New Dining Director Starts Work in Val

Dining Director Bill Connor is already making changes in the dining hall, rolling out a new and expanded seating arrangement this week. He also has his sights set on the college’s new dining hall, which will open in the fall of 2026.

New Dining Director Starts Work in Val
As a self-proclaimed “baby” Mammoth, Bill Connor is looking to bring in more local partners. Photo courtesy of Amherst College.

Valentine Dining Hall’s new dining director, Bill Connor, has wasted no time since his March 29 start date. He has already green-lighted noticeable seating changes in Val, and he says preparations are underway for many more revisions.

As a native Western Pennsylvanian, a move to Western Massachusetts wasn’t all that much of a change, Connor said. He previously served as dining director at Westfield State University, just 30 miles from Amherst, and Johns Hopkins — just a small part of his extensive career in food service that he now plans to continue at Amherst.

Connor cited the diverse community and commitment to sustainability and locally sourced food, like from Book and Plow Farm, among his reasons for making the move to Amherst.

“What [also] made Amherst unique and appealing to me is … the opportunity to define a new era of dining at Amherst with the addition and opening of the New Student Center/Dining Commons,” he said.

Preparations for the new dining commons, which is set to open in the fall of 2026, will be a major part of Connor’s work at Amherst.

“The project to open dining venues in the new building will be a mammoth undertaking,” he said.

Connor said that his experience working at other schools has prepared him for the task.

“I have a toolbox of solutions developed at my previous schools, an open mind that thinks outside the box to find innovative solutions, an eager spirit that never stops learning, and a work ethic that does not give up.”

Though he only started March 29, Connor said he has already set to work making changes at Val.

He said he had read multiple issues of The Student prior to his arrival and uncovered one frequently expressed concern with the dining hall — limited seating. In response to this, Connor was involved in the recent rearrangement of seating in Val, which added 100 new seats.

Connor emphasized how eager he is to hear from students.

“I will be working with the dining team to tackle other concerns raised by students such as allergen and dietary needs, hours of operation and late night, increasing the use of technology in dining, exploring food variety, and programming and special events in Val to keep it fresh and new,” he said.

Connor wants to make the dining program student-focused and open to dialogue.

“Dining needs to hear from [students] if you want to see changes and updates to the program. Speak up and tell us directly,” he said.

Another goal he voiced is to bring new local dining partners to offer new foods and flavors.

Connor expressed that expanding partnerships with the dining hall at Johns Hopkins was one of the accomplishments he was most proud of there, and he hopes to achieve the same at Amherst.

Connor is quickly adjusting to his new role as dining director and expressed excitement in becoming part of the larger Amherst community. As a self-proclaimed “baby” Mammoth, he stated that he was still getting to know the complexities of the college but was amazed with how welcoming the community has been in the short time he’s been here.

“I feel that the entire campus is an extended family already,” he said.