Tag Archives: Armstrong Student Center

Staff Spotlight: Mary Parker

Mary Parker got her first food service job for the same reason many young adults do. She was 16, in high school and was looking for a job.

“I was just looking for a job to start getting out on my own,” said Parker. “I was always raised that you pretty much take care of yourself. You can’t depend on really anyone. You have to just go out there and make your own, and that’s what I was pretty much just trying to do, so I got the job here.”

Parker has now worked at Armstrong Student Center for three years, after being hired on full-time after graduating high school. She is a Food Service Assistant at Pulley Diner where she stocks food, monitors labeling and oversees student employees, among other responsibilities.

With work, and a small apartment that she shares with her nearly two-year-old daughter, she’s busy.

“I’m pretty much working, taking care of my family and living my life. I’m just making sure I’ve got everything I need to be able to live and to hopefully go to school one day. Take everyday one step at a time. So much going on, especially here,” said Parker, gesturing to the busy Pulley Diner seating area. “So much.”

When Parker isn’t working, she likes to find time for two of her favorites hobbies – reading and cooking – oftentimes pulling recipes off social media outlets like Facebook and Pinterest.

“I like to read because it’s relaxing, and I feel like an escape from the world, said Parker, “Cooking is just fun to me. It’s like an adventure because you have to make sure you’re doing everything right.”

Whether Parker is trying a new recipe at home, or working at Armstrong, she enjoys the challenge of building a meal from scratch, saying cooking is like a “work of art.” It should taste good but also should look good and be prepared with care. And when it all comes together, it doesn’t hurt to hear some kind words from patrons who take the time to share.

“It’s just something nice to me, to be able to make something,” said Parker, “One day someone told us, ‘You guys are doing a great job back there,’ so things like that too. When people actually show they appreciate what we do and actually notice it, it’s nice. It’s just the little things.”

Pulley Diner is one of the most trafficked dining spots on campus, which can make it a busy location for students and the staff working behind the counter. However, Parker recognizes the challenges students face and understands that their priorities aren’t quite so far from hers and her coworkers.

“We realize [students are] coming here to try to go to class, get something to eat and leave, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to help them get out in a timely manner,” said Parker. “We’re just the same as them. We’re working here to provide for our families, trying to pay our bills, just like they’re trying to do by going to school. They’re trying to soon provide for their own families and pay their bills to make sure their life is going to be okay and taken care of. We’re just like them. We’re not that different.”

The Hard Questions

Favorite dish to prepare? To eat?

Prepare – Omelettes. It’s an artistic sort of thing. You use just the right amount of each ingredient and it looks so pretty. 

Eat – Mein Street stir-fry. 

Favorite TV Show? Supernatural.

Cat or dog? Dog. My dad raised dogs and hated cats. 

Cake or pie? Pie. There’s more variety of flavors. 

Staff Spotlight: John Pittman

Armstrong Student Center is one of the busiest buildings on campus, attracting students, staff, faculty, visitors and guests.

Given the number of people who walk through Armstrong daily, it begs the question: who has the challenging task of overseeing the most-trafficked dining location on campus?

Meet John Pittman.

As an executive manager, Pittman handles and oversees operations for, not only the Armstrong Student Center, but Bell Tower Place and King Café. Needless to say many meals are prepared under his watch. The army veteran doesn’t let the pressure get to him though. In fact, he enjoys it.

I like a fast pace,” said Pittman, “It’s imperative … you’ve got a lot of people in your face and they all want their food now and I like that kind of push.”

Pittman also isn’t new to the demand of the job. While his time in food service professionally only tracks back to the conclusion of his service in the army, his experience in general food preparation dates back a bit farther.

“I started cooking food because my mom couldn’t,” he said with a grin. “I needed to learn early.”

Pittman describes himself as a “restaurant bum.” He wasn’t a cook in the Army, but when he completed his service he chose to attend culinary school and follow a career in the food industry.

I worked in restaurants in high school,” said Pittman. “That became really serious when I was a sous-chef at Chart House in California.”

He went on to work as a sous-chef at Don Pepe’s in Kansas City before returning to Cincinnati where he was a sous-chef at Black Forest Restaurant and later an executive chef at Maury’s Tiny Cove. He then ran Pomodori’s Pizza – a Zagat award-winning Italian restaurant – and Servatii’s Pastry Shops before coming to Miami University.

Now, he spends much of his time helping and supporting his staff as they prepare and serve meals on campus. He does so while still making the time to interact with students daily.   

“It’s nice … When you get older like I am, it’s nice to have contact with people who aren’t all starting to feel the aches and pains of life,” said Pittman with a laugh.

