Super Session Speakers
Joel Adour, Director of Sales East Division - Branding Iron-Holten/Rochester Meat Company
Joel is an accomplished, customer-focused Foodservice Sales Executive with extensive experience developing and leading high-performance sales teams that exceed organizational goals. He has a proven expertise in the manufacture, distribution, and contract negotiation in the Foodservice Industry. He has been recognized for dynamic sales training and mentoring staff toward outstanding results. Joel has established relationships throughout the industry with decision-makers, and influencers to create sustainable partnerships. He builds and motivates high-performance, cross-functional work teams who respond to changing customer expectations and corporate goals.
Zia Ahmed, Senior Director of Auxiliary and Business Optimization
Serving as the Senior Director of Auxiliary and Business Optimization, Zia provides the highest level of oversight for Dining Services, Events and Conference Services, Business Development, Sponsorship, and Revenue Optimization. Under his leadership. Dining Services operates over 40 dining facilities at The Ohio State University, which serves over 10 million customers annually. He is responsible for creating the vision and strategic directions for the departments under his oversight. He holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in business management from
University of Akron. Zia has nearly 30
years of college/university dining experience. Utilizing his Lean
Certification and Six Sigma training, Zia continually seeks to implement
process improvement tools and strategies into dining facilities. His leadership
has not gone unrecognized. He has been the recipient of The University of
Akron’s highest accolade, the Order of the Phoenix. His relationship with
students has also been recognized by the residence hall student governing
bodies at the University of Akron through the honor and appreciation that he
received in 2010 when he moved to The Ohio State University. He has been
involved in the industry from the beginning of his career and has held multiple
national and regional leadership positions in NACUFS (National Association of
College & University Food Services) including the president of the
organization. He has also been recognized by the organization and has received
the NACUFS Midwest Distinguished Service Award, the Midwest Region President’s
Award, and the Richard Lichtenfelt Award. He also was featured in Food
Management Magazine as the College Innovator of the Year and received Foodservice
Equipment Reports ‘Young Lion” award in 2015. He received the Distinguished
Staff Award by The Ohio State University in 2019. The Distinguished Staff Award
is the highest honor bestowed upon staff at the University for Outstanding
Achievements, service, leadership and dedication to The Ohio State University.
In 2020, he received the Silver Plate award. For 68 years the Silver Plate
Awards have been the industry’s most iconic foodservice accolade given out
the highest level of Food Service professional by the International Foodservice
Jane Bullinger, Region Vice President of National Sales, US Foods
Jane Bullinger is the Region Vice President of National Sales at US Foods and currently serves as the NACUFS Industry Advisory Task Force chair. Jane is responsible for field operations execution within US Foods Central Region, including College & University customers, and new business development. Jane resides in the Chicagoland suburbs and is a proud graduate of Indiana University - Bloomington.
Tristan Barsky, Psy.D., Associate Director of Clinical Services & Coordinator of Eating Disorder Services, Johns Hopkins University, Homewood Campus
Dr. Tristan Barsky (he/him/his) is
a Clinical Psychologist who holds a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree with a
Specialty Concentration in Severe and Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI) from
Long Island University. He completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Residential
Treatment of Eating Disorders from The Renfrew Center. Dr. Barsky has a
background in providing, supervising, and directing the clinical care of
adolescents and young adults diagnosed with eating disorders and/or SPMI in
university and psychiatric settings. His areas of expertise and interest
include clinical leadership and training, interdisciplinary treatment of eating
disorders and SPMI, crisis intervention, clinical supervision, Cognitive
Behavioral Therapy, and Psychodynamic therapies. Dr. Barsky has been on staff
at the Homewood Counseling Center since March 2020 and he currently holds the
position of Associate Director of Clinical Services & Coordinator of Eating
Disorder Services at that location.
Michael Craig, Co-founder/Chief Customer Officer, Nutrislice
Michael Craig is the Co-Founder and Chief Evangelism Officer at Nutrislice, an Inc 500 SaaS company located in Denver, CO. Michael helps shape the company’s strategy, sales, and marketing functions and now focuses his efforts on evangelizing the importance of providing both exceptional customer and operator experiences that will drive successful food operations!
