Kim Howlett, assistant manager of McMahon, and Rebecca DesRoches, publicity & marketing manager in the Department of Dining Services, spoke about the University of Connecticut’s Senior Slice program, how it came to be and their plans for the future.
Howlett said the McMahon staff worked with DesRoches to ensure the program would be ready for the Class of 2021. She said they worked to select the finalists, and DesRoches helped develop the marketing and timeline.
“Once we received all the submissions a panel of management and our production chef reviewed the entries and sent Rebecca our top six choices, three vegan options and three non-vegan… She would send me her marketing input and timelines and has been reaching out to UConn officials to make sure we were able to make the first Senior Slice happen for the Class of 2021,” Howlett said.
DesRoches said she immediately thought the Senior Slice could become a tradition at UConn. She said Dining Services plays a role in the Senior Scoop, a similar tradition involving the creation of ice cream flavors by the Senior class, and she hopes this program has similar success.
“As soon as Kim approached me about this idea, I immediately thought this could become a great new tradition for UConn,” DesRoches said. “Dining Services is partially involved with Senior Scoop, and we have seen how much fun that annual tradition has become. We hope Senior Slice will have similar success.”
Howlett said COVID-19 has forced them to more quickly develop their program to adapt to the shorter semester. She said they decided to have the Senior Slice available at multiple locations to allow for a greater number of students and staff to enjoy the program.
“Due to COVID-19, the semester has been cut significantly shorter. We had to pull this together really quick to get everything done before students leave campus,” Howlett said. “As we were going through the process of setting up, we came up with making Senior Slice available at multiple dining locations on campus so that students in quarantine, as well as students and staff that don’t have meal plans, will have a chance to try the senior slice.”
DesRoches said they received 143 entries into the competition, a good number considering their limited timeframe. She said for next year they hope to have the Senior Slice begin in late fall 2021 for competition by February 2022.
“For the initial submission of ideas, we received 143 entries. For our first time doing this and on such a short time frame, we were very happy with the level of participation,” DesRoches said. “For the Class of 2022, we are hoping to start this process in late fall and have the pizzas ready to serve starting in early February.”
As of Tuesday, DesRoches said they received 128 votes, but she is predicting the number will increase greatly as the March 12 deadline approaches. She said they tend to receive the most votes on the last day, so she predicts over 100 more votes to be submitted.
“As of Tuesday afternoon, we have 128 votes. Due to the tight timeline, we were only able to give everyone a week to vote,” DesRoches said. “We always tend to have the most participation towards the end or on the last day, so I expect we may receive another 100+ votes.”
Howlett said the feedback they have received from students has been positive so far. She said some students have also provided constructive feedback regarding access for students with dietary restrictions.
“I have received positive feedback from students as they walk through and read the marketing we have near our pizza station,” Howlett said. “We have also received some constructive feedback from students inquiring if our pizza choices will be accessible to those with dietary and allergen restrictions.”
DesRoches encouraged students to visit Dining Services’ website and vote for their favorite option. She said they will announce on their social media when the pizza will be available, so students should follow them to find out when they can find additional information.
“Voting is open to the entire campus community, so we welcome anyone that hasn’t already voted to do so at https://dining.uconn.edu/senior-slice/. We are also working on which days the pizzas will be served at McMahon, North and USM, and we will make that announcement when we have those details finalized,” DesRoches said. “Follow @mcmahondininghall and @uconndining on Instagram to find out the results and additional details.”