Inspiring Student Bakes Her Way to Your Heart!

Meet Arena Oian, a student at Williston State College in Williston, ND, who has served as a baker for Aladdin Campus Dining at Williston since last summer.  A business management major, Arena is a self-taught baker who at the age of eight started baking with her mother, baking oatmeal raisin cookies — a favorite of her four older brothers!

I’ve been baking my whole life – from my mother’s kitchen when I sat on her kitchen counter to baking for my friends in high school,” Arena says.   During high school, Arena recalls a small business she started selling cookies to her classmates and for the school’s special events.  “I didn’t need a name to my business – it was a small school and everyone knew who I was and that I loved to bake.”

Arena’s specialties were, (and still is) her famous chocolate chip cookies, but she also creates a gluten-free version which are just as delicious.  Students also love her blueberry lemon curd cake, rhubarb pie (her aunt’s recipe) and breadsticks, a treasured recipe from her mother.

Arena works very hard and comes up with amazing recipes.   Not only does she attend school, bakes for Aladdin and works at Menards (home improvement center), Arena still finds the time to bake for her friends and everyone in the dorms. The students here beg for her delicious goodies and when they are out in the dining hall, they do not last long at all,” laughs Aladdin Campus Dining Food Service Director Jordanna Marsh.

Arena also experiments with a variety of cupcake fillings and frostings including blueberry cheesecake cupcakes.  In fact, Arena was personally requested by Dr. Zahi Atallah, the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Williston, to bake for his monthly town hall meeting.  She baked four different kinds of cupcakes including caramel apple, blueberry cheesecake, an angel food cupcake with whipped cream and fresh berries, and a raspberry filled cupcake with a lemon whipped cream, as well as four batches of brownies and lemon bars.

“Having Dr. Atallah personally recognize Arena for her wonderful baking talents also helps to inspire the young minds of our other students.  He turned Arena’s passion into a dream come true!” adds Ms. Marsh.

Working for Aladdin has provided Arena with the opportunity to expand her culinary knowledge and bake on a larger scale.  At press time, Arena had just finished baking enough cheese cakes to accommodate 400 people who will attend the school’s booster club fundraiser.

With graduation only two weeks away (May 10th), Arena will be missed by her colleagues at Aladdin.  She reflects on her time at Williston and what her future plans hold.  “I will miss the interactions with the Aladdin team and especially the students!  I will treasure this experience of seeing how happy they were to enjoy my baking.  But my plans are to move on and work towards furthering my degree in dietetics.”

While she believes in the value of a college degree, Arena doesn’t discount the importance in learning a trade.  “Love what you do.  Cooking is something I’m passionate about, but everyone should learn to cook (even if it’s just boiling water) so you can survive, and it provides you with a sense of independence,” says Arena.

It’s valuable wisdom from a bright young lady whose long-term goal is to own a restaurant.  We will certainly be regulars!

Best of luck to Arena!

Baking Her Way…

Aladdin baker Arena Oian at Williston State College is featured in a new Heart of

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