Learning Session Speakers
Elizabeth Adkins, MS, Operations Support Manager, Central Washington University
Elizabeth Adkins, an Alumni of Central Washington University (CWU), currently serves as the Operations Support Manager for CWU Dining Services and a lecturer for the Department of Health Sciences, Food, and Nutrition Science Dietetics program. Prior to returning to CWU in a professional capacity, she spent several years making magic for guests at Walt Disney World, Parks and Resorts while pursuing her MS in organizational leadership with a specialization in strategic innovation and change from the University of Denver. In her current dining role, she champions the dining brand ensuring everything said, presented, and executed is not only aligned with the department’s mission, vision, and values but integrated into campus partnerships, initiatives, and high-impact practices. Elizabeth has implemented service-learning into her classes, oversees the Dining Food Recovery program, is a member of the Provost High Impact Practice Group, and is a Co-Chair of the Wildcat Essentials Executive Board.
Susan Blaha, Associate Director – Business Services, RIT Dining at Rochester Institute of Technology
Susan has been with RIT Dining for seven years and her background prior to Higher Ed was in Point of Sale. She is passionate about RIT’s co-op program and excited to be part of a team that is committed to providing great experiences to their community.
Dr. Heather Carrera, DCN, MS, CNS, CDN, Nutrition and Wellness Manager, Campus Auxiliary Services, SUNY Geneseo
Dr. Carrera is a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, Functional Nutritionist, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Dietician Nutritionist, and a graduate of Maryland University of Integrative Health. She earned a Certified Nutrition Specialist designation (CNS) through the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists and completed her Masters of Science in Human Nutrition through the University of Bridgeport. It was through her own health struggles that she began her academic interest in nutrition; using food as medicine to heal her own body fueled her passion to help others. Now, she is dedicated to using research-based evidence to find food-based solutions to the health challenges faced by Geneseo students.
Michael Carter Jr., Farmer/Founder, Carter Farms/Africulture
As an 11th generation U.S. farmer and a 5th generation farmer on his Carter family’s century farm in Orange County, Virginia, Michael gives workshops on growing and marketing ethnic vegetables, and runs Africulture, a nonprofit dedicated to educating on the agricultural contributions, principles, practices, plants, and people of African descent. He sits on the boards of the Montpelier Descendants Committee, Virginia Association of Biological Farmers, Virginia Food Systems Council, The Center for Natural Capital, Virginia Agrarian Trust, and Virginia Foodshed Capital. He holds an agricultural economics degree from North Carolina A&T State University.
Greg Costa, Vice President of Hospitality + Strategy, Oriole
Park at Camden Yards, Levy Restaurants
Greg is an accomplished and results-oriented director with
extensive expertise in delivering industry leading financial and guest service
results. A true diplomatic communicator who builds superior results through
collaboration and motivation while empowering others to do their best at all
times. Extensive knowledge of operational best practices and consumer needs in
market segments nationwide. Career development includes starting in
Pittsburgh, moving to Cleveland, Philadelphia, Albany, New York City,
Washington DC, Indianapolis, Brooklyn, Las Vegas and Baltimore
Susan Cramer, Senior Associate Director of Residential Dining, Michigan Dining, University of Michigan
Susan attended the University of Michigan to pursue a degree in biochemistry, and eventually medicine but as a student dining employee, fell in love with food and a passion for customer service instead. Over the past 14 years, Susan has advanced through several leadership roles within Michigan Dining and currently serves as the Senior Associate Director of Residential Dining. The MDining Residential Team feeds more than 20,000 students daily throughout their 9 dining halls and 5 retail locations, expertly crafted by a team of more than 1200 employees. When she's not actively motivating leaders that feed hungry Wolverines, Susan enjoys traveling, reading, and stretching her body's tolerance for caffeine.
