Authored by Jake Guyer and Malachi David; students of Assistant Professor Kate Edenborg’s ENGL 407: Seminar in Applied Journalism class in the professional communications and emerging media program.
The University of Wisconsin-Stout prides itself on being one of the top polytechnic universities in the Midwest, so it makes sense that they were awarded the opportunity to host the Science Olympiad National Tournament starting May 18.
However, preparing to host the estimated 7,000-plus people is no small task. Dining Services actually began plans to prepare food for all the participants over a year and a half ago.
“Meeting the dining service needs of a group this large on our campus is challenging,” said Dining Services Director Ann Thies. “The team has been planning for over 18 months and included a trip to last year’s conference to observe the needs, customer flow, and special issues we may need to address.”
Thies added that while Dining Services is used to serving 2,500-plus students three meals each day, the Science Olympiad meals will be different since time periods are shorter and no one will be taking their food out in food containers like many students at UW-Stout do.
“This will call upon all areas to be the most efficient they can be,” said Thies. “The menu has been simplified to assure quick choices and movement and ease of service to keep speed of service at its fastest pace possible. We will have a separate station that will be designated for special diet requirements.”
University Housing has its own preparations before they are ready to house that many people. Scott Harvey, a custodian on campus, said he is anticipating a lot of help to be coming from Housing staff.
“Luckily for us, the resident advisors and other housing student staff do a lot at the end of each school year anyway,” Harvey said. “They clean everything out and reset the rooms, and they’ll probably be giving us a hand with some of the heavy moving as well.”
While both departments are hoping for the best, they’ll also have to plan for the worst.
“Speed of service and the pace of service to assure adequate seating for each time frame of the meal period and getting everyone through in time to be at their next assigned event,” said Thies, when asked what her biggest concern was. “The learning curve is big and the time frame to learn small as far as how to navigate the cafeteria.”
Harvey added that with all the people expected to come through the dorms, there’s bound to be some messes to clean up.
“We’re just getting ready for anything the kids can pull off,” he said jokingly. “Since they’re younger and probably not used to this kind of setting, we might see a few (messes) or things of that sort. They’re smart kids though, obviously, seeing as they’re competing in such an acclaimed competition, so I’m not anticipating any huge trouble.”