College Arrivals, College Departures

On Monday, we served the very first production meals at the University at Albany’s amazing new Indian Quad Dining Room. This food service facility was specifically designed and built from the ground up (when I started my job here, the space was literally ripped down to the sand underneath the Uptown Campus) to address the needs of the so-called “Millennial Generation,” while also fully supporting sustainability objectives that are an integral part of the University’s environmental stewardship programs. Indian Quad officially opens to its student customers for dinner tonight, though we’ll be doing a formal ceremony tomorrow morning as the new freshman class moves in to show off the space to students, their parents, and (hopefully) our friends and neighbors in the community through media coverage of this exciting project.

I may get to have my picture taken at things like this because I direct the organization responsible for providing food service to the University at Albany community, but the folks who really made this happen are the dining, facilities, plant, production, architectural, crafts, marketing and other folks from the University at Albany, UAS (my organization), Chartwells (our dining contractor) and dozens of construction, equipment and service companies who shepherded this project from the focus group stage all the way through to completion. It’s a powerful testament to the way that public-private partnerships can result in great things on a University campus like Albany’s. I pinch myself at my good fortune in getting to be a beneficiary of the amazing work that went on before I even arrived on campus.

While the incoming freshmen won’t know how much better their facility is compared to the space that served their predecessors, I think by any objective standard, they will have to be pleased with the choices, quality and presentation of the dining experience offered to them. One colleague noted that the fixtures and decor of the space reminded him of the interior of Creo (also designed as a sustainable green space) at nearby Stuyvesant Plaza. I agree with him, and it’s quite a kudo to have a college dining hall compared to a new beacon of fine cuisine hereabouts. If I checked into a high end hotel, went downstairs and found this facility awaiting me, I’d be quite pleased, and would likely return for another stay.

The other thing that’s been phenomenal over the past few weeks is watching how the University faculty and staff are working above and beyond the call of duty to prepare for the arrival of both our new and returning students, not only at Indian Quad, but throughout all of the extended Albany campuses. I believe that most parents would sleep far easier on the nights after they’ve dropped their children off at college if they had any idea how much thought and effort was being put in to making their students feel welcome, safe, secure and connected.

Residential Life and related staff members at Albany and other colleges and universities are absolute saints in my eyes, as they’ve chosen to work in a difficult professional field dedicated purely and solely to helping ensure the happiness and success of young people, at one of the most vulnerable transitional stages in the students’ lives. These staff members believe in what they do, and they’re good at it. The positive impact that they will have on the students entrusted to their care can’t really be measured, and the students themselves may not even realize that they’re benefiting from it. But they will, as will millions and millions of their parents, coast to coast and beyond.

I consider myself lucky to have that perspective as a result of the time that I’ve worked here and at RPI, but that fortunate feeling is especially strong this week. Because after greeting the University of Albany class of 2013 tomorrow morning, I’ll hop in a rented minivan and drive out to Geneseo to hand my only daughter over to the care of the Residential Life staff there at our sister school. It gives me great comfort to know that she’ll be greeted there by folks just as conscientious and caring as the folks I work with here at Albany, though I doubt she’ll get to eat in a dining hall as nice as the one we just opened!

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