University of Dubuque Dining Builds Community – Global to Local!

At the University of Dubuque (UD) in Dubuque, Iowa, Aladdin supports the school’s community by catering to a diverse student population, while creating community initiatives that focus on everything from education to sustainability.

According to Andrew Mettert, director of dining services, who has served the school since 2005, “we want to enhance our relationships with our global student body, as well as make our dining services accessible to Dubuque’s local community.”

“Our campus is very diverse representing students from 40 states and 20 countries including Germany, Ukraine, China, Thailand, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.  We continuously work with these groups of students to gain a better understanding on what they like to eat, and how their foods are authentically prepared.”

Dining will prepare global recipes and tweak according to their tastes.  So, for lunch you will find an Arabic food bar that offers:  tabbouleh salad, falafel, chicken tikka masala, middle eastern chicken shawarma, middle east spiced potato cakes, batatas, mashi, Saudi carrot basmati rice, white rice, pitas and baklava.

While global foods are offered, local favorites are also prepared such as the turkey dressing sandwich, a northeast Iowa staple!  The turkey dressing sandwich is made with a flavorful mixture of turkey and stuffing mixed together and served in a bun. 

For the local Dubuque community, UD offers UD for Kids – culinary classes offered to children in grades first through seventh.


First and second grade students learn cooking skills such as cracking an egg or making frosting.   Members of the dining team will then help the children create cookies or cupcakes.  While, the second session is offered to third, fourth and fifth graders where they learn more advanced culinary techniques such as basic knife skills and food safety that helps them to prepare pizza or build a better burger!


The third session is offered to fifth, sixth and seventh graders.  In this class, students will learn how to make all kinds of noodles and stuffed pastas from scratch such as bowtie, lasagna and fettuccine.    

The classes conclude with an Iron Chef competition where all children are put to the test and compete for the most creative and best tasting dish!

“The biggest thing is getting the kids interested and inspired to do something more than opening a can,” says Mettert. 

Mettert also gives back to the community by employing individuals with special needs. The program has been so successful that a local vocational rehabilitation organization approached Mettert to host a pilot program in a classroom setting for people who want to learn more about the culinary arts.  

“The hope is that they would be more employable with others in the Dubuque community. Empowering these individuals helps them feel connected to the community.  UD Students also learn to have a greater appreciation for these individuals,” says Mettert. 

Education and community efforts don’t stop there.  Mettert has been working to create a more sustainable UD on and off the campus by eliminating all Styrofoam products, instituting tray-less dining and using all bio-degradable products in the dining hall. 

Students also separate their food scraps in the appropriate bins, and as a result, two thousand pounds of food waste are collected weekly and delivered offsite to compost and recycle into reusable soil and soon clean energy that the Dubuque community can benefit from!

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