Students and faculty gathered Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the grand reopening of the newly renovated South Quad Residence Hall.
University staff enjoyed beverages and appetizers as University Housing Director Linda Newman; E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life; University President Mark Schlissel and students made remarks. After, guests were invited to dine in the new facility.
Starting in 2008, the University’s Residential Life Initiative has been an ongoing effort by the administration to modernize and update student housing. Along with several other dorms — including East Quad and West Quad Residence Halls — South Quad, which was opened in 1951 and is home to more than 1,000 students, was identified as one of the residential halls that required revamping. When making plans for the renovation, housing officials interviewed students to hear what they wanted to see in their new dining center and common areas.
After approval from the University’s Board of Regents, construction commenced in May 2013 and was completed prior to the Fall 2014 move-in date.
With the renovations complete, the dining facility now includes 10 specialty ‘micro-restaurants,’ each with its own distinct style. Some of these restaurants include Olive Branch, which is inspired by fresh Mediterranean flavors, Toast, which serves breakfast all day and Smoke, which offers traditional wood-smoked barbecue.
Schlissel said he was so blown away with the building’s new architecture that he insisted on bringing his family on a tour of South Quad when they were here in September for his inauguration.
“I snuck them in here to tour around and make them all jealous of Michigan,” Schlissel said. “None of them went here for school, and they all used to be very prideful of the dining facilities where they did go to school. But we win.”
However, Schlissel did mention that the new dining hall was so popular that the entryways were facing overcrowding during busy lunch hours.
“But they’ll work on solutions for that,” Schissel said. “There are so many stations of food, that once you actually get inside, it’s pretty quick and easy.”
As per student requests, many of the restaurants specialize in personalized meals. Students have the option to special-order a stir-fry and watch as their chef cooks their ingredients in front of them.
University Housing Spokesman Peter Logan said, after reading student responses, it was clear that there was a high demand for fresh ingredients and made-to-order selections.
“We have a new kitchen down in the basement, and the food is initially prepared down there, but it is not finished until it is brought upstairs … in front of the students,” Logan said.
While the dining hall was the main focus of South Quad’s renovation, the common areas on the lower level were also redone. While guests enjoyed appetizers on the main floor, dozens of students occupied the study spaces downstairs.
LSA freshman Nand Desai said South Quad was his study spot of choice, even though he lives in Bursley Residence Hall on North Campus.
“I come here and spend time because it is the best location on campus for studying, and I love the food here,” Desai said. “It’s, like, the best dining hall on campus. You have ten different options to choose from everyday. And it is open all day. If I have a break I always come here.”
The dining center’s staff also seemed to be pleased with the renovation’s final product. Dining Employee Yolanda Douglas, who has previously worked at Mary Markley Residence Hall and West Quad, said the South Quad facility is her favorite.
“I love it. This is a wonderful place,” Douglas said. “I love all the recipes; the food is very exquisite. It is just beautiful. And we have units and dining areas for everybody — for quiet people, for not quiet people. We got flavors here for everyone. And I love it because we can see all the multicultural people here.”
Director of Dining Steven Mangan said he was extremely satisfied with South Quad’s dining hall. While you can find micro-restaurants at East Quad’s dining center as well, South Quad is much larger and offers students many more options for seating.
“This is the nicest dining hall I’ve ever been associated with,” Mangan said. “It really is a focus on food, costumer service, fun, interaction with our staff, learning about food and tasting things you’ve never seen before. Options are unlimited from where we are today, and it will be great to see it evolve into what it is going to be.”