National Conference Session Details

Super Sessions


NACUFS Bylaw Changes Town Hall

The National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Board of Trustees is recommending Bylaw amendments in three key areas, on which NACUFS members will be asked to vote at the General Membership Assembly. These bylaw changes:  

  • Modernize titles within the organization. 
  • Allow the Board to amend bylaws in a timely manner.  
  • Permit a limited number of contract employees who work full-time on member campuses to serve on the Board.  
  • Correct outdated administrative language from previous bylaw updates.  

Members will also vote on changes to the NACUFS Articles of Incorporation that would correct a misalignment between the Bylaws and Articles to continue the longstanding practice of allowing an industry member to serve on the Board. A second change to the Articles of Incorporation to allow NACUFS to advocate for the collegiate dining industry will also be on the ballot. This change would allow NACUFS to support or oppose legislation that impacts collegiate dining. 

The NACUFS Board of Trustees Executive Committee, comprised of the current president, immediate past president, president-elect, treasurer and chief executive officer, will provide the background and reasoning for the changes and answer member questions during this town hall. 


Five Steps to Support Student Consumers Experiencing Mental Health Concerns

Tristan Barsky, Psy.D., Johns Hopkins University 

Join us for an engaging presentation that explores the crucial role dining plays in college communities and how you, as a dedicated professional in this environment, can make a difference in supporting your customers. We will delve into the vital topic of mental health and equip you with the knowledge and skills to effectively address the needs of students. 

Gain an understanding of the risk factors associated with mental health concerns and learn to identify warning signs that may indicate a student is in distress. Discover practical strategies and techniques that will enable you to provide valuable assistance to student consumers, both in times of crisis and during non-crisis situations. Learn where to turn for help and how to connect students with the appropriate services that can further aid their well-being. Your role in supporting students goes beyond providing nourishment—it encompasses fostering a caring environment where their overall well-being is valued and nurtured. 

Guest Experience Student Panel - Top Engagement Questions Answered

Moderator: Andrew Watling, Director for Dining Services, Washington University in St. Louis 

They are your customers. You see them everyday but may only occasionally have an opportunity to find out what they think of your operation. Do you wonder what gets the student consumers of today excited? What makes them more loyal? What turns them off? What they are looking for? And how to better attract and engage them? Join moderator, Andrew Watling, Director for Dining Services, Washington University in St. Louis and student representatives from several local universities for a panel discussion on these topics and more. What tidbits and ideas will you walk away with? 

Navigating the Changing Landscape: Insights and Strategies for Success in the C&U Food Marketplace

Joel Adour, Director of Sales East Division - Branding Iron-Holten/Rochester Meat Company
Michael Craig, Co-founder/Chief Customer Officer, Nutrislice
Jane Bullinger, Region Vice President of National Sales, US Foods 

Moderator:  Zia Ahmed: Senior Director, Dining Services at The Ohio State University 

The NACUFS Industry Advisory Task Force (IATF) is excited to explore various industry segments and highlight significant changes in a post-pandemic ecosystem. We will provide practical guidance on navigating the evolving landscape for C&U Foodservice Operators and how NACUFS members can position themselves for success. We will dive into the impacts of a post-pandemic world on foodservice technology, manufacturing, distribution and marketing communication initiatives. Attendees will learn about the latest strategies and solutions implemented by others to overcome challenges and drive success in the C&D U food marketplace. By the end of the session, attendees will gain a better understanding of current industry happenings, best practices, and the variables that will shape the upcoming academic school year. Come join NACUFS’ IATF for an inspiring experience!



Learning Sessions

Connecting Food Service to the Evolution of Wellness

Franceen Friefeld, RD., LD., P.H.Ec., CEO, Board Chair, The Food Service Wellness Institute™

Wellness is a top priority for foodservice, but it's difficult to keep up with evolving market and consumer trends, legislation and innovation. It’s no longer just about offering healthy dining choices. It’s now about delivering healthy dining experiences that include healthy menu selections that are consumer and trend-centric, along with service, marketing and design tactics to enhance total wellbeing. This session explores how wellness has evolved and how to meet the needs of today’s diners, market trends, and industry best practices.


