The Virginia Wesleyan Boyd Dining Center is a hub for student life and a daily gathering place for faculty, staff and students alike. In 2019, the dining hall underwent extensive renovations that improved both the aesthetics and functionality of the space.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the dining hall was used for grab-and-go or socially distanced in-person dining. Now that the VWU campus community is fully vaccinated, there is much more leeway for in-person dining options that are safe.
General Manager for Dining Services Tim Lockett said he is excited to see students back in the dining hall and finally enjoying the new space.
“The Dining Services Team is excited to fully open the Boyd Dining Center this fall semester,” Lockett said. “The space is now very bright and open, with all new furniture and seating choices. The new food stations with upgraded presentation and serving options are designed to enhance the dining experience.”
The stations in the dining hall are intended to be inclusive of the dietary needs of the campus community. Kyleigh Castengera, a freshman student-athlete, was excited to see vegetarian options made available every day.
“Regarding vegetarian options in the caf, I would say that I was actually pleasantly surprised,” Castengera said. “There is always something for me to eat, even if some days that something is pizza and a salad. There is always a choice of food for me, which doesn’t happen in most restaurants.”
Mackenzie Kerns is a senior and captain of the Women’s Soccer team and has dietary restrictions due to gluten intolerance.
“Sometimes I can’t find many gluten free options and so I just end up eating the salads most days,” Kerns said.
Kainaat Treharn, a Batten Honors College student, has mixed feelings about the dining hall options.
“In my opinion, one area that the caf can do a better job is diversity in options,” Treharn said. “While I do recognize the new steps, for instance, the introduction of flavored almond milk, I think it can be a bit more sensitive and open towards a more diverse palette i.e. various dietary needs.”
Beyond the renovations and new stations, one of the biggest changes this year has been the number of students who are able to enjoy meals in the dining hall seating areas.
“On another positive note, the current guidelines allow for normal dining, and we see that the students are now enjoying the newly refreshed space as a place to eat, relax and socialize during their meals,” said Lockett.
Even though more students are enjoying the dining hall’s accessibility to students, there is a population of students on campus that still struggle to make it to dinner hours. Student-athletes on campus who want to enjoy the new dining hall renovations and stations are impeded by the block of time used for athletic practices.
Most teams have practice from roughly 4-6:30 p.m. every day while they’re in season. This block of time is meant to interfere with the least amount of classes, including night classes which often begin at 6 p.m. However, the dining hall hours of 4:45-7 p.m. allow for very little leeway for student-athletes to get changed, see the trainer and make it to the dining hall before closing time.
“It’s difficult to get to the caf after practice, especially if our practice runs a little bit late,” Castengera said. She expresses that eating at the Dining Center is a daily occurrence for her and other freshmen, and “while it is a tight squeeze to get there before they close, we still have to eat there. I personally don’t go to the trainer after practice but my friends do and they have almost no time in the caf. They probably don’t get as much care from the trainer as they could if they didn’t have the time constraint.”
“It is especially important for student athletes to refuel after practice and games and it makes it difficult to be properly energized if our athletics schedule interferes with the caf hours,” Kerns said.
The Grille is another option when the dining hall is closed. The Grille is still operating on limited hours from COVID guidelines and closes at 8 p.m., which is the same time that many night classes end.
By Katie Yeager