As students make their way around the Kansas Union this semester, those who stop by The Market for lunch are in for a fresh surprise.
“Union Square,” the third-floor seating area outside The Market, underwent a major renovation over winter break. It offers students a new space to study, relax, or meet while grabbing a bite to eat.
“We had 6,000 square feet of space, with a beautiful campus view, that was only utilized over the lunch hour,” said Lisa Kring, director of building & event services. “We entered design with the goal of providing a student space that offered an experience, not just a place to inhale a quick lunch.”
New tables and chairs in a variety of shapes and sizes fill the area, including lounge seating, rocking chairs and eight study pods in a quiet corner.
Televisions line the walls of the space, with some available for students to connect their own devices. A 24-by 6-feet video wall of TV panels shows the latest in news, sports and entertainment.
For more news and updates about KU Dining, click here.
Before the school year, we took a behind the scenes tour of the new South Dining Commons, the 22,000 square foot dining hall that feeds the hungry people of KU, primarily residents from Oliver and Downs residential halls.
While the facility was beautiful and ready for students, it was the one piece of unfinished business that caught our eye:
Encompassing nearly 200 square feet, the traditional “K” flag that flies on top of Fraser Hall on game days now covers the wall students see when they first walk in.
“Having our dining center so close to Allen Fieldhouse, we wanted our interiors to have a sports and school spirit feel.” said Mark Petrino, director of KU Dining Services. “When we were brainstorming what to put on this massive wall, we decided we wanted something that would immediately catch the eye of every guest as they entered… What would show school spirit more than this iconic piece of KU history?”
South Dining Commons is located at 18th and Naismith and is part of the Central District Plan approved by the Kansas Board of Regents in November 2015.
As KU’s construction of the new Central District continues, the anchor tenant is now ready for the public. On August 17, Cora Downs Residence Hall opened to welcome the newest generation of Jayhawks.
KU Student Housing’s biggest day of the year went off without a hitch, thanks to a small army of student volunteers helping direct traffic, unload cars, and move items up to new students’ rooms.
“I volunteered at Oliver Hall last year, nine floors with two elevators meant huge lines. Downs is a lot more efficient,” said junior Jayden Garetson. “We’re all here from various campus organizations to help out, and we even have some freshmen who moved in yesterday too.”
Volunteers appreciated the smooth-running system, and even the most move-in day experienced parents couldn’t help but be surprised. “We have moved six kids into college, and KU has the easiest, most efficient, and organized move-in we have ever done,” Sally Ahlgren said.
Beyond the move-in, The Ahlgrens knew they were leaving their daughter Maryclaire in good hands at Downs Hall. “We’ve certainly noticed the friendliness of the students here,” Bob Ahlgren said. “We’ve been to a lot of universities and can tell right away. This is a good group of people, we can feel that.”
Downs Hall is named for Dr. Cora Downs, c’15 g’20 PhD’24, a lifetime Jayhawk. Downs received her undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate degrees from KU, and served as an instructor and faculty member until her retirement in 1963. The only break in her service to the University was to serve the country, when Downs spent World War II leading 40 scientists on secret biological warfare research. Honors given to Downs include a Distinguished Service Citation in 1962, induction into the KU Women’s Hall of Fame in 1970, and being named a Pioneer Woman by the Emily Taylor Center in 2008.
Located at 19th and Naismith, Downs Hall holds 545 residents and is directly west of Oliver Hall, with the new South Dining Commons connecting the two residence halls. Four different floor plans are offered, which can be viewed below. Floor plans courtesy of housing.ku.edu.
With move-in day fast approaching, the KU Memorial Union hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of KU’s newest dining option, South Dining Commons, on August 9.
Replacing Oliver Dining Hall, South Dining Commons is located at 18th and Naismith and is part of the Central District Plan. The 22,000 square-foot dining facility will primarily serve residents from Oliver and Downs residential halls, but is available for students, faculty, staff and the general public to enjoy.
Features of the facility include a variety of seating options, natural light from all directions, and the largest known game day flag presiding over the center. Director of KU Dining Mark Petrino described the dining hall as “a fun and unique design that will enhance the student experience for years to come.”
The facility houses 12 different food stations, offering a variety of options including Italian, Tex-Mex, homestyle, and the KYou zone, which offers vegan dishes and other options for dietary needs.
South Dining Commons will also have a grab-and-go grocery store, South Side, continuing the trend of offering quicker food options on campus, such as Jayhawk Grocer in Self Hall and the Studio Café in Hashinger Hall. A new commissary will also be hosted at South Dining Commons, where food will be stored and prepared for all KU Dining locations.
With a facility that feeds hundreds of students and distributes for thousands, a KU Dining’s large staff continues to grow. Over 200 employees are already on board, with around 150 of them students. Hiring will continue into the school year.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured Petrino; Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs; Sarah Waters, director of KU Housing; and Harneet Sanghera, KU Memorial Union Corporation Board President.
“I have no doubt that in two weeks time, we will have new and returning Jayhawks laughing, creating memories, and dining on the wonderful food here,” Sanghera said, and the ribbon gave way to a giant pair of scissors, officially welcoming all of KU inside.
The KU Alumni Association was invited to tour the new facility. Check out our pictures and video below:
The force awakened on Mount Oread for Star Wars Day. The unofficial holiday for fans of the franchise is May 4 (as in May the fourth be with you), and this year did not disappoint.
Thanks to a promotion by KU Dining Services, the 7th annual Star Wars Day celebration at KU encouraged Jayhawks and Jedi alike to dine at Brella’s in the Kansas Union to raise funds for Make-a-Wish, while transforming campus into the Cantina from Tatooine. Cosplay characters from the 501st Legion, Mandalorian Mercs and the Dark Empire posed for pics and entertained crowds on Jayhawk boulevard, while other KU offices got into the act on social media. According to one participant who referred to himself only as “the Dark Lord,” Wednesday’s event was, “impressive …most impressive.”
Here’s a roundup of posts celebrating all things Star Wars at KU. May the force be with you, Jayhawks.
The sign in the Kansas Union said “Welcome Future Jayhawks,” but scene looked like something from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
On May 4th, fans of the Star Wars franchise come out in force to celebrate the date that has become known across the universe as “Star Wars Day” (as in “May the fourth be with you“). Jayhawks are no exception, of course, as KU students, alumni, faculty and staff all joined in the fun last week when several characters from the original and prequel trilogies made an impromptu appearance at the Kansas Union in anticipation of the big day.
The visit may have been the will of the force, destiny or an annual promotion sponsored by KU Dining Services. A clever poster campaign ran throughout the week, and other KU departments even got into act. The KU Parking Department took a lighthearted approach to the dark side by introducing “Park Vader” in Twitter posts (@parkingku), including this ominous Twitpic: “I find your lack of permit disturbing.”
Alumni know that the force runs strong in the KU family. Veteran voice actor Tom Kane, c’85, voiced Jedi Master Yoda in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, in addition to many other Star Wars characters. We featured an interview with Kane on this blog in January. And Kari Wahlgren, c’99, appeared in our Valentine’s Day feature story about her Oscar-winning project Paperman, but she too has voiced roles in the Star Wars expanded universe of games, including Knights of the Old Republic and the Force Unleashed.
Visitors on campus stopped to have their pictures taken with the costumed clones, whether to impress their kids—as KU Director of Admissions Lisa Pinamonti Kress did while passing through the union—or because it’s not everyday you get to see Boba and Jango Fett side by side (am I right fellow geeks?). More pics from previous Star Wars Day events on campus can be found on the KU Dining Facebook event page. So, until next year, may the force be with you. Always.