Creating Exceptional and SAFE Dining Experiences on Campus

Lesley Vogel, RD, LDN, Vice President of Food and Nutrition, SAGE Dining Services

There are 5.6 million children living with life-threatening food allergies. These children will grow up and go away to college. In this session, the speakers will walk attendees through food allergy basics and important safety strategies to ensure campus operations are set up for success to serve students with dietary restrictions. The speakers will also highlight strategies to provide an exceptional campus dining experience for all students.


Operator to Administrator

Kory Samuels, Associate Vice President, Auxiliary Services & President Elect of NACUFS, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

This presentation will focus on what tactics, strategies and knowledge is needed for you to transition effectively from managing operations to supporting operations as an executive in your department and/or campus.


The Farmer and the Chef: BIPOC Farm to Institution Efforts

Jay Vetter, Pro Chef III, Executive Chef, Aramark Collegiate Hospitality
Michael Carter Jr., Farmer/Founder, Carter Farms/Africulture
Marie Davis, Global Sustainability Impact Manager, Aramark
Katelyn Repash, Local Procurement Director, Responsible Sourcing Group, Aramark & Avendra Group

A food system that truly supports BIPOC farmers requires a flipping of the script, or rather of the menu. When farmers and chefs come together, food is at the center of the conversation of how a university can best serve its community. Our food culture, recipes, and hospitality experiences on campus and in our residential restaurants has the power to tell the story of the history of the land and the traditions of those who have been farming it.

Join this thoughtful discussion about collaborative engagement and operational connectivity between BIPOC Farmers, on-site and regional culinary leaders, and supply chain resources. Hear from stakeholders at the University of Virginia, and North Carolina Central University, two key institutions of varying size, who have been on a quest to reshape their dining programs to reflect the community where they reside. This journey and discussion could not happen without a multi-generational farmer and advocate, Michael Carter Jr and Aramark Executive Chef, Chef Jay Vetter, to challenge and collaborate with us on a new approach to achieving economic equity and honoring our regional heritage.

Participants will learn and discuss best practices for collaboration between the university, BIPOC farmers, culinary team, and supply chain to provide authentic and regionally based menus and support economic equity for all stake holders. By working together, food service providers, higher ed institutions, supplier partners, and community networks can drive the focus towards a holistic support system for the local food system that works to reduce barriers to entry these farmers are facing.


Serving the Future: Exploring Student Staffing in College Food Services

Dr. Tanya Rodriguez, Senior Human Experience Research Manager, Cultural Anthropologist, Hormel Foods Corporation
Erich Geiger, Ex. Director Residential Dining & Longhorn Hospitality, University of Texas

Attracting and retaining labor is a key challenge in foodservice. The University of Texas at Austin Dining Services and Hormel Foodservice partnered to identify the push & pull factors impacting a student’s choice to work in college/university foodservice. Ethnographic research techniques, including first-person student video immersions, captured rich emotional, operational, and directional insights directly from foodservice staff and customers. This research helped us confirm existing hypotheses and identify areas for growth which will continue to foster our dedication to the professional development our foodservice team and to sustaining a delicious future for food on campus.


Train the Trainer: Making it work for you

Andrew Watling, Director for Dining Services, Washington University in St. Louis
Laura Pontier, Assistant Director of Operations Development, Virginia Tech

NACUFS Train the Trainer program can be a great tool for any member to use and improve training across your school or business. Join the three designers of the program and learn how, no matter the size of your institution, this program can help you prepare your staff to better receive new staff, share their knowledge with them, and provide that new staff with clear feedback that will make them valuable members of your team. Learn how training your people to train others will help you, them and the whole team.


Creating Effective Student Focus Groups

Evan Olsen, Director of Campus Dining, Florida Tech

Student Focus Groups can be one of the most valuable engagement tools to your program.  It can also quickly turn into a cacophony of noise with lack of focus and direction.  What groups do I engage?  How many people should I invite?  How do I keep control of the meeting?  In this session, you will learn how to systematically create focus groups, lead them and determine viable courses of action for your program.  Once the framework is created, you will be prepared to create Effective Student Focus Groups.


Using Real-Time Feedback to Improve Satisfaction and Engagement

Ryan Greene, Senior Director, Georgia Tech University
Erica Nehrling, Business Development Executive, Touchwork

The Georgia Institute of Technology has implemented a customer experience feedback solution allowing students to provide comments, suggestions, and insights in real-time. This was implemented in Summer 2021 as Georgia Tech Dining went from contracted service to self-operation. Customer satisfaction scores increased significantly and student engagement doubled between Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. Dining services collaborated with the student government association to garner increased feedback. This service also resulted in decreased negative traffic on social media. Attend this session to learn more about how Georgia Tech Dining created a positive relationship with students and improved customer satisfaction significantly in their first year of self-operation.