Marie Davis, Global Sustainability Impact Manager, Aramark
in her current role, marie engages with operators, consumers, and clients around aramark’s “be well. do well.” sustainability strategy to support implementation, drive progress against aramark’s planet priorities, and inspire innovation. in addition to account engagement and supporting a sustainability community of practice, marie also leads strategy development and execution for both food waste minimization and circularity. marie's professional career has included diverse experiences centered on sustainability and education in the nonprofit, government, and private sectors. marie holds a master of science, environmental education and interpretation, and a bachelor of arts in elementary education, from the university of north carolina, wilmington.
lisa eberhart, rd, ldn, co-founder, menu analytics
lisa is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian/nutritionist. she has pioneered effective methods to evaluate menus from virtually every type of food service operation. lisa is a former chair of the licensing board of the north carolina board of dietetics & nutrition. lisa received the outstanding dietitian of the year award by the north carolina dietetic association in 2014. lisa was awarded the 2012 north carolina governor’s award for excellence, the highest honor for a state employee. before retiring in 2019 from her position as director of nutritional wellness services at north carolina state university, lisa led efforts that allowed the university to achieve recognition as top 15 healthiest college by food service director magazine, the #4 gluten-friendly college in the nation, and made nc state the first university in the nation to achieve the goals of the partnership for a healthier america healthy college initiative. lisa has served in the national association of college and university food services (nacufs), including roles as national conference education co-chair, regional conference education chair, national nutrition committee chair, regional nutrition committee chair, and speaker.
franceen friefeld, rd., ld., p.h.ec., ceo, board chair, the food service wellness institute™
franceen friefeld, rd., ld., p.h.ec., has over 36 years of experience as a leading dietitian in the onsite foodservice arena, public speaker, 3-time published author, media professional and tv food show host. franceen has led the development healthy dining initiatives for over 6000 establishments nationwide including colleges and universities, business dining, and healthcare facilities. as one of the top speakers and wellness strategists for the onsite foodservice industry, franceen's media and conference presentations focus on how organizations can best position themselves to address changes in the wellness arena including evolving trends, consumer insight and best practices. she is currently the board chair for the foodservice wellness institute™, the onsite foodservice industry's vehicle for wellness certification, education, and resources.
the institute plays an active role in shaping the future of wellness for the industry by providing valuable support and connecting influential wellness leaders to seize opportunities, address concerns and influence change. more than a dietitian, franceen is a food service professional who “sells and markets” nutrition with a strong background in operations, marketing, and sales. she understands what works and what doesn’t from a business perspective and couples that with her knowledge of best practices, consumer wellness trends, and competitive activity. given that expertise, she is able to bring organizations in-depth insight into opportunities that exist, but more importantly, ones that can be best applied, given their core competencies, business objectives and growth plans.
franceen has authored numerous articles for consumer and trade magazines and has appeared on radio and television talk shows throughout the us and canada. she is the former television host for a syndicated 30-minute healthy cooking show called the weigh to go, which aired on the life network and on several markets overseas. franceen is the co-author of the healthy weigh (featured on bestsellers) and fill up not out®: which has been rated one of five top nutrition books by aboutnutrition.com. her third book is titled healthy meals for your busy life cookbook.
erich geiger, executive director residential dining & longhorn hospitality, university of texas – austin
erich’s background includes 40 years of food service with 30+ in higher ed. his commitment to the student staff as guests and as team members is highlighted by this study, recognizing there is always opportunity to improve the student staff experience.
steve giardini, sr. director, michigan dining, university of michigan
steve has a 20+ year career in foodservice including private restaurants, hotels, and over 15 years in contract foodservice. during his time in contract foodservice, steve worked in corporate dining, higher education, and leisure as well as headquarters based roles leading and supporting field operations. in his current role with michigan dining, steve and his team oversee a dining program consisting of 9 dining halls, more than 20 retail locations, 4 catering kitchens and the campus bakeshop. he earned his bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant management as well as his mba from the university of delaware.
ryan greene, senior director, georgia tech university
ryan currently serves as the senior director of dining at georgia tech. he led the transition from contracted to self-operated dining in 2021 and currently oversees a $40 million operation with 350+ employees and 20+ dining concepts. during the evolution to self-op dining, he was able to build an entirely new leadership team and bring them together to successfully execute an entirely new organization, during a global pandemic and challenging economic climate. prior to his current role, he served as the director of auxiliary services at georgia tech, overseeing day-to-day operations for gt dining, the bookstore, and was interim associate director of housing operations.
