Thursday, January 25, 2018

New union complex gives campus a social hub

University of Illinois Springfield’s recently unveiled Student Union building includes several dining outlets, among them the school’s first Starbucks and several relocated retail venues.

How do you build community on a college campus? Well, first you need a venue. That’s what was always lacking at the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS), where an enrollment of some 5,000 students has traditionally tended to scatter when not taking classes if for no other reason than there was really no place on campus to gather.

Well, there is now.

On January 14, just ahead of the start of spring semester, the ribbon was cut to officially open UIS’s new Student Union building, a 52,000-plus square foot hub of campus social activity complete with offices and workspaces for various student and volunteer organizations, a ballroom for special events, a gaming/activity center, several dining outlets plus the first branded Starbucks unit on campus.

The dining concepts were revamped to a degree for the move. For example, the World Flavors international station now allows diners to choose their vegetables, proteins, grains and flavoring sauces, then have them prepared to order by a chef. The station rotates different ethnic cuisines daily to offer variety. Meanwhile, the deli station now lets customers assemble their own sandwiches, which are priced by weight, and includes a toaster oven for those who wish hot dishes.

“The station is about twice the size it used to be” to accommodate the expanded ingredient options, says Geoffrey Evans, director of university dining services at UIS.

The pizza station has basically the same choices as before but the recipes for the sauces and crust have been upgraded, and baking is now done in a higher quality oven for a better all-around product, Evans notes.

The new UIS Student Union is designed to serve as a campus social hub with plenty of spaces to hang out and interact. So what’s been the reaction so far from the returning students?

“Very positive,” Evans reports. “They like the increased options and the Starbucks has been a big hit.”

This article appeared online at on January 24, 2018.

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