Using Audits to Enhance Special Diets Programs

Lisa Eberhart, RD, LDN, Co-Founder, Menu Analytics
Randy Lait, Co-Founder, Menu Analytics
Betsy Helgesen, Senior Director of Campus Retail, University of Minnesota-Duluth
Heather Ryall, Assistant Director of Campus Dining, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This presentation will explore the use of auditing techniques to strengthen the campus dining program’s approach to serve students with special dietary needs due to food allergies, sensitivities, and religious beliefs. Existing strategies may range from grab & go offerings, allergen free stations, and allergen free units all the way to the gold standard of full menu transparency. Special diets programs are important to have in place, whether yours is a self-operated or contracted food service operation.  Whatever strategy is used at your institution, it is important to test and verify that policies and procedures are in place, understood, and being followed closely. Auditing techniques such as secret shoppers, internal peer review assessments, and independent third-party audits serve to identify the areas of strength as well as areas that need additional training or refinement. In this session, we will explore various auditing approaches, how to get started, ways to test from a customer perspective, methods to assess menu and recipe adherence, product standard strategies, and data integrity. We will review policies and procedures documentation, training, and methods of sharing data at all customer-facing points of interaction


Retention Through Collaborative Full Time Employment 

Steve Giardini, Sr. Director, Michigan Dining, University of Michigan
Susan Cramer, Sr. Associate Director, Michigan Dining, University of Michigan

Like every dining program coming out of COVID, Michigan Dining experienced a staffing crisis.  With over 180 seasonal bargained-for staff, there was an opportunity to increase retention and recruitment by providing year-round employment.  Through a partnership with our Facilities team on campus, we created value for all stakeholders by converting these jobs to year-round positions. At the end of the program, retention, productivity, and recruitment efforts showed great improvement and we look forward to continuing the program for years to come.


Powering the Student Experience Through Innovative Campus Dining 

Joie Schoonover, Director of Business Development, CBORD
Sami Takieddine, Director, Platform Operations & Patron Engagement, CBORD

We all know that well-balanced diets lead to better student outcomes. Healthy and nutritious meals improve cognitive skills and concentration, enhance academic performance, and boost mental health. Much like a kitchen in a home, your college dining program is central to the campus experience and critical to overall student success. When Generation Z entered college, they brought with them the challenge to support a contemporary, technology-driven campus experience. Technology has been part of their lives since birth, and today’s students expect universities to offer the same connectivity and convenience they find in the retail world. Because of this, collegiate foodservice operators are challenged with providing the nutrition students need to be successful, while also delivering these services through the modern technology they demand. Mobile and self-service point-of-sale solutions help universities meet student technology demands and streamline campus dining and retail operations. Attend our session to learn how mobile payments and food ordering solutions, biometric readers, and self-service kiosks boost the student experience while automating production, providing more service options, and solving labor shortages. These advancements in technology support revenue growth, reduce overhead, improve accuracy, and minimize waste. You’ll also learn about new university partnerships with national brands that rival the retail experience anywhere in the world. 


How to Break Barriers and Build Bridges with Campus Partners 

Elizabeth Adkins, MS, Operations Support Manager, Central Washington University 

As universities go through a transition period, we as stakeholders and community builders have become even more vital to the health of our institutions. We must think differently, disrupt what we know, and reevaluate our approach to yield innovative and impactful results. This action is to not be taken lightly, it is rather a call to action to forever leave our mark on our universities, to break barriers of what we through college dining could be and build the bridges that allow us to fully embody what our campus community deserves. This session will assess your operational readiness for innovation and change, show you how to rebuild your base by focusing in on your WHY and how to align your communication, mission and vision so you are adding value while positively impacting your campus community. Using this foundation begin developing your ideal guest experience and how to integrate it into your department and campus culture.