prior to gt, he worked at middle georgia state university as the director of auxiliary services, overseeing self-operated bookstores and shops, contracted dining, self-operated conference and event services, snack/beverage/laundry vending, card services, pouring rights, summer camps and university licensing. he also served as the senior manager of self-operated parking and transportation at georgia college. ryan strives to be a transformative leader by empowering and inspiring his team to maximize their self-potential to move the organization forward, one day at a time. he thrives on developing teams and driving co-workers to be their best self while creating the future of the auxiliary services industry.
ryan is a nacas past-president, is casp certified, and has mba and mmis graduate degrees from georgia college & state university.
erin hartter, business relations manager, rit dining at rochester institute of technology
erin currently serves as the business relations manager for rit dining at rochester institute of technology and has been a part of the organization for over five years. she is proud to work in an environment that advocates for positive changes for the campus community and enjoys working with students and partners across campus.
she completed her undergraduate degree in international hotel & tourism management at johnson & wales university and her graduate degree in service leadership & innovation at rit.
betsy helgesen, senior director of campus retail, university of minnesota duluth
betsy helgesen is the senior director of campus retail at the university of minnesota duluth and has a passion for leadership and service. as the director of dining services at university of minnesota duluth, betsy and her team are committed to transformative change in modernizing service, food, and technology. together they deliver culinary excellence and modernizing technology to a dynamic self-operated dining program. umd dining now boasts online ordering, handheld nutritional analysis, fresh inclusive menus, data analytics, and dashboards. betsy holds a ba from harvard university and a culinary of arts degree from western culinary. betsy recently completed her masters in professional studies with a focus on organizational development and employee engagement at the university of minnesota duluth. her capstone project was entitled, “igniting engagement: using surveys to launch exploration, connection and joy in college & university dining services settings”.
before joining the team at umd, betsy was a district manager for starbucks and opened markets in wisconsin, detroit, and kansas city and was awarded “manager of the year" for the corporation. for sixteen years, betsy was chef and owner of her own restaurant in the northwoods of wisconsin. this restaurant was a chef’s dream and focused on seasonal menus, local ingredients, and strong community relationships. betsy also led teams for aramark healthcare and was inducted into their ring of stars.
randy lait, co-founder, menu analytics
randy is the co-founder of menu analytics, a restaurant menu nutrition analysis and collegiate dining consulting firm that supports menu transparency and optimization. randy is a certified auxiliary services professional with more than 36 years of collegiate dining service management experience. randy was the 2019 recipient of the ifma silver plate as operator of the year in the college and university food service sector.
randy has served in nacufs in a variety of roles over his career, including regional president, regional conference chair, nacufs board of directors, national conference chair and national conference sponsorship chair. he is the recipient of the nacufs 2022 david r. prentkowski distinguished lifetime member award.
kirsten mckinney, director of marketing for campus operations, university of richmond
kirsten is a creative and skilled problem solver with 25+ years of experience in marketing, communications, and graphic design. she has worked in various areas within higher ed, from academics to administration, to student affairs, giving her a well-rounded understanding of campus services. currently, kirsten serves as the director of marketing for campus operations at the university of richmond, where she is enhancing the marketing office to showcase the university's top ten dining services program.
Erica Nehrling, MS, RDN, Business Development Executive, Touchwork
Erica received her M.S. in Nutritional Sciences from University of Illinois, her B.S. in Dietetics from University of Georgia, and is an active member of NACAS and NACUFS. Erica was the Administrative Dietitian for University of Illinois Dining Services from 2013-2018 prior to moving to industry to work with Touchwork for the last four years. Erica has presented at national and regional conferences for NACAS, NACUFS (National Association of College and University Foodservice), FNCE (Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo), FASI (Food Allergy Symposium for Industry), and EB (Experimental Biology). Erica has enjoyed bringing an additional perspective to the Touchwork team and is passionate about using Touchwork’s solutions to gather student feedback and data to improve auxiliary services’ customer experience as well as provide a niche solution for students with food allergies. In her spare time, Erica enjoys hiking, caving, and anything in the great outdoors.
