environment of the University Dining Center has drawn in more people and the building has a family-feel to it, which makes it distinct. Imelda Maples, a University Dining Center Supervisor is the ideal personification of what the building hopes to provide to students.

“Making the University Dining Center feel more like home instead of just another building is what the staff always try to do,” Maples said. “The majority of the students are away from home or get homesick in their freshman year, thus something as little as seeing a smile from the person serving their food gives a heartwarming feeling.”

Maples has worked in fast food and had several experiences over the years with food that has equipped her with the right expertise for her job. She joined Minnesota State University, Mankato as a cook before recently being promoted to supervisor.

“I felt that I would apply for the promotion as I wanted something more challenging that would test me in terms of responsibility and workload,” Maples said.
Maples states with her new position the work is more intense but she strives to always be focused and do her best at her job.

“With general staff, the student staff always look up at us to set an example for them, thus we always aim to be super efficient in whatever we do,” she said.

Maples aspires to reach higher pinnacles in the dining sector as her mother acted as a role model for her, starting her own restaurant and showing her that when hard work is combined with dedication, nothing is impossible.

The University Dining Center is without a doubt proving to be a great asset to MNSU as its beauty not only lies in the magnificent structure that it is, but also in the people who make acquiring sustenance an unforgettable experience.

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