The Future of Meal Plans

Susan Blaha, Associate Director – Business Services, RIT Dining at Rochester Institute of Technology
Erin Hartter, Business Relations Manager, RIT Dining at Rochester Institute of Technology
Karla Orozco, Director of Operations – RIT Dining at Rochester Institute of Technology

Jake Reed, Reporting and Data Specialist, RIT Dining at Rochester Institute of Technology 

Join members of Rochester Institute of Technology’s RIT Dining team as they discuss their recent technology transitions with their transaction processing system and point-of-sale software. Learn how it has had an effect on their business model and the way they serve their community. Additionally, this session will provide insight into the configuration of meal plans and important policies that have allowed RIT Dining to streamline the services they offer to their students. Learn from RIT’s experiences by gaining insight into where they started and where they are now.


The Intersection of Mental Health and Nutrition

Dr. Heather Carrera, DCN, MS, CNS, CDN, Nutrition and Wellness Manager, Campus Auxiliary Services, SUNY Geneseo

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought mental health into sharp focus, especially when it comes to college students. Isolation, virtual learning and working, and added caregiver stresses all came together to either worsen pre-existing mental health conditions, or bring underlying predispositions to the surface. Not only are students affected, but staff as well-leading to decreased job performance and productivity, reduced dependability and lower energy levels. Prevalence of mental health conditions will be discussed, as well as the most common conditions affecting the American workforce, as well as college students.

Nutrition is increasingly being recognized as a powerful tool in the prevention and treatment of a spectrum of mental health conditions, from anxiety to depression and beyond. We all have to eat, so why not learn how to eat in a deliberate way to support mental health? There are specific, actionable ways that we can all build our plates to support the microbiome, a leading contributor to positive mental health, and to support our primitive brain's desire for color. Up-to-the-moment research in mental health and nutrition will be discussed in a way that makes the findings actionable to viewers. Culinary adaptogens, a class of herbs known for supporting the body's stress response, will be discussed as well.


Discussing the Hybrid Model

Ann Roebuck, Principal, Envision Strategies
Christopher Toote, Executive Director UChicago Dining, University of Chicago
Nadeem Zafar, Division President, Chartwells

Beginning with a review of the evolutionary journey of UChicago Dining from self-op to contracted services model, to the hybrid model, we will discuss advantages of the Hybrid model and why this model became the choice for UChicago using an intentional and revolutionary approach to investment, equipment, renovations, construction, dining platforms, maintenance, partnership, and vendor-client collaboration. The session will also delve into the vision of the dining program, how this was executed between contractor and client, and how operations are audited and feedback is provided. 


From Tactics to Strategy: Marketing for Better Experiences  

Kirsten McKinney, Director of Marketing for Campus Operations, University of Richmond
Denishea Ortiz, Director of Strategic Marketing, Rochester Institute of Technology

As marketing professionals in dining services, there are six words we hear every day: “Can you make me a sign?” But what if there are better solutions to the problem than a sign? In this session, we will discuss the role of marketing in dining operations and how getting the most out of your marketing program begins with a solid foundation of research, data, strategy, and brand.

Our operations are busy,  demanding places, and putting up a sign is often the easiest, quickest way to deflect action. Post a sign; problem solved! But this approach puts tactics before strategy, or in more colloquial terms, the cart before the horse. From large campaigns that promote new services to communicating effectively about our daily operations, understanding the root problem is the first step in any effective marketing effort. Using real-life examples, we will walk participants through defining root problems using key questions and how the answers to those questions can lead to discovery, more creative solutions, and a better customer experience.

We will also discuss how this methodology can help colleagues understand marketing's role beyond sign-making and change the thinking from “tactics first” to problem-solving that is backed by strategy. This session will speak to a broad audience but focus on non-marketing professionals who want to learn more about how effective marketing works and their role in its success at their institution.   Participants will walk away with ways to navigate towards better solutions so that the tactics (i.e., signs) are not Band-Aids but creative and practical marketing efforts that make sense. 


Getting the most from benchmarking: A deep dive into the InSights Data Center by NACUFS

Rich Neumann, MS, FMP

In 2023, NACUFS launched the new InSights Data Center to provide collegiate dining professionals a platform to benchmark their data in different areas, including salary and operating ratios. Join this session to learn more about the data center, the studies available, and how you can utilize this information to improve your own operation. You’ll also gain a sneak peek of the data that was collected so far in 2023!




Learning Session Domains

The Learning Sessions for the NACUFS 2023 National Conference will focus on delivering content in the domains aligned with the NACUFS Collegiate Dining Body of Knowledge™ 

Business Administration Domain

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

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

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

Campus & Community Engagement Domain

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

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.