Students got the chance to experience the newly renovated La Posada dining hall on Aug. 30 at the University of New Mexico’s #EatLikeALobo Block Party and Grand Opening event.
“Today we are excited to celebrate the upgrade of this dining hall in the heart of our student residential neighborhood,” Interim President Chaouki Abdallah said.
Abdallah said he was excited to participate in the grand opening event, because he understands that food service “plays an important role in education performance.”
“(La Posada) is a space to foster inclusion in student success, and it’s a safe place for our campus community to study, collaborate and to nourish their minds,” Abdallah said.
The renovations aim to show the UNM community that administration supports them and wants students to enjoy campus life.
Chris Vallejos, associate vice president of Institutional Support Services, said they based improvements on feedback from students.
“We want to listen. We want to make those changes — be adaptable and flexible, so we can continue to meet those needs,” Vallejos said.
Abdallah said that “great energy” was focused on creating a dining program that is “authentic, vibrant and dynamic, as is our student population.”
La Posada was originally built in 1969 and has seen a few minor updates throughout the years.
“This almost-50-year-old building now features: new dining options, natural light, a more collaborative dining area, a safer entrance, modern, efficient building features and 24-hour, around-the-clock dining,” Abdallah said.
Other updates include LED lighting and an updated HVAC system to optimize energy efficiency.
“We are looking to perform at 20 percent less in utilities across the whole facility,” Vallejos said.
“The new platforms you see in La Posada will only enhance our commitment and our ability to deliver sustainability,” said Nadeem Zafar, regional vice president of Chartwells, UNM’s food service provider. Their commitment to sustainability will remain strong he said.
The increase of variety available to students allows for a better experience, Zafar said. Included in the expansions are: Einstein Bros. Bagels, Create, Chef’s Innovation and G8.
“The G8 station will specifically focus on making sure the eight allergies aren’t present in any of the entrees provided,” Zafar said, “We know students are having more and more inverse reactions to allergies and we need to create a platform that’s safe and dedicated.”
In efforts to give students a safe late-night dining option, La Posada is open 24/7.
“La Posada is one of a handful of dining halls across the country that is open 24/7 as a safe and convenient option to grab a meal, a coffee, study or spend time with friends,” Vallejos said.
A recent survey of students shows they cross Central Ave. to get coffee or to study after 10 p.m.
“We want people to stay on campus, be in a safe environment, stay here. That increases retention and the success of students,” Vallejos said.
The renovated La Posada has one entrance and added light in the front plaza to increase safety.
“Having one controlled point of entry can certainly keep it more safe than trying to control two entry locations,” Zafar said.
Jasmine Sigler, a freshman at UNM, said she and her friends feel safe at night in La Posada because of the security presence.
To cater to the needs and wants of current and incoming students, the chef innovation station will demonstrate cooking lessons.
“You are going to see teaching happening at the station,” Zafar said. “We can create a platform that talks to you about specifically how to make pasta.”
Robert Johnston, a sophomore at UNM, said the renovations are more visually appealing.
Brie Bordener, an organizer of the event, said she hopes Hassan, the new executive chef, will bring his “own flair” to the food.
“It’s very cheerful. It’s very open-aired, and the high ceilings are nice,” Sigler said, calling the food “delicious.”
Abdallah said, “(These renovations) are a significant milestone in improvement for the food and our students at the University. This is the kitchen for our students where many who live on campus eat multiple times a day.”
Madison Spratto is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.