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ND campus dining opens for a new semester, improves student experience

Luigi Alberganti, senior director of campus dining, said he was excited for the school year to start back up again.

“Speaking for the staff, we couldn’t wait until we could go back to our activities,” he said.

This year, the Notre Dame campus hosts three new dining options. The Gilded Bean, located in the Hammes Bookstore, features a café menu with bagel sandwich options. Rollin’ and Bowlin’, a new concept featuring smoothies and acai bowls, will be served at the Hagerty Family Café in Duncan Student center.

Sophomore J.P. Polking’s favorite new addition is FlipKitchen in LaFortune Student center.

“I love FlipKitchen. I’ve been probably like four times already in the past week and a half which isn’t good because I’m spending too much money, but it’s really good food,” he said.

At FlipKitchen, which replaced Subway, Alberganti explained the menu will be shifting throughout the year.

“There’s a core menu but then there is also a section of a menu that gets changed every three weeks in provide variety and excitement about that,” he said.

Dining Halls

Notre Dame’s wage increase has allowed the dining halls to also be more ambitious, Alberganti said.

“The university changed their compensation policies, allowing us to budget for a little bit more labor,” he said. “It’s all about the labor at this point.”

Executive chef of North Dining Hall (NDH) Matt Seitz said the University’s increase in wages has allowed the dining halls to increase performance by increasing worker productivity.

“We are paying (workers) an adequate wage. Because of that, we have simply asked that they do a little more,” he said.

With higher productivity, Alberganti said the dining halls are cooking more fresh food.

“We eliminated 20% of prepared convenience foods so we’re actually cooking from scratch a lot more now,” Alberganti said.

At the Welcome Weekend first-year dinner, which the dining halls served for free, Alberganti said the dining hall capabilities were tested, yet remained strong, when they provided “about 7,000 meals in a matter of 35 minutes.”

Sustainability and Supply Chain

Increase in personnel has also allowed the dining halls to increase sustainability programs once again, according to the campus dining director of supply chain and sustainability Cheryl Bauer.

“Some of the things that we’re really working to this year is bringing back programs that we had in place pre COVID-19,” she said.

Two major sustainability initiatives, Grind2Energy and Leanpath, are now being used again by the dining halls to monitor again and reuse food waste. The labor shortage during the 2021-22 year and the prior year’s COVID protocols weakened the initiatives, Bauer said.

“This year, we’ve taken the steps to really focus on those and get them going back up to where they were previously,” she said.

One step that is being implemented according to Bauer is signs at the dining halls telling students not to throw away food waste, which allows staff to scrape it and use it for the waste management programs.

Bauer also said the dining halls have had a smoother supply chain than last year.

The one exception to this year’s positive supply chain, Bauer said, is turkey. Due to the avian influenza wiping out turkey flocks throughout the country, she said there will be a shortage of deli turkey.

“You won’t see it on the deli bars in the dining halls. We’re putting roast chicken breasts out instead,” Bauer said.

Student feedback leading to improvements

Seitz mentioned that QR codes in the dining halls allowing students to give feedback on the dining hall experience has been helpful in improving the dining hall experience.

“I had one the other day that was, ‘can we please have pesto added back to the pasta line?’ That’s not an unreasonable request, so you’re going to see pesto added back to the pasta line,” Seitz said.

Another improvement Seitz noted was the chicken that is available every day. After hearing bad reviews of the chargrilled chicken last year, the staff changed the standard process to sear the chicken instead of grilling it to retain more of the chicken’s moisture. The improvements, Seitz said, is already evident in numbers.

“We used to go through between 400 or 500 pieces of chicken per meal for lunch and dinner. We’re actually upwards now to 1100 to 1200 pieces per meal.”

Lingering complaints along with positive reviews

Junior Emily Kirk, who mainly eats at NDH, said the dining hall experience compared to years past has been overall better, but that she still believes there’s improvements to be made, such as long lines.

“I’ve had friends who like wait an hour in that line,” Kirk said of the stir-fry line at the dining hall. “Most people don’t have time to do that. So, although it is a good option for food, it’s not always a practical one.”

Kirk said she also felt the salad offerings were not adequate.

“I like to get like a salad as like a backup option, but I feel like the salads are not that fresh,” she said.

Polking said, though he was happy with the overall dining experience, he has also experienced long lines.

“The lines are really long,” he said. “I don’t really know how you fix that, but at dinner last night, I waited for like 20 minutes just to get pasta.”

Despite this, Polking said he was not bothered by the overall dining hall experience compared to last year.

“I’m happy with it,” Polking said. “I don’t really have too many complaints.”

Sophomore Lucy Ordway, however, felt as though the dining hall experience has improved significantly from her first year.

“I think that the selection is better, and I also think that the quality of the food is better,” she said. “Tonight, at dinner, they had a much wider variety of vegetables and things that felt like I was eating healthier.”

Liam Price

Contact Liam at lprice3@nd.edu

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College begins new convocation tradition

Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in print on Aug. 19.

As both new and returning students arrive on Saint Mary’s campus this week, they will take part in several long-standing tri-campus traditions. Namely, the first walk down the Avenue, first-year movie night, the first-year BelleFest — which includes music, games and raffles — and DomerFest, where the first-years of the tri-campus meet and bond. 

Starting this year, Saint Mary’s students will also have another Welcome Weekend tradition. Over the summer, College President Katie Conboy sent an email to the Saint Mary’s community introducing fall Convocation. 