Rich Neumann, MS, FMP
Rich Neumann retired from Ohio University in August 2021 after 32 years and served as Director for 16.5 years. Total experience in college and university food service of 41 years. Currently working as a Freelance Food Service Consultant and Part-time Culinary Arts Instructor at Mid-State Technical College. Noteworthy NACUFS accomplishments include author of Financial Management for Food Service, ten years as National Treasurer, four years as Midwest Regional President, over 50 interest session presentations, and Theodore W. Minah Award winner.
Matt Obergfell, Non-Commercial Northeast Business Development Manager, Hormel Foods
Matt is the
Non-Commercial Northeast Business Development manager for Hormel Foods. Matt
helps to develop Hormel’s non-commercial business strategy nationally. He has
been working with the College and University Segment for the past 9 years and
shares insights and best practices with over 130 team members. He is an avid
pizza enthusiast who has had the pleasure of working with and eating at some of
the best pizzerias in New York, New Jersey, New Haven, Chicago, Boston, Detroit
Evan Olsen, Director of Campus Dining, Florida Institute of Technology
Evan received his business degree from the Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State University in 2003. He worked for Aramark at Florida State as the Catering Manager coordinating large events including Doak Campbell Stadium skybox catering. From Tallahassee Evan moved to Macomb, Illinois to take the role of Catering Director with Sodexo at Western Illinois University leading the premier catering program in the area. He worked with Sodexo’s national catering team to develop standardized recipes and brochures. He is currently the Director of Dining at the Florida Institute of Technology located on Florida’s Space Coast and leads the Residential Dining and Catering programs. He also heads up Campus Dining marketing efforts, Human Resource functions and assists in numerous Student Government initiatives. He has two children in high school prepping for their own college careers. He also operates an Airbnb with his wife in Cocoa Beach, Florida that enables him to share his love for hospitality.
Karla Orozco, Director of Operations – Retail and Convenience Stores, Rochester Institute of Technology
Karla has been with RIT Dining for 20 years, in which she has held 3 different positions within RIT Dining. It is a pleasure to continue to work in the higher education environment where she learns so much from the student body and yet can also make such a positive impact on their lives through food and service.
Denishea Ortiz, Director of Strategic Marketing, Rochester Institute of Technology
Denishea has 20 years of experience in higher education and consumer packaging goods industries. She believes transformation happens at the center of an uncomfortable sensation and pushes boundaries to seek unconventional thinking, processes, and implementations. She optimizes sales, drives traffic, and increases product distribution through research and collaborative connections. She executes branded experiential marketing to educate consumers and expand partnerships. She serves on non-profit boards, is an avid international traveler, teaches fitness, and loves hiking.
Laura Pontier, Assistant Director of Operations Development, Virginia Tech
Laura started at VT Dining in 2016 as Training and Project Coordinator. She currently oversees all training/development and hiring of hourly positions for a staff of 2,000+ employees. Laura also implements and facilitates special projects. Prior to 2016, she spent 7 years as a secondary science educator, teaching both in-person and hybrid courses.
Jake Reed, Reporting and Data Specialist, RIT Dining at Rochester Institute of Technology
Jake started his full-time position at RIT Dining in June 2022 after graduating with a degree in Finance at RIT. Prior to graduating, he worked at RIT Dining for the past two years as a co-op and student employee. Jake loves to have fun in the office with the RIT Dining team and make people laugh while still getting work done. He’s from Skaneateles, NY, and enjoys going to the lake to swim and paddleboard
Katelyn Repash, Local Procurement Director, Responsible Sourcing Group, Aramark & Avendra Group
Katelyn began her career with Aramark as the Director in Specialty Supply Chain, working with regional and diverse suppliers to meet client needs. Before joining Aramark, she spent over ten years working in produce and local procurement, as well as sustainable agriculture in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region, with companies including Lancaster Farm Fresh, John Vena, Chaes Food, and Greensgrow Farms. Katelyn is passionate about building inclusive work environments for LGBTQ+ employees and serves as the Philadelphia Hub Co-Chair role with the Aramark’s Pride employee resource group. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College.