Even beyond the workplace, Pittman seeks out opportunities to support and positively influence kids. In his free time, he is a scoutmaster.

I rejoined the Boy Scouts at 38,” he said. “I work with kids and I just try to lead them by example and live the Scout Law as I can.”

He works with a Boy Scout Troop of 11-year-old to 18-year-old boys and a Venture Crew that’s coed. The Venture Crew, with kids between 14 and 21, is more focused on high adventure.

We do an annual trip to Red River Gorge. We went to Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia last year. We do a lot of Northern Ohio hiking. We’re doing a trip to Wisconsin next summer, as well as a boundary waters trip up by Canada for a week-long kayaking trip,” said Pittman.

Whether hiking in Northern Ohio, or keeping an eye on things around Armstrong, Pittman looks to help his scouts and employees develop the tools to succeed. For his staff, he focuses on three key things.

“I ask them to do their best, take pride in their work and tell them to get a thick skin because you get six or seven thousand people a day through here. Three might complain. Those are the things that hurt the most. You don’t know 5,997 people had a really good experience.”

Pittman has a lot on his plate, but he still takes the time to connect with his staff, valuing the ability to communicate with them directly.

A lot of face-to-face. A lot of personal interaction. I don’t like the group email kind of things. I like to sit down with somebody and talk with them,” he said. “It’s just more personal, and I think you get more out of it that way, on both ends.

The Hard Questions

Favorite thing about Miami University Dining?

Getting to work on this campus.

Favorite dish to prepare? To eat?

Prepare – Lamb.

Eat – A good bologna sandwich.

Favorite TV Show? Mountain Monsters.

Cat or dog? Dog.

Cake or pie? Pie.

What’s New on the Menu? – Armstrong Student Center

A new school year is just around the corner, with Move in Week underway, and we thought it would be fun to introduce you to some of the exciting new dining additions for this fall! What better place to begin, than with the central hub of the Miami University dining scene; Armstrong Student Center?

A hotbed of student activity, Armstrong has some wonderful new offerings, including a brand new station, that we are sure guests will love!

Pulley Diner

Pulley is returning, looking largely the same. A rotation of soups will be available, along with chili, which is always available. Guests can build-their-own omelettes from a selection of ingredients. Additionally, blueberries and chocolate chips are now available for your morning pancake creations. A featured cake or torte will also be available on rotation to satisfy your sweet tooth. Keep an eye on our social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) for possible dinner specials that may be popping up throughout the school year as well.


The hours have changed slightly (it’s no longer open 24 hours), however, it’s still the Emporium you know and love.

Haines’ Boulangerie

You will notice an enhanced soup rotation (similar to Pulley’s), but otherwise, Haines’ Boulangerie remains largely the same compared to a year ago.

Miami Ice

Miami Ice’s gelato is still made in-house and oh so tasty. We’ve added Affogato to the menu, which is gelato topped with a shot of hot espresso… just let that thought sink in for a moment.

Mein Street

Mein Street is back and rolling as a campus favorite. You may notice a slight difference in the ordering process in an effort to better serve you. Definitely give the new Sweet Teriyaki Sauce a taste with your stir-fry.

Wing Bar

Wing Bar now offers three sizes of boneless and traditional wings (5, 10 and 15) and you can now purchase a tasty fried chicken sandwich there. Mozzarella sticks and onion rings are side options, along with dipping sauces. Definitely try the brand new Dagron Berry Sauce with your mozzarella sticks. It’s the brainchild of one of the staff members there and it’s delicious. Along those lines, also try the new Sweet Teriyaki Sauce on your wings.


Sundial is returning with calzones, made-to-order custom pasta dishes and made-to-order stone oven pizzas, along with the standard pizza and pasta favorites. The big news with Sundial is that you are able to use the GET App to order ahead and skip the line for pick-up. You can use this mobile ordering feature for the custom pastas and the customizable stone oven pizzas, along with sides, drinks and more. This means you can enjoy Sundial’s specialty items with the convenience of walk-up service!

Download the GET App for Apple and Android, or order online here.


Traditions is completely new, replacing Serrano this year (look for your taco/taco bowl fix over at Maplestreet’s Americas). The menu is a rotating menu with some healthier takes on traditional comfort food. Look for meats (grilled salmon, ham, roasted chicken, Ribeye steak, etc.), potatoes, veggies and prepared salads, among a litany of other tasty, healthy dining options!

Per usual, keep tabs on the latest happenings in dining by following us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram! We are very excited to have you all back on campus and we can’t wait to serve you during the 2016-17 school year!