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National Conference Session Details


Super Sessions

Networking Session: Real World Operational Experience Discussions


Story Skills for Better Leadership

Taji Torrilhon 

This presentation is a beginner's look at storytelling and how specific storytelling skills can help leaders be more effective. Topics include:

  • Why storytelling works.
  • Why everyone is a storyteller.
  • How to craft an engaging story.
  • How to model better communication to your team.
  • How to use story skills to have hard conversations.
  • 5 story skills to make you a better leader right now (handout with these tips also included for all participants)


Cook your Bourbon:  How Bourbon Can Enhance Your Cooking

Chef Ed Lee

Prepare for a captivating journey with Chef Edward Lee as he explores the evolution of bourbon-infused cuisine, from its origin as a popular spirit to its role as an increasingly fundamental kitchen ingredient. In an insightful presentation, Chef Lee, author of Bourbon Land, will explore the rich flavors and cultural significance of bourbon, sharing about his life in Kentucky and his approach to creating a new bourbon cuisine in Louisville. Discover the power of bourbon in culinary innovation and gain valuable insights from Chef Lee's pioneering contributions to the culinary world.


Student Panel – Cultivating Success: Perspectives from Current and Prospective Student Employees

Join us for an engaging panel discussion that spotlights the invaluable role of student employees in collegiate dining. This session will provide a platform for students, both those working dining operations and those who do not, to share their experiences, insights, and innovative solutions to make employment in dining on campus more attractive. Don't miss this opportunity to hear firsthand from student representatives from several local universities and gain valuable takeaways for recruitment and retention.


The Future of College and University Foodservice: 2030 and Beyond 

Join Drs. Andrew Moreo, Lisa Cain, and Imran Ahmad as they provide a snapshot of the major insights learned through this NACUFS and Florida International University collaborative research project. Over the course of 18 months, industry experts, college and university thought leaders, and other stakeholders were engaged in an intensive research project to understand the wants and needs of the next generation of college and university students as well as the needs of the employees and management within the organizations serving those students. These insights were leveraged to identify operational strategies to aid college and university foodservice providers in designing their future services. The results of this endeavor have been published in an online industry report, as well as presented at a two-day symposium. This session will provide an overview of the findings, an opportunity to ask questions of the researchers, and inspire you to dig into the results in greater depth.  


Learning Sessions 

Key: these abreviations will appear at the end of each learning session title in parenthesis 
Business Administration Domain = BA
Talent Management Domain = TM
Guest Experience Domain = GE
Campus & Community Engagement Domain = CCE
Professional Intelligence Domain = PI

A GEM of an Idea (GE)

Carrie Ryan, assistant vice president for auxiliary services, Elon University
Ryan Moore, executive director of hospitality, Elon Dining, Harvest Table Culinary Group

Brandon Rudisill, director of culinary, Elon Dining, Harvest Table Culinary Group
Kate Williams, director of guest experience, Harvest Table Culinary Group

Dining is often underutilized when it comes to encouraging student engagement and success, however that is not the case here. Elon Dining plays an integral role in Elon's commitment to experiential education. In support of the University's Strategic plan, Elon Dining developed a strategy to double down on guest engagement and experiential education. One of the cornerstones of this plan is that every member of the team is all-in on student engagement. The Guest Experience Manager (GEM) leads the effort to engage students. This program provides real-world perspective and examples from the Institution and Elon Dining team.


AI and Appetites: How to Harness The Power of AI to Enhance Your Dining Program (BA)

Julia Keahey, video & digital marketing coordinator, university housing & culinary services, Kent State University
Sommer Dunlevy, assistant director of university housing and culinary services, Kent State University

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seemingly everywhere. Join Kent State’s Culinary Services marketing professionals and campus dietitian as they discuss the diverse applications of AI, both dedicated to AI, like ChatGPT and programs that have AI features built-in, like Photoshop. Learn how to effectively utilize these tools, while also exploring the ethical considerations and boundaries associated with AI implementation. Gain valuable insights on how to prepare for the growing prevalence of AI in the workplace. By the end of this session, participants will not only have a clear understanding of AI's fundamental concepts and ethics but also practical insights into its industry specific applications.


A Place at Our Table: Launching a Staff DE&I Program (PI)

Amanda Ewing, director of diversity & inclusion, University of Michigan Dining
Bouakhanh Greene, CEC, executive chef, University of Michigan Dining

In Fall 2023, University of Michigan Dining launched a strategic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiative to increase belonging amongst MDining staff. This initiative, called A Place at Our Table, is an overarching vision and brand for MDining’s DE&I work. In this session, MDining’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion will share the initiative, program structure, the brainstorming process, staff roll out, event summaries, and learning gained from the first year of programming. Come learn what it means to have A Place at Our Table.


