October 22, 2013
When it's completed, the University of Mary will be the first college or university in the nation with a "dining-learning commons." A dining-learning commons will allow students to gather in a "living room" like space, which will be the new Student Campus Center targeted for a fall of 2015 completion, to eat, socialize and study together at any time of the day or night they choose — much like they would do in their favorite room at home or a 24/7 hang out.
It's also the subject of an upcoming book by the nation's preeminent social dining guru David Porter. Porter, author of The Porter Principles and the go-to person on social architecture for college and university campuses, is the mastermind behind this concept that really gives the students all the comforts of home — while on campus.
"It's social dining and learning re-imagined," added Elizabeth Condic, vice president for financial affairs at the University of Mary. "Our lifestyles have changed over the years. No longer are we eating at seven in the morning, noon and at six in the evening during a typical day. We gather to eat at different times of the day to enjoy each other's conversation – it's no different for the life of a student – in fact it is probably more hectic and even less structured for them. Students should have access to this type of social dining space too for eating, learning and fellowship whenever they wish in a 24-hour period. We're excited to be the first to introduce this dining-learning commons experience."
"Nothing is as profound as what is happening at the University of Mary," commented Porter. "Not only do they have a rare 24/7 dining experience for their students, but they are taking it to another level that no other institution has dared to do. This concept allows students to network and connect with others in a wholesome and healthy social space on campus whenever they wish. It's the next generation of learning outside the classroom."
Porter added, excelling academically is obviously important for the college student. But equally important, he says, is encouraging them to learn the life skills that form the foundation for a rich professional and personal life ahead. "The other side of a well-rounded college career is learning time management skills, career planning, building bonds with their campus, and friendships and meaningful relationships that will last a lifetime. Studies show that students who are socially connected to their campus have better GPAs, are personally and academically responsible, and have a better chance of graduating. This leading-edge thinking and endeavor by the University of Mary creates this new generation of social space."
The University of Mary is already one of only three campuses across the United States — and the only one outside the southeast — to currently offer a 24-hour, seven days a week dining services on campus for students. The Anytime Dining program, that began this fall semester, allows students to have a meal plan and eat as much or as little as they choose, whenever they wish, seven days per week, at one surprisingly low fixed price. Porter says, this just may be the beginning of the end for the "freshman fifteen."