ROLE OF THE DIRECTOR OF DINING SERVICES FOR FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY
Reporting to the Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services, the Director of Dining Services provides innovative, strategic, and comprehensive leadership for an extensive, self-operated dining program and delivers a high-quality dining experience for the campus community. Administering a dining program comprised of board, retail, catering, and athletic concession operations, the Director establishes and maintains high standards of quality through well-developed culinary and production standards; analyzes and interprets financial data, to include forecasting, benchmarking, and developing monthly financial reports; emphasizes healthy dining options and accommodating students with food sensitivities, insecurities, and allergies; and maintains a strong focus on sustainability, with an emphasis on food waste management and local food procurement. The Director maintains exceptional customer service standards, with an emphasis on quality, presentation, and innovation, and develops and fosters robust, collaborative relationships with campus partners. The Director coordinates dining facility remodeling and renovation; evaluates and authorizes new equipment purchases; diligently maintains compliance with safety and sanitation regulations; and consistently demonstrates an understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially in working relationships with students, faculty, staff, and community members. The Director is expected to actively participate in professional organizations (e.g., NACUFS, NACAS, etc.) to remain current on industry trends, best practices, and future developments.
The Director of Dining Services leads, trains, and provides professional development opportunities for a dynamic team of over 60 full- and part-time staff, including six direct reports, employs more than 400 students, and develops and manages an annual budget of approximately $13 million across all business venues.
Founded in 1884 by Woodbridge and Helen Ferris as the privately-owned Big Rapids Industrial School, Ferris State University today is a mid-sized, public institution known for its quality of instruction, large selection of academic programs, and its mission of preparing students for successful careers, responsible citizenship, and lifelong learning. With its main campus located on 930 acres near the historic district of the city of Big Rapids, Michigan, approximately one hour north of Grand Rapids, the university serves approximately 9,900 students (spring 2022) from 44 states and 34 countries through seven degree-granting colleges. Ferris State offers 49 associate, 113 bachelor, and 20 graduate- and doctorate-level degrees; retains 703 faculty and 746 staff; sustains a student-faculty ratio of 16:1; houses 25 percent of its students in university-owned, -operated or -affiliated residences; sponsors over 220 registered student clubs and organizations; and maintains 15 NCAA Division II varsity sports teams.
HISTORY OF THE POSITION
The most recent Director of Dining Services spent three years in the role before ultimately leaving the higher education food services market in early 2022. The previous Director, who retired in 2018, had served at Ferris State University for over 30 years, 25 of those years leading Dining Services. Spelman Johnson has now been retained to assist Ferris State in filling this critical role.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES OF THE ROLE
The next Director of Dining Services at Ferris State University must possess a broad and deep understanding of national trends and best practices concerning dining, catering, retail, and concession-related operations, as well as an exemplary record of strong organizational and professional team development in a food or auxiliary services environment. The Director should be a dynamic leader capable of managing complex situations; unwaveringly committed to the well-being and support of students and the staff they oversee; and equipped to contribute at a strategic and operational level at a medium-size, public higher education environment.
In a post-COVID environment that will likely have a lasting effect on higher education for years to come, this position requires a high standard of excellence, with an attention to detail, customer service, and a forward-thinking mindset. A strong passion for dining services, the ability to show interest in and understand the multiple aspects of a comprehensive dining operation, and a deep understanding of today’s students’ changing dining and food-related needs are necessary for the candidate to be successful in this position.
It is crucial that Ferris State University identify a competent and visionary individual who can promote, uplift, and develop the staff, set departmental priorities, and boldly lead the program successfully into the future. The following were identified as possible opportunities, priorities, and challenges that will face the new Director of Dining Services.
- The new Director should recognize that the scope of operations for Dining Services at Ferris State University is broad and diverse, to include the following.
- An extensive board plan, featuring the Rock Café and the Quad Café, which provides all-you-can-eat options and flexible use of dining swipes
- Full-service catering services
- Retail outlets such as Starbucks Coffee (two locations), the Market Convenience Store, The Grille Pit kiosk, Erbert and Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop, Bulldog Bites Food Truck, Founders Grille at Katke Golf Course, and Ferris Outfitters Grab N’ Go
- The newest addition to the portfolio, Athletics Concessions, and the opportunity to build this dynamic program from scratch around the championship-caliber Bulldog athletics program, which competes at the NCAA Division 2 level
- It will be essential that the new Director of Dining Services commit to a comprehensive culture of collaboration and partnering, as Ferris State University is committed to building strong, healthy, and mutually supportive relationships as a foundation of the campus culture, and strong collaboration is an absolute necessity in all endeavors to ensure success. The Director should, upon arrival, conduct a comprehensive “listening tour” to foster open communication, increased transparency, opportunities for feedback, and stakeholder involvement. Relationships and collaboration on the Ferris State campus create an interconnectedness that fosters a very collegial environment, so the Director should work diligently from day one to develop and promote these partnerships, quickly build rapport with the internal staff, the Division of Auxiliary Services, other partners and colleagues throughout campus, and external retail vendors.