Bridging the Nutrient Gap: Helping Those with Food Allergies Thrive (GE)

Erica Nehrling, director of client relations, MenuTrinfo
Dianne Sutherland, director of nutrition, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Emily Svennevik, registered dietitian, Vanderbilt University
Kelli Wood, east regional registered dietitian, Aramark

It is estimated that 33 million Americans have food allergies, with nearly 40% experiencing at least one food allergy-related ER visit in their lifetime. Managing food allergies goes beyond the risk of life-threatening reactions; it often requires the elimination of key food groups, which increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, various diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and autoimmune disorders necessitate elimination diets that impact both macro- and micro-nutrient intake. In this session, four registered dietitians will discuss common challenges, share personal stories and experiences, explore how campus dining services can help bridge the gap, and discuss strategies to generate buy-in for prioritizing accommodations for this growing population.


Building Morale - Developing Intentional Culinary Competition Teams (TM)

Ambarish Lulay, executive chef, Cornell University

Cornell Dining is a proud participant in the many industry events and competitions available across the nation. After years of a strong showing from our professional staff and salaried culinarians, the team began to actively look for ways to involve motivated front-line staff in the preparation and execution of these competitions. What followed has been a transformational experience for our team: after leadership committed to the team's growth in this area, we began developing a formal culinary competition team, complete with tryouts, practice sessions, and formalized mentorship from our seasoned chefs. Chef Ambarish will present on the development, challenges, successes and best practices developed over the last year and the great work done by our team in supporting our front line culinarians.


Campus Kitchens Must be Zero Carbon Before 2050 - Start Now! (BA)

Tarah Schroeder, vice president, Ricca Design Studios
Steve Giardini, senior director of Michigan Dining, University of Michigan
Mark Duesler, consulting chef/senior program advisor, Frontier Energy

Zero Carbon Kitchens are the future of college and university dining. Kitchens currently use more energy per square foot than any other building type and dining must be included in decarbonization conversations. It is the only way colleges and universities will be carbon neutral. In this session, a panel of experts including an operator, sustainability educator, and design consultant will discuss practical solutions to take these overall campus-wide decarbonization goals and translate them into reality for the dining services team.  Join them as they review successful kitchen electrification and decarbonization projects completed across the country and share the lessons learned.


Creating an Inclusive Dining Community: Duke Dining’s Initiative to Accommodate Allergen and Dietary Requirements (GE)

Grayson Crabtree, program director, Duke Dining
Kirsten Richards, director of communications, Duke Dining

Duke Dining has created and implemented a comprehensive food allergy awareness program that has garnered national attention and has achieved trademark status. The Duke Dining “Ask Me” Allergen Awareness Program idea stemmed from the recognition of the growing number of college students on campus with food allergies. The program was created to increase awareness about the rise of food allergens, to create an environment where guests can feel comfortable inquiring about potential food allergens at Duke Dining locations on campus, and to emphasize the importance of recognizing the reciprocal relationship of food allergy communication for team members and guests in all training aspects. Join Kirsten Richards and Grayson Crabtree as they present on the program and what was learned through its development.


Cultivating Dynamic Leadership with Staff & Management: A Mission-Driven Approach to Real-World Results (TM)

Jaime Herrera, executive chef, Oregon State University
Traci Melton, general manager, Oregon State University

Join Chef Jaime & Traci Melton as they share Oregon State University's approach to utilizing their Mission, Vision, and Values to design expectation setting, performance evaluation, and coaching within a C&U Dining setting. They look to share learned lessons in cultivating new and existing team members' success in an environment where often we need to grow and retain talent above recruiting as a strategy for meeting post-COVID workforce needs. Attendees will participate in small group work, discuss how the shared approach can impact the evergreen challenges in our day-to-day, and acquire tools to modify or use as is when they return to campus.


Empowering Women in Culinary (TM)

Allison Trinkle, VP of culinary development & supplier diversity, Chartwells Higher Ed

In today’s culinary landscape, only 12% of chefs are women across the nation. Chartwells Higher Education’s Women in Culinary program aims to empower female culinarians through dedicated training opportunities, leadership development programs, and an annual conference and recognition event. We recognize that we can make a difference and together with our talented teams, we are committed to change. Chef Allison Trinkle, Vice President of Culinary Development and Supplier Diversity at Chartwells Higher Education, and leader of the Women in Culinary and Upward Leadership programs will talk about how these initiatives are designed to ignite female culinarians by empowering them with confidence, resilience, and courage to excel in a leadership role. Chef Allison will engage the audience in discussion on how to create a stronger pipeline of female leaders in a culinary setting for your campus or organization.


