CWU News

CWU Dining Services Builds Student Engagement During Untraditional Fall Quarter

Central Washington University Dining Services has been doing its best to spice things up on campus this fall, presenting two well-attended pop-up events and hosting a virtual cooking demonstration for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Last month’s $2 Slice Night at the Student Union and Recreation Center (SURC) attracted about 165 people for a physically distanced pizza party. The Wing Night Challenge during Homecoming Week was equally successful, drawing a crowd to Holmes Dining Room to sample three unique varieties of chicken wings. Participants then voted for their favorite wing flavor online.

“These pop-up events offer a price point that encourages participation,” said CWU Campus Executive Chef Joe Ritchie. “We’re going to do more student events this fall, and we’re starting to plan for winter quarter. Our goal is to boost student engagement while keeping everyone safe.”

Ritchie and his team are planning a third event in early November, centered around the popular Vietnamese comfort food, pho. Just like they did for $2 Slice Night and Wing Night, Dining Services will provide a safe, physically distanced environment for students to dine in or take out.

“We’re trying to recreate the typical special events that happen during a normal year,” said Director of Dining Services Dean Masuccio. “A lot of students on campus are feeling isolated right now, so we’re doing our part to find more opportunities for social engagement. Hopefully, these pop-up events are just the beginning.”

The October 16 Webinar Cooking Show, in partnership with Westside Student Life, gave Dining Services another opportunity to interact with CWU students across the state. Ritchie worked alongside student employee Daniela Mendez Padilla in the SURC Ballroom to cook a traditional Chilean dish called Charquican.

The live stream viewers followed along as Ritchie and Padilla chopped onions, carrots, peppers, garlic, pumpkins, and potatoes that were grown on the Wildcat Neighborhood Farm. They cooked the beef and garlic separately and then combined all of the ingredients before doing a taste test. 

“It’s a really hearty dish that they traditionally cook when the weather gets cooler,” Ritchie said of Charquican, a dish Padilla had sampled but never cooked before the online demo. “I’m as particular as they come, and I really liked it.”

Masuccio credited Ritchie and the team from Auxiliary Enterprises for working with Westside Student Life to make the event happen. The production came together in about two weeks.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, so it was a pretty heavy lift,” Masuccio said. “The exciting thing for Dining Services is that this fits with our vision of promoting the growth of our diverse community through culinary and educational experiences on campus.”

Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs,, 509-963-1518.