- The current staff of Ferris State’s Dining Services is exceptionally committed to serving students in every way, and they are dedicated to offering the best service possible. The new Director should plan to spend quality time within the various departments, get to know the staff as individuals, learn their particular needs, begin to develop trust and confidence, provide comprehensive professional support, lead by example, and make it a priority to oversee their ongoing growth and development. With a great mix of newer and more seasoned staff, Dining Services should provide the Director with ample opportunities to connect relationally and utilize their leadership skills to promote and support staff on many levels, going above and beyond whenever possible. Listening carefully to their ideas, suggestions, and needs will be critical for ongoing team development and establishing the Director as a champion and leader going forward.
- Ferris State University Dining Services is proud to be an independent, self-run operation that is not contracted out to a third-party entity, so the Director has the opportunity and institutional support to be creative, innovative, and responsive. As noted above, the staff of Dining Services is exceptionally proud of the services and quality of food they provide to the Ferris community, so the new Director will be entering a flourishing environment that is energized, student-focused, and ready for the influx of ideas this individual will bring to the table. The new Director should be prepared to provide the same quality food, customer service, productivity, output, and yield currently in place, ensuring that all levels of management are part of the decision-making process and continually seeking new and improved ways to serve the campus.
- It will be critical for the Director of Dining Services to quickly formulate a solid and effective working relationship with the local unit of the AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents a majority of the staff who make up the department. The current relationship between Dining Services management and the union is positive, so the new Director will find a great environment to continue the existing relationship and build it to even greater heights.
- The Director position provides an excellent opportunity for direct student contact and impact. Many students and student organizations look to Dining Services for support, advisement, and direction. The new Director should quickly reach out to these various students and groups, learn their needs and desires, and develop strong partnerships across the board. Utilizing student input will be critical for the ongoing success of the dining program.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential parts of the Ferris community, and the Director should be a leader in supporting, understanding, embracing, and nurturing these concepts. The Director must be a model for maintaining a strong sense of equity, accessibility, and an unbiased, supportive environment at all times.
- Auxiliary Services supports continued advancement and change, and that change can be fast and dramatic. The new Director will be asked to come on board, learn the office, staff, and institution, and move forward quickly, while simultaneously ensuring that the successful programs and services currently in place continue to be celebrated and strengthened.
- Recently the food and dining supply chain has been disrupted, so the new Director will need to research solutions to this issue, discover fresh and more flavorful ingredients for recipes (and how to obtain them), and effectively address an overall perception that the quality of food at Ferris has recently seen a downturn.
- Ferris State’s geographic location in Big Rapids, set in west-central Michigan, provides one-hour access to larger, more metropolitan areas such as Grand Rapids and Traverse City while still residing in a smaller, close-knit community. Across the board, stakeholders reiterated that they liked working at Ferris, are very supportive of each other, enjoy the vibrancy of the university, feel much collegiality, appreciate the institutional benefits, and believe that there are many opportunities to make a big difference in this role. Additionally, the Big Rapids community is very involved with the campus, remains very open and inviting to town-gown relationships, and, according to stakeholders, maintains a very reasonable cost of living and a sense of familiarity and belonging.
- This is an exciting time to join Ferris State University and an outstanding opportunity for the successful candidate to put their professional mark on Dining Services, building it even higher. There is tremendous support from the administration for the Director and the services that emanate from this department, so the successful candidate can look forward to visioning and strategizing with the Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services, peers and colleagues, and the internal staff to move Dining Services forward over time.
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
At an appropriate interval after joining the Ferris State, the items listed below will define initial success for the new Director of Dining Services.
- The Dining Services staff is working together cohesively as a team, morale is high and rising, staff vacancies are being filled as quickly as possible, training goals are being consistently met, staff retention is strong, the work environment is positive and energized, and professional development opportunities are liberally available to staff
- Strong relationships have been established, both internally and externally, especially with the Dining Services staff, other Auxiliary Services staff, academic and administrative departments, students and student organizations, and the upper administration.