Engagement Equals Loyalty (GE)

Evan Wilson, new media manager, Texas Tech University Hospitality Services
Aimee Sales, unit manager, Texas Tech University Hospitality Services

In the post-pandemic landscape, mobile ordering has transformed from being a minor necessity to now being a catalyst for change in the collegiate dining sector. It presents unprecedented opportunities for operational efficiency, heightened customer service, and, most notably, the cultivation of customer loyalty. Embrace the transformation – harness the power of mobile ordering to elevate efficiency, service, and customer loyalty like Texas Tech University, where 4.5 million in-app points have been redeemed this year, solidifying its role in building and nurturing customer loyalty.


Exploring Convenience Services Partnerships and Their Effect on University Foodservice (GE)

Bill Meierling, senior vice president of external affairs, National Automatic Merchandising Association
Stefanie Oller, senior vice president of sales, Five Star Breaktime Solutions

Convenience services, sometimes known as unattended retail, transform how one experiences an environment. When students are challenged for time, limited labor can clash with their need to squeeze meals into their agenda (sometimes at unusual hours). This can be alleviated by convenience services, which can remain active at all times without an attendant. Leaders in campus dining administration are welcome to learn about how convenience services professionals can implement these valuable services at their location. Experts will dive into the effect partnering with this industry can have on a student's experience of convenience on campus. Audience questions and interactive discussions on use cases are welcomed.


Implementing Successful Reuse Programs (GE)

Lexie Raczka, sustainability director, Boston University Dining Services, Aramark
Abby Hertzfeld, interim senior director, The Ohio State University

Reusable to-go container programs offer great potential for waste reduction and financial savings, but challenges with implementation often limit participation, prevent containers from being returned and reused, or provide little usable data on impact and participation. Both Boston University (BU) and The Ohio State University (OSU) implemented Grubhub-integrated reusable container programs with ReusePass in the Spring 2023 semester and have achieved immense success with the programs, from both sustainability and financial perspectives. BU is utilizing this innovative process in their retail operations, whereas OSU implemented it in all you care to eat locations.


Managing Managers (TM)

Christy Lee, business manager III, Georgia State University

What is important to consider in managing managers? Your managers are an extension of you and your goals. These need to align and be reflective of who you represent as their leader. Your managers will learn from your management of them and your insight on how they work with and lead their teams. Working closely with your managers by observing behaviors in action and providing timely and constructive feedback, can impact real growth in these skills. Management needs to replicate true leadership.


Meal Plan Market Data 2024: New Formats and Case Studies (BA)

Courtland Thomas, district marketing director, Florida Fresh Dining, University of Florida
Amanda Armstrong, vice president of marketing, Northeast, Chartwells Higher Education

Join us for a forward-looking exploration of the future of meal plans, taking into account the evolving needs of Generation Z and upcoming Generation Alpha. We'll delve into emerging meal plans trends and insights that are reshaping the dining landscape on college campuses and discuss how meal plans can adapt to meet the expectations of these generations. You will learn about current average meal plan market pricing and meal plan types across the US by regions. Additionally, we will share real-life case studies from campuses across the country. Lastly, we'll spotlight innovative programming designed to enhance the overall value of meal plans, creating an engaging and fulfilling dining experience that aligns with what students both need and desire. Join us as we navigate the exciting intersection of meal plans, student preferences, and the value of the dining experience. 


NACUFS Benchmarking Survey: Marketing Strategies and Benefits of Data Analytics (CCE)

Dee Nguyen, unit manager, Texas Tech University Hospitality Services

Since 2001, the NACUFS Customer Satisfaction Benchmarking Survey is a tool Texas Tech University utilizes to build upon our successes, turn our failures into learning opportunities, and innovate the future to better campus dining for Red Raiders. TTU analyzes 14 locations from 1 Dining Hall to 13 Retail units. Learn about ways to increase survey participation, data metrics used and shared with location operators, and improvements made over the last three years. Unlock another avenue to show how valuable campus dining is to the student experience.

Secure a Seat at The Table: Explaining the Dining Value Proposition (BA)

Dawn Aubrey, PhD, vice president of operations, Miami University - Chartwells

Articulate the value proposition of dining, connecting it to the trends in higher education and providing quantitative and qualitative data how dining is connected to and contributes to student retention, student success and a positive campus identity. Dining is an essential service, recognized during inclement weather and emergencies; however, factually speaking to the value of the dining contribution to the campus community, local community, state, nationally and beyond is powerful. Dining is an investment, when made wisely, can return far into the future. This session will touch on all of the Body of Knowledge Domains but primarily focus on professional intelligence and business administration.


Setting Up Your Dining Service Program for Success in Today’s Inflationary Environment (BA)

Rich Neumann, director of culinary services (retired) culinary arts instructor/consultant, Mid-State Technical College

Inflation and fee budget caps have created a difficult environment for College and University Dining Programs nationwide. The key to thriving in this environment depends on knowing where your program currently stands, using data to write a cost-benefit analysis, communicating the cost-benefit analysis with upper administration showing them your program’s value to the University, and having a reserve. This session will show you how to use the most current NACUFS Operating Ratios Data, Salary Survey Data, Bureau of Labor Statistics Data, and more to help you demonstrate your program’s value to the University.