Dr. Tanya Rodriguez, Senior Human Experience Research Manager, Cultural Anthropologist, Hormel Foods Corporation
Tanya is a cultural anthropologist with Hormel Foods Corporation, where she uses cultural intelligence to solve modern food problems, drive insights and innovation, and showcase diverse consumer voices. She uses ethnographic techniques to explore and tell stories from the front lines of food. An advocate for food equity and sovereignty, Tanya champions efforts to eradicate food deserts and ensure access to high quality, nutritionally dense and culturally congruent food for all. She is eternally curious about the future of food including emerging food technologies, ingredients, and consumer desires. A daughter of the SouthTexas borderlands, she is passionate about her Tejano culinary diaspora. Tanya received her B.A. in anthropology and sociology from the University of Notre Dame, her M.S.W. from Our Lady of the Lake University, and her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Ann Roebuck, Principal, Envision Strategies
Ann Roebuck has been a consultant for 28 years and enjoys being a problem solver. Being a long-standing member of the Envision Strategies team, Ann makes a personal connection with her clients and treats their business as if it was her own. Ann began her industry experience in a family-owned restaurant, moved to fast-food operations and even worked for an equipment manufacturer but found her passion in collaborating with clients for the advancement of their dining programs. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Design from the University of Mississippi and a Master of Science degree in Restaurant Hotel and Institutional Management from Purdue University.
Heather Ryall, Assistant Director, Campus Dining, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Heather is a hospitality professional with over 30 years of experience in both front- and back-of-house operations. Heather currently focuses on facilities maintenance, R&M, kitchen build outs and stream lining equipment assets and project tracking. She is originally from Naples, Florida but has resided in New England for 25 years, and is a big fan of the beach, her partner, 2 rescue dogs, and the Miami Dolphins.
Kory Samuels, Associate Vice President, Auxiliary Services & President Elect of NACUFS, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)
Kory Samuels began his career as a student employee for Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) Dining, and has had the opportunity to take on progressive leadership roles for the past 16 years that have lead him to his current role as the Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services.
He leads a staff of 1,500+ employees, coordinates the multimillion-dollar capital budgeting for 25 operations ranging from Housing, facilities, Dining, Marketing, Technology, Business strategy, Sustainability, and retail operations, that includes staff development, strategic planning, contractual agreements and overall vision for the department.
Mr. Samuels is known as a caring leader who believes in professional development and mentorship to create positive customer experiences. He is a strong advocate for the hospitality industry volunteering is time numerous organizations most notably NACUFS (National association of college and university food service) where he currently serves as the president-elect.
Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Mr. Samuels obtained his undergraduate degree in Management Information Systems and Executive Masters in Business Administration from RIT. He has a depth of knowledge and experience in many areas, most notably Operations, Procurement, Technology, Human resource management, Leadership, and Project management.
Joie Schoonover, Director of Business Development, CBORD
Joie has over 30 years of progressive experience in higher education food service, serving in leadership positions at institutions ranging in size from 1,200 to 40,000+ students. Throughout her career, she implemented software and systems, reorganized staff structures, and redefined organizational processes to improve operations. She has successfully managed operational transitions through increased system utilization, staff training and buy-in, and the creation of appropriate positions within a new organizational structure. Before joining the team at CBORD, she worked as a management consultant for several years, helping clients better their operations. She currently is director of business development at CBORD, assisting strategic partners improve their operations by leveraging CBORD software solutions.
Casey Smith is an architect and Principal in Hord Coplan Macht’s higher education studio. His experience includes numerous complex projects; including renovations, additions and new construction. Casey’s design expertise is focused on student life spaces (dining facilities, student housing, student centers / student services). He is intimately involved with helping his clients develop consensus by providing decision support. His experience includes numerous presentations to community and regulatory groups, and he has a proven track record for keeping difficult projects on schedule and on budget.
Sami Takieddine, Director, Platform Operations & Patron Engagement, CBORD
Throughout Sami's 20-year tenure at CBORD, he's had a passion for working with businesses catering to students, staff, and faculty. In his leadership role today on the commerce team, Sami's focus is on leveraging the GET and UGryd platforms to enhance the dining and cardholder experience at institutions nationwide, while generating new streams of revenue both for customers and the company. Sami has a bachelor's degree in political science and an MBA, both from Emory University in Atlanta, GA, the city where he currently resides. He's an avid world traveler, father of a middle-schooler and high-schooler, and self-professed aviation geek.