- Satisfaction surveys show that students are satisfied with the service and options provided by Dining Services, and the Director is recognized as a collaborative and accommodating partner to students and student organizations.
- Strategic and operational plans are being developed and implemented, and growth is being experienced across the dining operations in revenues, door count, and scope of operations.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion are supported, practiced, and embraced at all levels of the operation.
- Creative ideas, fresh innovations, and cutting-edge best practices are being developed, considered, and implemented.
- Communication from the department is timely, robust, and transparent, both internally and to campus constituents.
- A solid and mutually beneficial relationship has been established with the AFSCME union.
- Dining Services is known for the freshness and quality of its offerings across the board, the Director is known to be accommodating and approachable, and the department is highly regarded throughout campus for its customer service and attention to changing needs.
QUALIFICATIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS
A bachelor’s degree in hospitality, food and nutrition, business, or a related discipline is required (master’s preferred), with a minimum of ten years of progressive, professional experience in a food service or hospitality environment and five years of significant supervisory experience over a large, diverse, multi-unit operation. Experience managing bargaining unit staff is also required. The successful candidate should possess strong decision-making abilities; effective organizational, budgeting, and fiscal management skills; experience working with food management, inventory, and point-of-sale systems; and a demonstrated commitment to, experience with, and an understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The successful candidate should also maintain excellent interpersonal, oral and written communication, and presentation skills, as well as the ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with staff, customers, and individuals from diverse backgrounds. Experience working in a university food service setting is preferred.
In addition to the minimum academic and experiential requirements indicated above, other desired characteristics, skills, actions, and/or abilities noted from discussions with campus stakeholders include:
- Administrative and managerial experience at progressive levels in a food service, culinary, or hospitality setting, preferably within higher education, with the ability to plan strategically, globally, and operationally.
- Understanding a self-operated food-service environment is highly preferred, but management experience with a third-party food service vendor or experience in corporate hospitality services is also valuable.
- Sound leadership and organizational-development abilities that inspire and develop staff, provide professional development opportunities and high-end training, and promote unity and teamwork throughout the department.
- The ability to listen carefully, ask knowledgeable questions, learn the university’s and department’s cultures, accept input from staff and students, consult upper management, and then make fair and well-informed decisions.
- Substantial budget and finance skills, with the ability to forecast needs, project revenues, track expenses, control costs, understand inventory and POS systems, determine the department’s financial needs, and foster new, innovative streams of revenue.
- Strong managerial and authentic administrative skills, with the ability to build a strong organization of food-service professionals, promote a clear vision, and steer Dining Services at Ferris into a thriving post-pandemic environment.
- A futuristic orientation and a willingness to try new opportunities, remain informed on recent trends and best practices, and lead significant change processes.
- The ability to recognize the strengths of the current team members and utilize these skills for the benefit of the entire department.
- The ability to make difficult decisions when necessary, conduct difficult conversations as appropriate, and equitably balance the needs of the people with the organization’s needs.
- Previous experience working and negotiating with labor unions.
- The ability to act as a brand ambassador for Dining Services, serving as the “expert” on dining-related issues and the “face” of the department to the Ferris community.
- Adaptability in all situations, with the flexibility to move from one “lane” adeptly and quickly to another as circumstances dictate, and the patience to understand that outcomes may not always come about as quickly as they would like.
- Demonstrated skills as an advocate and champion for diversity, equity, inclusivity, accessibility, and social justice, and a willingness to stand up for these values.
- Transparent communications, excellent public relations skills, and the ability to reach all levels of the university and external stakeholders.
- Experience in and a focus on all aspects of sustainability.
- Demonstrated collaboration skills with internal departments and external colleagues, with the ability to understand the importance of interconnectedness and partnerships.
- Technology skills and social media savvy, with the ability to leverage hardware, software, and social media for maximum effectiveness.
- Strategic risk-taking and the promotion of creativity in every area of the position.
- Strong marketing skills, with the ability to tell the story of Dining Services and promote the successes and services of the department.
- Approachability and timely responsiveness, with a continuous focus on improving the student and staff experience.
- Assessment skills that effectively inform the development of both short- and long-term strategic and operational plans around the Ferris student body’s dining, food, and nutritional needs.
- Comprehensive understanding of the needs of students from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds and their lifestyle choices related to food (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, kosher, etc.), and a commitment to providing appropriate options for these students.
- An understanding of food allergies, food insecurities, and other food-related circumstances requiring special attention.