Stories that Lead: Crafting Your Origin Story to Inspire Connection (PI)

Taji Torrilhon

This interactive workshop empowers leaders to craft their personal origin stories, building confidence, fostering empathy, and strengthening team connections. Participants will discover the power and elements of an origin story, create their own, and practice in pairs or small groups with feedback opportunities. They’ll learn to apply their origin stories to enhance team connections and personal empathy and confidence. By the end of the learning session, participants will have a deeper understanding of themselves and the use of storytelling to foster connections in any workspace.


Sustaining Meat and Dairy for Generations to Come (CCE)

Debbie Lyons-Blythe, chair, U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Blythe Angus
Sid Mehta, senior director – ancillary services, Simon Fraser University
Eric Mittenthal, chief strategy officer, Meat Institute
Logan Thompson, assistant professor of animal science, Kansas State University

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, foods like meat, milk, and eggs provide critical nutrients not easily obtained from other sources. Yet, food service professionals and diners alike may have questions about sustainability and the role of animal-source foods in diets that are good for people, animals, and the planet. This session will share how partners across animal agriculture work to ensure that animal-source foods can continue to sustain generations to come. Speakers will share how their organizations set ambitious goals and verify progress toward optimizing environmental impact while producing nutrient-dense, high-quality food and supporting economic and social sustainability.


University of Wisconsin-Madison Food Waste Prevention Journey (BA)

Malorie Garbe, housing sustainability coordinator, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Peter Testory, director of dining & culinary services, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Joe Mehring, unit manager: Rheta's Market, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jon Garrett, director of business development, Leanpath

Please join Malorie Garbe, sustainability coordinator for University Housing and Dining at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in this discussion about UW’s adventure to reduce food waste on campus. The team has built tangible results in prevention and savings with Leanpath food waste solutions, but more importantly has raised awareness and engagement around food sustainability with students and dining staff. Malorie and the UW-Madison team will explore multiple concepts on this journey, including drivers of cultural change, engaging dining team members in sustainability solutions, creative funding strategies, and collaborations with student groups to drive success.


Updates & Impacts: ED’s Proposed Cash Management Rule on Meal Plans (PI)

Robert Nelson, president & chief executive officer, NACUFS

Since January when the negotiated rulemaking process was undertaken by the Department of Education and it's selected negotiators, NACUFS has been working diligently to understand the potential impacts of the proposed regulations on campus foodservice and to advocate for dining operations and the students they serve. Take a deep dive into NACUFS’ advocacy efforts to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issue. Find out where the issue stands and any action you may be able to take to help during this in-depth learning session.


What is the FUTURE For C&U and Special Dietary Needs (GE)

Lisa Eberhart, director of nutrition & co-founder, MenuAnalytics
Dianne Sutherland, director of nutrition, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

The buzz words on campus are inclusiveness and innovation when it comes to college dining and the dining services. What will the future hold for higher ed food service?
Food isn't just fuel; it's a wonderful pathway for connection and understanding. This is why diverse and inclusive meals really matter. Transparency and variety in the food options offered ensures everyone feels seen and accommodated. Dietary preferences, restrictions, or cultural consideration are just an opportunity to have dining services create an environment where everyone can comfortably engage in the communal experience of a great meal. Hear from folks from forward-thinking institutions that can help you visualize the future for your food service. We will discuss many possible future paths and what it takes to get there. Once you achieve that transparent inclusive food service you can increase customer satisfaction and retention on the meal plan, free up your dietitian to do the things that will enhance student wellbeing, and elevate your brand.


Learning Session Domains

The Learning Sessions for the NACUFS 2024 National Conference will focus on delivering content in the domains aligned with the NACUFS Collegiate Dining Body of Knowledge™ 

Business Administration Domain (BA)

Sessions in this domain focus on planning, systems, and business functions required to operate, enhance, and fund a campus-valued dining program

Talent Management Domain (TM)

Sessions in this domain focus on recruitment and selection, development, and engagement of personnel (including student employees) in order to operate a successful collegiate dining operation.

Guest Experience Domain (GE)

Sessions in this domain focus on providing an exceptional collegiate dining guest experience.

Campus & Community Engagement Domain (CCE)

Sessions in this domain focus on collaborative alignment with campus culture, mission, and strategies (including student engagement) as well as developing successful brand recognition through effective marketing.

Professional Intelligence Domain (PI)

Sessions in this domain focus on driving an ethical, organized environment that promotes high standards of integrity and inclusivity, effectively modeling responsible stewardship of campus resources, and leading and promoting organization initiatives and change.