ETSU celebrates the opening of newly renovated, expanded dining hall

Published 8:57 am Monday, September 2, 2019

JOHNSON CITY — Students, faculty and staff at East Tennessee State University can enjoy a variety of additional dining options and a brighter, expanded seating area in the newly renovated dining hall on the third level of the D.P. Culp University Center.

The facility has nearly doubled its serving capacity to 3,300 and offers an “anytime dining” experience, with operating hours from 7 a.m.-midnight seven days a week.

The dining hall also features a new brick pizza oven and one of the few Pepsi Spire® machines in the region.

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“Everything is new,” said Kelvin Tarukwasha, general manager of Sodexo Dining Services at ETSU, during an Aug. 28 ceremony celebrating the opening of the facility. “We have a brand new kitchen, brand new dishwashing room. Every station has new and upgraded equipment.

“It’s amazing. At Sodexo, we don’t have many accounts that look like this. We have all the equipment we could ever wish for, and are able to do pretty much anything. It’s everything that a kitchen needs.”

ETSU President Brian Noland recalled meeting with student leaders who asked what could be done to enhance the gathering, meeting and dining spaces for students on campus.

“Ultimately, this is a dream that was made possible because of students,” he said. “Students requested, we listened, students led, students made this possible.”

“This is arguably the most important part of the Culp project,” said Aamir Shaikh, ETSU’s 2019-20 Student Government Association President, referencing the full renovation project of the building which is scheduled to be completed by January 2020. “The renovated layout is one that promotes meetings, programming and so much more. This space matters to the students.”

Dr. Virginia Foley, an ETSU professor and representative of the university’s Board of Trustees, echoed Shaikh’s sentiment and stressed the sense of community the newly renovated space may foster.

“Eating together is such an important part of building community and culture,” she said. “Our new dining hall is a place where students will gather with their ETSU family to share laughs, to share advice, and to form bonds.

“The same holds true for faculty and staff. We are fortunate to have a place where we can meet colleagues for lunch and also become acquainted with others across campus.”

Dr. Joe Sherlin, ETSU vice president for Student Life and Enrollment, stressed the partnerships involved with the project.

“Six years ago,” he said, “our Student Government and Residence Hall Association students came to us and said, ‘We want to improve the dining experience on our campus. We want more options, we want more hours.’ And so we entered into that partnership with a new vision of what dining could be on this campus.”

Both Sherlin and Noland expressed gratitude not only to the student leadership, but also to ETSU’s Facilities Management, Planning, Design and Construction and Student Life and Enrollment teams; Tarukwasha and the rest of the Sodexo Dining Services team; Chris Broglio and his team at BurWil Construction; architects with Moody Nolan and Beeson, Lusk & Street; and others who have been instrumental in bringing the dining hall project to fruition.