- Knowledge of trends, innovations, and best practices in the food-service industry, with demonstrated successes in implementing these concepts.
- High visibility and a willingness to get out of the office, attend student events, serve on campus committees, and proactively engage with the campus community.
- Energy and enthusiasm for the role, passion for the work, empathy and compassion for others, and a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity.
- A comprehensive commitment to customer service at all times and in all situations.
- Problem-solving skills, with the ability to determine needs and quickly and appropriately address issues as they arise.
- A focus on the needs of commuter students, the community, and other niche populations to push them to campus dining (vs. other off-campus opportunities).
- A significant level of humility, with a willingness to “roll up their sleeves” and work side-by-side with staff in their various roles.
In 2019-2020, the Ferris State University community celebrated the 135th anniversary of its founding by Woodbridge and Helen Gillespie Ferris in 1884. As part of that celebration, a timeline was created to highlight the important achievements and milestones that Ferris State has experienced during its long and illustrious history. To view this timeline in detail, visit https://www.ferris.edu/alumni/Historical/Timeline.htm.
About Big Rapids, Michigan
Big Rapids, MI – where education, industry, art, and nature’s beauty come together! Big Rapids is in the West Central portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula at the intersection of US 131 and Michigan Highway 20.
Big Rapids is the proud home of Ferris State University, which brings employment, excitement, and culture to the region. Big Rapids has a robust industrial base, hosting corporations whose products are used all over the world. Spectrum Health Big Rapids provides state-of-the-art health care to the area, and Big Rapids High School (BRHS) was recently recognized as a “Top American High School” by Newsweek and a U.S. News & World Report “Silver Medal School,” placing BRHS in the top ten percent in the nation. Historic Downtown Big Rapids provides the connection back to a unique heritage, and the many shops and businesses located downtown will welcome visitors with open arms.
Big Rapids has something for everyone, including a park system that is second to none. There are 257 acres dedicated to park land within the City, many of which are along the beautiful Muskegon River. Park amenities include the Riverwalk, Playscape, disc golf course, tennis courts, pickle ball courts, softball diamonds, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, bandshell, dog park, nature area, community pool, volleyball courts, playgrounds, outdoor ice rink, and access to the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail.
For more information about Big Rapids, visit https://www.cityofbr.org/
The Student Body
Spring 2022 enrollment at Ferris State is 9,828, with 7,527 on the Big Rapids campus, 1,039 off-campus, and 1,262 online or through Kendall. Enrollment includes 70% White, 7% Black/African American, 6% Hispanic, 3% Two or More Races, 2% Asian, .004% American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 0.0005% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders.
Mission, Vision, and Values
Ferris State University prepares students for successful careers, responsible citizenship, and lifelong learning. Through its many partnerships and its career-oriented, broad-based education, Ferris serves our rapidly changing global economy and society.
Building on the vision of our founders, Ferris State University will be an agile and transformational university. By integrating theory and practice, the institution will foster opportunity, discovery, and professional preparation for a dynamic global society.
• Collaboration: Ferris builds partnerships within the university and the global community that promote shared goals and success.
• Diversity: Ferris commits to be an inclusive university community that respects the dignity of the individual and promotes the acceptance of others.
• Ethical Community: Ferris implements policies, procedures, and actions to promote transparency, advance its mission, and foster integrity, civility, and respect within and beyond the university.
• Excellence: Ferris dedicates itself to innovation and quality execution that sustains and promotes relevance in a changing world through best practices and benchmarking.
• Learning: Ferris promotes hands-on, transformative learning; balancing theory and practice; encouraging teamwork and innovation; and emphasizing critical thinking—all of which are fundamental elements of career success.
• Opportunity: Ferris honors the legacy of its founders by encouraging and supporting all who wish to acquire the knowledge, leadership, and communication skills that are the foundations of personal success.
The 2019-24 strategic plan is for the entire Ferris State University community. The goal is for students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends to influence the direction of its future while helping the university to remain true to its mission, core values, vision, and traditions. Ferris wants to create a plan that is relevant, do-able, and challenges the University.
To read the strategic plan highlights, visit https://www.ferris.edu/strategic-planning2/strategicplan19_24/homepage.htm.
Dr. David Eisler has served as President of Ferris State University since July, 2003, and is the senior public university president in Michigan.
Under his leadership, the university has embarked on an ambitious program of curricular innovation, classroom renovation, cooperative programs with high schools and community colleges, and providing opportunity for students who may not otherwise attend college.
