As the holiday season approaches, the University of Rhode Island’s Butterfield Dining Hall staff members transform the interior with decorations, letting their creativity and passion for each holiday make the eating experience more enjoyable for students and themselves.
Tom Cronin, the manager of Butterfield Dining Hall, said that he and the other staff members have fun decorating their work environment and having a little change in scenery. “It is strictly meant to be a fun, positive experience for the students and staff,” Cronin said. “We all get a kick out of seeing the students react to it. Anything that makes the students feel more appreciated is the thought process behind decorating the dining halls.”
Some of the employees are very passionate about decorating and get a lot of joy out of doing it. They are able to bring in their own decorations and then take them home once the holidays are over. “Some people are super ambitious and go way beyond my creative limitations,” said Cronin. “It’s fun for the staff to show off their creativity and we’ve always been very lucky to have some very creative people here.”
If staff members want to be reimbursed, they must go to Cronin and order the decorations through the state’s employee identification. Cronin emphasized that he and the employees have never had an issue with individuals bringing in their own decorations and feeling as though they are not being compensated for anything they personally spent.
While Butterfield does have a budget that they must stay within when buying decorations, Cronin said that they keep a lot of the decorations in the warehouse so they can reuse each year and therefore do not need to buy many new dones. “The staff does a good job working within the dining hall’s budget,” said Cronin. “It’s a constant balancing act about where to spend the money.” Cronin spoke about how there will always be people who disagree with the dining hall decisions on where to spend and save money, but feels that around 95 percent of students appreciate the decorations- an amount large enough for them to continue putting them up each year.
Cronin worked at Mainfare Dining Hall before transferring to Butterfield, and said that Mainfare always felt bigger and less intimate than Butterfield, especially with the recent remodel. When he was working at Mainfare, Cronin and the workers would try to decorate the environment to make it fun and festive for students and workers. However, the decorations seemed to get lost in the larger setting and went almost unnoticed. The amount of decorations needed to fill Mainfare to the extent of Butterfield would be very costly for the dining services. As a result, rather than decorating for holidays, Hope is selected for the themed diners the University holds, such as the LEGO dinner last year. “They do a tremendous job on special themed dinners,” said Cronin. “It makes them feel like they’re doing a positive thing for the students.”
Sophomore Christie Swanson always looks forward to seeing the decorations change through the seasons and really appreciates the Butterfield staff’s dedication to making the students happy. “They’re so cute,” Swanson said. “It’s nice that they really try. Even though college is tough, it brightens my spirits around the holidays.”