North Dining employees reflect on the hall's popularity

<p>Students walk in and out of the doors at North Dining Hall Feb. 3, 2021. The new dining hall features multiple different new restaurants and an allergen free eatery.<strong> Jacob Musselman, DN Photo Illustration</strong></p>

Students walk in and out of the doors at North Dining Hall Feb. 3, 2021. The new dining hall features multiple different new restaurants and an allergen free eatery. Jacob Musselman, DN Photo Illustration

Food available at North Dining

  • Barbeque
  • Breakfast All Day
  • Allergen Free
  • Bakery
  • Grill
  • Boar's Head Deli
  • Italian
  • Starbucks

Source: Ball State Dining

At the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, Ball State students saw many changes across campus. Face masks and social distancing were implemented in each building, a new residence hall was built and North Dining Hall opened to the public.

North Dining Hall is the only dining hall on campus in the North Residential Neighborhood, which includes Schmidt/Wilson, Botsford/Swinford and the new North residence halls.

“New dining options such as North Dining foster a sense of community and add to the total of 15,000 transactions daily campus wide,” said Karen Adkins, senior director of auxiliary services.

Adkins said North is positioned to replace dining services that were inside the LaFollette Complex and offers a variety of restaurants, including a barbeque, all-day breakfast, bakery, grill, Boar’s Head and Italian food. North also has an allergen-free zone that is free of the top eight major allergens and gluten.

“In North Dining, we focused on efficiency and customer service,” Adkins said. “The majority of the food production takes place within the micro-restaurants in front of the customers.”

In addition to having a wide variety of restaurants students can choose to eat at, North has a unique dining room setup, with about 100 tables built from Indiana Hickory trees and chairs that are made from recycled plastic bottles.

“North Dining is one example of Ball State’s commitment to providing the campus with an exemplary dining experience and adding to our vibrant campus culture,” Adkins said.

North is also home to the university’s second on-campus Starbucks location, with the first at the L.A. Pittenger Student Center on the opposite end of campus. Julie Hopwood, associate vice president for business and auxiliary services, said the North Starbucks location has experienced higher sales “due to the location and proximity to residence halls.”

Hopwood also said she believes opening the new dining hall has been successful, and will continue to be that way in the future.

“Our students, employees and campus visitors have embraced the convenience of this new location, additional culinary options and overall environment as another opportunity for an enhanced campus experience,” Hopwood said.

Hopwood isn’t the only campus employee who believes North was a success during its inaugural semester. Amy Grasso, general manager of North Dining, said opening the new facility was exciting and thinks the future is bright, especially when it's able to open full scale after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just the other day, I was looking out over the new lawn being constructed where LaFollette once stood, thinking of our future when students can roam together in large groups and be out on the future greenspace,” Grasso said. “We look forward to our future with large events around this facility.”

Grasso said she is proud of how the Ball State community has received the new dining facility but believes there have been some challenges due to COVID-19, particularly with following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Each table is limited to only three people to try to keep social distancing principles in place. Guests in the dining hall are also required to put their masks on after they are finished eating so everyone is following the university's and Indiana’s mask mandate.

“We have an excellent director and administrative team that has helped guide our department during this challenging time,” Grasso said.

Kaitlynn Santino, sophomore hospitality and food management major, is an employee at North Dining Hall. Santino said she applied to North when she heard there would be a bakery because she hopes to open one of her own some day. Working at North’s bakery, she helps make fresh goods, such as doughnuts, brownies and cookies. Santino said she loves her job at North and learned a lot from working in the bakery, primarily through decorating the doughnuts.

“Working at North has been such a great learning experience that I don’t think I could have gotten from anywhere else,” Santino said.

She also said working at North has allowed her to build a great relationship with the staff and that the workers there feel like her family.

“I have never worked in a place that was so clean, treats staff and students well and teaches me so much,” Santino said, “If I was just eating there, I don’t think I would have as close of a relationship with the kind staff that works there.”

Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at or on Twitter @mayawilkinss.


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