New University Dining Center Promotes Positive Changes

Jamie Waterbury

The University Dining Center completed in January has not only brought new food concepts, but also a large sense of community to the Minnesota State Campus. Jamie Waterbury, operations manager for Dining Services, has seen first-hand how the state-of-the-art space has positively impacted students and the employees who work there.

Waterbury has worked for Minnesota State Mankato since 2012, when he first began as a sous chef in the Centennial Student Union. He enjoyed the fast-moving environment and continued to advance in dining positions. Currently he’s the Operations Manager, which means that he oversees retail, catering and dining — but his main focus is the Dining Center. Waterbury continues to plan and promote the many innovative ideas of the Dining Center.

Food forward thinking has allowed students to see their food being prepared right in front of them. Students are able to ask chefs and staff questions, gaining knowledge about healthy and wholesome food options. Waterbury and the Dining Center staff also take pride in their efforts for energy conservation. Composting is a top priority; more than 95 percent of products used are compostable. The to-go service program for students uses compostable cups, which helps eliminate Styrofoam in landfills. The old Carkoski Dining Hall produced 25 garbage bags a day, but green efforts in the new Center have cut that down to two. The Dining Center also uses daylight harvesting, using the sun as natural lighting for the building to reduce energy.

Waterbury sees the new Dining Center as a welcoming gathering spot. More than 800 places to sit allow for more students, faculty and staff from across campus to congregate and enjoy company. “Students come and study with their friends and I can tell they are having a good time,” Waterbury explains. “They no longer just come in, eat and leave. It is great to see they are using the Dining Center for downtime and a relaxing space. You can see they truly enjoy the building in being in it.” The Dining Center has become experiential for students, allowing them to watch the cooking, interact with the chefs and then converse with friends.

One of the biggest changes Waterbury has seen is within his own employees. Chefs and staff are happier in the new center with brand new equipment as well as being able to hear positive feedback directly from the students they are serving. The staff enjoys the interaction with students. Hearing compliments first hand pushes them to continue to provide exceptional service.

The new Dining Center has become a great asset to Minnesota State Mankato. Parents and students who come through the building on admissions tours and open houses continue to be amazed by the space and all that it provides. Although each day in the Dining Center may have different people, food and activities, it always fosters creativity, learning and community for all of the individuals who walk through the doors.

Big ideas and real-world thinking on campus and in the community.