Tasting feasts to come

Students and staff get early glance at commons

Morgan Geyer waits in line Tuesday with her friends to choose from fresh fruit, cookies and cheese at the preview of Ullman Commons, the new dining and meeting facility on the Thousand Oaks campus.


Photo: Karen Quincy Loberg/The Star

This fall, students at California Lutheran University will have a new place to eat and gather right in the center of campus.

The university’s new Ullman Commons will open at the end of summer, just in time for new and returning students, as well as faculty, staff and visitors, to use the $15 million, two-story facility.

On Tuesday, students and staff members could tour the nearly completed facility and taste future menu items at a preview event.

“This is such an exciting project,” said CLU President Chris Kimball during the preview, which also included a blessing of the facility by the Rev. Arne Bergland, director of church relations on campus.

“We wanted to create a community center and gathering place located at the center of campus,” said Ryan VanOmmeren, associate vice president for facilities, operations and planning.

The current dining common area, on the edge of campus near a parking lot on Mountclef Boulevard, will become the new student union building, with offices and more space to serve students’ needs.

Plans for the new facility were originally scaled back, but CLU Regent George “Corky” Ullman, a 1976 CLU graduate, donated an additional $2 million to build a better facility.

Ullman Commons, at 101 Memorial Parkway, has glass curtain walls that overlook the academic corridor and Kingsmen Park. Balconies on the second floor provide areas for eating and gathering.

The first floor has a Starbucks with three times the seating of the chain’s traditional stores. It will stay open until midnight.

A conference center with three banquet rooms and a private dining room fills out the rest of the first level. The second floor has a market with extended hours and a main dining area with a pizza oven, pasta bar, grill, soup and salad bar, dessert bar and deli station with fresh baked bread, sandwiches and wraps.

An international food station will offer made-to-order Mongolian grill, Asian wok and vegan choices.

Barry Smith, a regional executive chef with Sodexo who works as support staff on campus, supervised some of the food booths at the preview and helped serve some of the food the facility will offer. Many options will be made to order, Smith said.

“It’s not like the old college cafeteria days,” Smith said.

Shakivla Todd, a psychology student, sampled shrimp and crab Pacific-fried rice with saffron and Thai basil made by the campus’ executive chef, Peter Dean.

“I’m graduating and really jealous of the students who will be here next semester that will be able to eat here. But I’m excited to at least get a taste of it,” Todd said.

At the vegan station, students tried ethnic specialties including Ethiopian spicy lentils, Indian vegetable curries, and Middle Eastern hummus with vegetables and pita.

Carly Bottemiller, a junior biology major, said the facility will offer a place where she can buy healthful food and Starbucks coffee drinks without having to leave campus.

Michael Arndt, a theater professor, said he appreciates having the facility at the center rather than the edge of campus and having it next to the theater building.

“The food is delicious,” Arndt said.

Freshmen Jackson Guber and Chris Mathewson toured the new facility.

“I’m incredibly impressed. This building has a more modern architecture. We’re incredibly lucky to have this while we’re students here,” said Mathewson, a computer science major.

“It’s bittersweet that this is being built when I’m graduating, but I’m definitely coming back as an alumni to hang out here,” said Emily Behrs, a senior communications major who led some tours.

--- Published in the Ventura County Star on April 23, 2014