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Julie Frank

Julie Frank

Currently, 3,222 students living on campus have a meal plan, according to the Residential Life and Dining Services Master Plan for 2008 to 2018, and enrollment is expected to increase by over 16 percent in the next five years. In addition, 400 students will be looking for meals on the east side of campus after the new residence hall opens in fall 2010. To compensate for the increase in business and current demand, Dining Services is in the beginning stages of expanding.

“For some time now, The Union remodel that brought Pasta-Bilities, Tortilla Fresca and the stir fry station to the Market have been very popular,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Doug Wermedal. “You couple that with a very successful renovation – the fireplaces, the recreation spaces and the study spaces – and The Union becomes what it has always intended to be, which is the campus living room.”

The Residential Life and Dining Services Master Plan for 2008 to 2018 was approved by the Board of Regents on Oct. 23. Besides a $5 million Dining Services expansion, the plan also includes a new residential hall and fixing up current halls.

Vice President of Student Affairs Marysz Rames said the new residential hall and the expansion of Dining Services “fit hand and hand.” She added the plan focuses on accommodating students’ desires to eat at The Union.

“It’s just packed all the time, and as our campus is growing, it is going to need more room,” said Bethany Wuttke, a member of the University Program Council and a Students’ Association Senator.

Just ask sophomore Ellen Wolcott who said she has waited up to 30 minutes for food. She enjoys the current food selection but would like larger preparation areas to decrease the long lines.

It is still undetermined how Dining Services will be expanded. Wermedal said the plan will include additional seating and services in The Union. The new service may be a national food brand, an expansion of Aramark brands or something entirely different. According to Wuttke, the Dining Services expansion will not just focus on The Union but Larson and Medary Commons, as well.

Wuttke is part of a committee working to finalize plans. The committee consists of members from SA, UPC, Greek Life, Union Managers, Union personnel and people living in the residence halls.

In early October, an architecture and engineering firm was hired to help determine where additional seating and expansion will work best in terms of the buildings. Focus groups have been conducted to help get student perspectives on and off campus.

Wermedal said the expansion will be complete before the start of the Fall 2010 semester. Rachel Lewis, a committee member representing SA and Greek Life, said the two-year timeline allows them to do the project right.

“It (the deadline) is pretty fast and coming, but at the same time, it is enough time to get student perspective as to what they want,” she said.

Wuttke said she would like to see a more secluded, sit-down area that has a similar atmosphere as a restaurant that the campus currently does not have. Other students, like sophomore early childhood education major Rachelle Sather, agree with Wolcott and would like to see shorter lines but with a larger variety of food.

Sophomores Alicia Oliver and Bradley Seely and junior Kimberly Kapperman agree a new seating arrangement is needed. Oliver said the long tables in the Market work for big groups, but there is little room for groups of three or four. Kapperman added that groups do not want to sit next to each other on the long tables.

Wermedal said he hopes the end product provides students with a more comfortable and convenient experience that allows them to get to class, meetings and social events quicker.