Campus News

Planning for international eatery moves forward; students to name venue

During focus groups last October, students were able to sample dishes that may be served at the international eatery. Photo: Cannon Design

By MICHAEL ANDREI

Published February 5, 2018

“The international eatery has the potential to become a gateway to the campus that conveys UB’s identity as a premiere international university.”
Graham Hammill, vice provost for educational affairs and dean of the Graduate School

UB students will select a permanent name for the university’s international eatery as planning and development of the signature project, including initial testing of bedrock under Founders Plaza, moves forward.

The transformative third phase of UB’s Heart of the Campus initiative (HOTC-3), planned for fall 2020, will create a “front door” to the university around and under the existing overhangs of Capen Hall and the Founders Plaza courtyard between Norton Hall and Capen.

“We are excited to announce a contest to choose a permanent name for this destination venue on the North Campus,” says Graham Hammill, vice provost for educational affairs and dean of the Graduate School.

“The focus groups held in the Student Union last fall by the steering committee and UB’s design partner on this project, Cannon Design, revealed a high level of interest among students in international foods, as well as the design of UB’s exciting new dining and meeting space,” says Hammill, who is also chair of the steering committee.

Nearly 1,300 students, faculty and staff attended the focus group event, Hammill says, “providing thoughts, viewpoints and suggestions to members of the steering committee, and engaging in conversations with the architects.

“Cannon now has the benefit of a broad sampling of ideas and suggestions from the UB community,” he says. “With this information, they are fashioning the best possible design that meets the needs of students, faculty and staff while achieving the programmatic goals of HOTC.”

Students interested in taking part in the naming contest may submit entries online between Feb. 5 and 18; they can vote for their favorite name between March 26 and April 1. Additional contest information, including how students can participate and prizes to be awarded, can be found here.

To help guide its formal design process, Cannon will continue to engage the UB community in a series of events over the spring semester. Members of the design team will present new information on the final design of the eatery and also speak with students, prospective students and families, as well as faculty and staff, to better understand how the HOTC project can best serve UB’s diverse community and support the university’s larger mission.

“Situated at one of the major crossroads on the North Campus, the international eatery has the potential to become a gateway to the campus that conveys UB’s identity as a premiere international university,” Hammill says.

“The first two key components of the Heart of the Campus initiative — Silverman Library and 1Capen — are already transforming teaching, learning and studying, as well as delivery of student services, at UB,” he says. “The third phase will further enhance the student, faculty and staff experience here.”

Workers with SJB Services Inc. conducts a test of the bedrock by drilling under Founders Plaza. The site may be the future home to a international eatery, part of UB’s Heart of the Campus (HOTC) initiative. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Testing soil and bedrock

Members of the Cannon design team are testing samples of the soil that lie beneath Founders Plaza. The samples were obtained with a large drill rig that members of the UB community may have seen there in late January.

“The drill cuts through the soil until it hits bedrock or refusal, coring the bedrock. The cores are then pulled up with the soil strata,” says Ron Van Splunder, manager of architectural support in Facilities, Planning and Design.

“The soil is sent to the lab for a geologist to evaluate for content and the type of soil that is present,” Van Splunder says. “The soil analysis helps the design firm’s structural engineer determine what size and type of foundation to use.”

Authenticity is key

Noting the increasingly diverse tastes of the UB community over the years, Jeff Brady, executive director of Campus Dining & Shops (CDS), says the international eatery is key to CDS’ ability to respond to those changes and plan for the future.

Brady notes more than 600 students completed brief surveys at the focus group event on international food choices from Campus Dining & Shops.

“The great response we received will help us plan menu options in the new venue,” he says.

One way Brady and his staff stay in touch with what students currently want from their experiences in campus dining halls is through CDS’ Student Advisory Board.

“We meet with them once a month and we get a lot of good feedback,” says Eric Blackledge, a CDS assistant director. “We get new thoughts, fresh ideas on what they like, don’t like … what sort of foods they would like to see.”

Adam Coats, another CDS assistant director, says students want variety, as well as authenticity, “so with that we will also need flexibility. The food stations in the international dining space will be built to allow us to switch out components — whether it’s a gas line, cooking surface or a wok — in a few hours,” he says.

“This feature will allow our chefs to prepare the wide range of foods found in different international cuisines with speed and efficiency — going from, say, Far East Asian to Caribbean.”

The key, Brady emphasizes, is authenticity. “We try very hard to stay close to what students who are from the countries where the dishes originate would recognize … going back to a ‘food from home’ concept.

“One example is students who seek out our chef Poonam Matta,” he says. “The feedback she receives from students who are from India, in particular, is consistent and positive.”

“Poonam goes into our dining halls, once a week, to Goodyear, Governors and Crossroads Culinary Center,” Blackledge adds. “The students in each dining hall know when she’ll be there. There are always lines at the stations.”

Brady notes that students are willing to step out of their comfort zones to try different foods. “They are foodies: watching food channels, sharing photographs of food on social media, and with their friends at other universities,” he says.

“All of this helps us quite a bit in shaping ideas and plans for the international dining venue. It really comes down to listening to students. They are the stakeholders.”