“This event is an opportunity to cheer in (literally!) our new transfer and first year students and to pin each other with your very own class pin,” Conboy said in the email to students.

Fall Convocation will occur annually on the Sunday afternoon before classes begin. The ceremony will recognize award recipients and gather students together before the start of the semester. The event replaces the spring Convocation. 

Executive director of retention strategies Mona Bowe noted the importance of gathering the Saint Mary’s community at the beginning of the new academic year.

“The idea came from the opportunity to have one single event where we could bring all of our students and our faculty and staff together before the academic year started,” Bowe said. 

Bowe acknowledged that fall Convocation would also provide the opportunity to connect new students with the rest of the campus. 

“We do a lot of events to bring the first-year students and the transfers together, but we didn’t have a single event where we could bring the community together. So we’re building community and we’re welcoming the new class,” Bowe said. 

The inaugural Convocation will take place Sunday in O’Laughlin Auditorium from 4:30 to 6 p.m. All are invited to join and cheer on their fellow Belles.

During the event, the recipients of the 2022 Saint Catherine Medal and the Spes Unica and Maria Pieta awards will be recognized. 

The Saint Catherine Medal is awarded to a rising junior or senior who has demonstrated high standards of personal excellence in scholarship, leadership, faith and service — the values of Kappa Gamma Pi, the national Catholic college graduate honor society that sponsors this award. Saint Catherine has long served as an inspiration for individuals who aspire to obtain knowledge and to stand their ground against the constraints placed upon them, thus inspiring the award. 

The other two awards, the Spes Unica and Maria Pieta awards, both recognize Saint Mary’s faculty members. 

The Spes Unica Award recognizes a faculty member who has performed eminent service to the College. Contributions can be in the area of teaching, scholarship, creative activity or service in higher level courses.   

The Maria Pieta Award was established in 1976 in honor of Sister Maria Pieta, who taught and served as an administrator at Saint Mary’s College. “The award recognizes the quality of teaching done in courses for freshman and sophomores”, Bowe said.

For the event, students are asked to wear a certain color based on their class year. Seniors and alumni are asked to wear the color blue, with juniors wearing yellow, sophomores wearing purple and first-years wearing red. In addition, any faculty or staff attending Convocation are encouraged to wear Saint Mary’s spirit wear.

As an added incentive to attend Convocation, all Saint Mary’s students who participate will receive a voucher to exchange for an exclusive T-shirt at this year’s Belles Bash.

Meghan Lange

Contact Meghan at mlange03@saintmarys.edu

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University hosts Welcome Weekend

More than 2,000 first-year students will descend upon campus to begin their Notre Dame experience this year. The class of 2026, heralded as the most diverse and selective cohort to date, will move into residence halls and acclimate to the campus community around them through Welcome Weekend.

Welcome Weekend, the University’s annual process of orienting first-years, will involve the typical introduction to hall staff and fellow hallmates, connecting with faculty and staff and accessing academic, spiritual and wellness resources. In the days preceding the class of 2026’s first classes, student leaders and volunteers across campus will come together to embrace the new students.

Andrew Whittington, program director for first-year advising in the Center for University Advising, said the weekend serves as a gateway to many of the unique aspects of the Notre Dame experience. 

“Our team of faculty, staff, and students seeks to share and invite students into the unique characteristics of our Catholic, Holy Cross undergraduate experience,” he wrote in an email. 

Emily Orsini, program director for new student engagement and formation, said allowing new students to feel connected and build community were priorities. 

“The most important part of welcoming the class of 2026 is to make sure every new student feels welcome,” Orsini wrote in an email. “We want to make sure we have diverse programming opportunities that students will be able to engage in. We want to create time and space throughout the weekend where new students can form connections with one another to start to build community.”

This year’s Welcome Weekend will feature reimagined aspects, including a scaled-back vision of the Moreau First-Year Experience class kickoff. Orsini said the University will also emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion in its programming during the weekend.

Staff also looked to add flexibility to the experience, developing periods of opt-in programming.

“That allows students to pick their own adventure and do what they need or want during that time. Students will have options to attend programs that campus partners have organized, hang out in the hall, take a nap, unpack, etc. We know how busy this weekend can be and we hope this time will provide students with what they need whether that be rest or participating in an activity,” Orsini said. 

Whittington emphasized that Welcome Weekend is only the beginning of a much longer experience and no student is able to garner a complete sense of belonging in just a few days.

“But, Welcome Weekend’s combination of residential, curricular, and co-curricular engagement serves as an invitation, hopefully, an inspiring and dynamic invitation,” he wrote. “As far as my role goes, I’m in the business of communicating those first truths that each new student belongs here, can grow here, and can do good here.”

Orsini concurred that though the weekend is simply an introduction, it holds a lot of potential. 

“I think it’s a time for students to start to familiarize themselves with the Notre Dame community as well as the resources and academic opportunities that are offered here,” she noted. “We hope Welcome Weekend is a time where students get excited about their time here from both the academic and social engagement perspectives.”

As Welcome Weekend committees arrived in dorms across campus preparing to help move in the class of 2026, Whittington wrote that the weekend provided an opportunity to embrace the incoming class. 

“These new students, your new classmates, had the choice of joining any number of impressive university communities. They chose us. We’re just so darn grateful for that decision and are honored to celebrate them, learn more about them, and invite them to take their place alongside us as members of the Notre Dame family,” he stated. 

A version of this story was published in our Aug. 19 print issue.

Isa Sheikh

Contact Isa at isheikh@nd.edu.