Opportunities and Challenges of the Role
In transitioning to Princeton University, the assistant vice president may encounter a number of opportunities and challenges as shared by campus stakeholders.
The next assistant vice president of campus dining at Princeton University must possess a broad and deep understanding of national trends and best practices with regard to dining, catering, and retail operations, as well as an exemplary record of strong organizational and team development skills in a food services environment. The assistant vice president should be an experienced leader capable of managing complex situations, unwaveringly committed to the well-being and support of students and the campus community. The AVP must be equipped to contribute at both a strategic and operational level at the institution.
Princeton University has a strong history of providing stellar service to students within dining services. This measure of excellence requires attention to detail and forward thinking. A strong passion for dining services, the ability to show interest in and deep understanding of all aspects of a complex portfolio, and a comprehensive understanding of the changing dining and food-related needs of students are necessary for the candidate to be successful in this position. Princeton University is consistently evaluating its offerings to students and expects a nimble and creative approach to providing the best possible student experience.
The Princeton University stakeholders seemed genuinely interested in participating in discussions about this position, and there was a sense of unity in support of identifying a competent and visionary individual who can promote and develop the staff/team, set departmental priorities, and boldly lead what is already a very successful program into the future.
The campus dining staff is extremely committed to the vision of assisting students in every way, and they are dedicated to offering the best service possible. The staff works hard, and the new assistant vice president should make it a priority to quickly get to know the staff as individuals, learn their particular needs, develop trust and confidence across the board, ascertain the programs and services that they conduct, and be prepared to provide comprehensive professional support for all staff and oversee the ongoing development of a strong team.
There is a great opportunity for the new assistant vice president to make some impactful decisions upon arrival. The residential section of campus dining has meal contracts with approximately 3,280 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students and the University will be adding new colleges and additional cafés in the approaching years. Accordingly, it will be the assistant vice president’s responsibility to devise and execute an operational plan, including policies, personnel, best practices, and strategic vision, for maximum benefit to the student body.
University stakeholders repeatedly noted that Princeton University has an institutional culture that emphasizes a strong sense of team, mutual support, accessibility, approachability, and a highly collaborative approach to work. The assistant vice president will find a peer group and colleagues that are welcoming, promote open communication, emphasize an orientation toward service, and share a desire for a progressive and forward-thinking professional.
Although there is overall positive synergy and a good campus climate, the assistant vice president will need to ensure they have the ability to effectively work with a union environment in order to balance their expectations.
Due to the negative effects of COVID-19, campus dining has experienced a significant decrease in staffing. Accordingly, the assistant vice president will need to focus on filling vacancies, retaining staff, and ensure effective teambuilding.
The new assistant vice president will want to quickly build rapport with the campus dining staff, partners, colleagues throughout campus, and external collaborators. The assistant vice president should conduct a “listening tour” to foster open communication, increased transparency, opportunities for feedback, and stakeholder involvement.