Ferris was the first university selected to receive the Uncommon Greatness Award from the Center for Community Leadership of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. He is a recipient of the Newsmaker of the Year in Education by the Grand Rapids Business Journal, is a member of the Ferris State University Welding Engineering Technology Hall of Fame, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance Hall of Fame, and is recipient of the Albertus Marquis Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from Who’s Who International.
In 2018, Dr. Eisler was chosen to present the President to Presidents Lecture to his nearly 400 presidential colleagues of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). Dr. Eisler serves as Vice President for the Midwestern Higher Education Compact and serves on the boards of the AASCU-Penson Center for Professional Development, the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU), Michigan Works! West Central, and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). He is past board chair for the GLIAC, MASU, the Michigan Nonprofit Association, and the WCHA, and past member of the AASCU Board of Directors and Talent 2025.
President Eisler strongly believes the higher education experience should prepare students for successful careers, create a pattern of intellectual rigor, develop a commitment to community engagement, and provide the foundation for lifelong learning.
OVERVIEW OF THE DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE
The Administration and Finance Division of Ferris State University is committed to developing, delivering, assessing, and improving the resources of Ferris State University in a service-oriented and cost-effective manner. The departments under the division include Athletics, Auxiliary Services, Campus Safety/Police, Finance Office, Human Resources, Information Technology Services, and Facilities Management.
Leadership of the Division of Administration and Finance
Jim Bachmeier, who carries over 30 years of experience in higher education, serves as Ferris State University’s Vice President for Administration and Finance.
Bachmeier has a strong record of administrative, financial, operational, and professional accomplishments and community engagement. He is a certified public accountant with extensive higher education experience at Grand Valley State University and Western Nebraska Community College.
Bachmeier serves as the chief financial officer of the university, as a member of the President’s executive team, and as treasurer of The Ferris Foundation. He oversees Campus Auxiliary Services (including Housing and Residence Life and Dining Services), Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology Services, Intercollegiate Athletics, Facilities Management (including planning, design, and construction), and Public Safety.
Bachmeier is currently serving or has served on numerous boards, including the SmartZone Local Development Financing Authority, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Lakeshore Advantage, Disability Network-Lakeshore, Greater Ottawa County United Way, and West Michigan Strategic Alliance.
Bachmeier has a Master of Business Administration degree from Chadron State College and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Black Hills State University.
OVERVIEW OF CAMPUS AUXILIARY SERVICES
Campus Auxiliary Services provides supportive and essential campus services to the Ferris State University community. These self-supporting departments enhance student, staff, and community life on a daily basis serving thousands of customers.
The following units comprise Campus Auxiliary Services.
• Ferris Outfitters Campus Store
• MyBulldog Service Center
• Ferris State University Online Bookstore
• Dining Services
• Early Learning Center
• Ferris Printing Services
• Housing and Residence Life
• MyBulldog ID Card
• Katke Golf Course
• Racquet and Fitness Center
• Shuttle Operations
• Parking Administration
Auxiliary Services Strategic Goals:
• Increasing Customer Satisfaction
• Enhancing Educational Opportunities
• Optimizing Financial Resources
• Enhancing the Image of the University
Leadership of Campus Auxiliary Services
Dining Services at Ferris State University is housed within the Campus Auxiliary Services unit, which is led by Associate Vice President Gheretta Harris, CASP. Harris has been with Ferris State University for five years and has worked in higher education for over 30 years, predominantly in the areas of purchasing and auxiliary services. Harris previously served as Executive Director, Auxiliary and Business Services, at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio; Director, Purchasing and Auxiliary Services, at Oakland Community College, which operates five campuses in Oakland County, Michigan; and Purchasing Agent at the University of Michigan.
As an employee of the Ferris State University, you have the following benefits, among others, available to you.
• Medical insurance
• Dental insurance
• Vision discount plan
• Dependent insurance
• Life insurance
• Retirement plans
• Employee assistance program
• Health savings account
• Sick leave
• Paid leave
• Employee discount plans
For more detailed information, please visit
Application and Nomination
Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to J. Scott Derrick at email@example.com. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Ferris State University website at https://www.ferris.edu/.
Ferris State University, an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, is committed to enhancing equity, inclusion, and diversity within its community. Ferris offers employment opportunities to qualified candidates seeking careers in a student-focused environment that values opportunity, collaboration, diversity and educational excellence. The University actively seeks applications from women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and other characteristic protected by applicable State or federal laws or regulations in education, employment, housing, public services, or other University operations, including, but not limited to, admissions, programs, activities, hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, or retention.