BY SARAH SMITH
Many students were surprised when they walked into Seacobeck Dining Hall for the first time this year. The South Market and Bistro rooms were renovated to resemble an outdoor scene and an Italian restaurant, featuring central serving stations rather than cafeteria-style lines.
“The overall budget estimation for the renovations is $800,000,” said Erma Baker, the assistant vice president for Business Services.
A more comprehensive break-down of the costs will be coming out in two weeks.
Student tuition and meal plans were not used to renovate, according to Baker. Sodexo, the food services company that UMW out sources dining to, approached UMW with an offer to do a renovation.
“Sodexo realizes the concepts of change,” said Erma Baker, assistant vice president for business services, “and they want a high satisfaction rating with the University.”
As a state school, UMW is required by the Virginia Public Procurement Act to competitively out source all dining services and accept proposal requests from vendors. Approximately every ten years, a new contract is created with a food services company, such as Sodexo.
For this reason, it is important that Sodexo keep clients, including UMW, content.
The two rooms, which took about three and a half weeks in August to renovate, now feature new decorating and color schemes. Students no longer place their used trays in racks, but instead put them on two-way shelves with direct access to the kitchen.
“All changes are made for the students,” said John Dering, General Manager of Dining Services, “We tried to eliminate lines and add demo cooking so students can see the food prepared fresh.”
While some lines do appear to be shorter, for sophomore Karen Ellrod, the new design did not solve all problems.
“The new rooms look sophisticated, but I don’t know if it necessarily allows more movement,” said Ellrod, “It is difficult for big sports teams like girls rugby to all sit together.”
These types of change are influenced by student input. Dining Services schedules resident hall meetings every year in late September. The student input at these meetings is brought to the administration to see if plans can be made to improve dining for the following year.
The renovations are one of a number of changes aimed at giving students a more interactive experience and fresh perspective on dining.
“We want people to be more involved with dining,” said Baker, “This year people can vote for entrees on Thursdays and Fridays. Also, they can submit home recipes and take cooking classes.”
Other changes include, the Eagle Express, a grab and go food cart in front of George Washington Hall, extending the grilling station to be open three days a week rather than just one day. Pizza delivery services have been extended to seven days a week. The deck outside the Nest should be opening in the spring to help with congestion.
New food choices have also been added such as sushi and gelato in Seacobeck.
These changes are exciting for students, who often get dissatisfied seeing and eating the same things everyday. Sophomore Sarah Kountz is happy to see that UMW is working on becoming more environmentally friendly.
“I really like the gelato and that they are using smaller trays for conservation,” said Kountz.
Dering has heard both good and bad reactions from students this year.
“Compared to other schools, we are one of the most state of the art around,” said Dering, “Students may not always see it, but we are trying to be the best program possible.”