Christopher Toote, Executive Director UChicago Dining, University of Chicago
Christopher Toote has served as the Executive Director of UChicago Dining since 2018. Christopher joined The University of Chicago in 2012 and has served previously as Vice President for Student Affairs at Jarvis Christian College. Christopher brings over twenty-five years of experience in higher education food service management, administration, and leadership. He has served from a Pot Washer to a Resident District Manager, spanning eight (8) colleges/universities with Sodexo, Aramark, and Thompson Hospitality/Compass Group. Christopher holds a Ph.D., Urban Higher Education and Administration, Jackson State M.B.A., University of New Orleans, and Sustainability Management, The University of Chicago. As a trainer, facilitator, presenter, and leader Dr. Toote is also an author of eight (8) books.
Jay Vetter, Pro Chef III, Executive Chef, Aramark Collegiate Hospitality
Jay is an experienced Regional Executive Chef with a demonstrated history of working in the retail industry. A strong operational professional, he is skilled in menu engineering, catering, food & beverage, cooking, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Jay holds a BS in Hospitality Management from Concord University and an AS in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University.
Lesley Vogel, RD, LDN, Vice President of Food and Nutrition, SAGE Dining Services
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Lesley leads a team of Registered Dietitians whose expertise and continuous research ensure SAGE delivers the best, most current nutrition programs to our communities. They lead our allergen management training, The SAGE Spotlight Program®, and Performance Spotlight®. They review every ingredient and recipe, tag them for the top 12 food allergens, and ensure variety on every menu. Lesley's leadership has positioned SAGE to have one of the industry's strongest nutrition programs.
Lesley received her bachelor's degree in food and nutrition from Florida State University and completed her dietetic internship at Yale New Haven Hospital. Before joining SAGE in 2014, Lesley spent 20 years in clinical practice, first providing care at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and later educating corporate clients, families, and students through a community-based practice. As the parent of a child with a nut allergy, Lesley has firsthand experience managing the complexities of food allergies. She enjoys sharing this expertise and her passion for nutrition with our communities. Lesley's hobbies include hiking, skiing, kayaking, and spending time with family and friends.
Andrew Watling, Director for Dining Services, Washington University in St. Louis
Andrew Watling is the Associate Director of Dining at Washington University in St. Louis. Andrew joined the Washington University dining team in January of 2020. He previously served as Assistant Director of Dining at Washington and Lee University in Lexington Virginia and Training & Project Manager for Virginia Tech Dining Services. A native of San Diego, Andrew began his career in Foodservice as a student employee at Virginia Tech.
Nadeem Zafar, Division President, Chartwells
As Division President for Chartwells Higher Education’s Northeast Division, Nadeem’s passion and drive for excellence has led to developing strong client-partner relationships. In this role, Nadeem leads the dining strategy and management of many colleges and universities including the University of Pittsburgh, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Louisiana State University (LSU), and others.Growing up in Qatar, Nadeem had dreams of moving to the United States and embarking on an engineering career. After arriving in the U.S. and starting his studies at Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO), he was captivated by the passion, leadership, and craft of contract dining. Nadeem started his dining career in 1999 with humble beginnings - first applying to be a dishwasher at SEMO, that led him on a journey eventually taking him across the Midwest, Canada, Northeast, and beyond.
Nadeem received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and an additional Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Food Service Management from SEMO, and now proudly sits on its board. SEMO further honored Nadeem when he was presented their Merit Award in 2020. Nadeem also serves on the Minnesota University System Culinology Board and has recently been selected as the chair of Compass Group’s Global Education Forum
Nadeem’s priority is people and ensuring they have the opportunities they deserve for further growth and prosperity. To support team members in underrepresented populations, Nadeem often acts as a mentor to help them develop skills to accelerate their career growth.
Nadeem currently resides in Chicago with his wife, Fazilat, and his daughter, Shireen.