The Position



Reporting to the assistant vice president for student life/senior director of university housing & dining, the director of university dining is responsible for the leadership, direction, planning, and coordination of an extensive, complex, self-operated dining program comprised of three residence hall marketplaces, 14 cafes and convenience stores throughout campus, and an in-house catering/banquet operation—together serving over three million meals annually. The director provides comprehensive strategic direction for university dining, coordinated with the strategic plans of university housing and dining, the division of student life, and the University of Iowa. The director ensures that exceptional products and services are available to meal plan holders and other customers; develops and maintains industry-leading programs focused on student well-being through nutrition, menu development, and educational events; and creates a culture of engagement and community within the residence hall dining marketplaces. As a leader in fostering an outstanding student experience, the director utilizes dining as an educational tool to provide diverse culinary offerings to students, expanding their palate, and broadening their understanding of foods and customs of different cultures.

The director of university dining leads, motivates, and supports a dynamic staff of 168, including seven direct reports, manages a student staff of over 1,000, and administers an annual operating budget of approximately $33 million.

Specific Responsibilities

  • Operational Support and Management
    • Makes final determination regarding all major dining operational decisions
    • Oversees the development and implementation of a marketing plan for the unit
    • Evaluates the current board plan for residential students and revises it as needed
    • Develops, updates, and implements operational policies and procedures
    • Works at any dining event or promotion based on unit needs
    • Solicits feedback from customers through various means to improve operations
  • Human Resources
    • Selects, trains, supervises, evaluates, and provides salary determination of staff
    • Assesses and crafts appropriate organizational structure for dining operation
    • Investigates and responds to employment concerns and grievances
    • Ensures the work safety of employees through compliance and training
    • Creates professional development plans for professional, culinary, and other assigned staff
  • Financial Responsibility
    • Analyzes financial performance to reduce costs and increase revenues
    • Annually assesses the viability of retail agreements with campus units
    • Evaluates prime vendor agreement and revises as necessary
    • Assists in the annual departmental budget preparation through the estimation of food and labor costs as part of the rate-setting process
  • Strategic Planning
    • Develops short- and long-term strategic vision for the unit
    • Participates in departmental strategic planning
    • Determines priorities for short- and long-term capital renewal for dining units
    • Develops and maintains industry-leading programs focused on student well-being through student nutrition, menu development, and educational events
    • Sets short- and long-term sustainability goals for the unit
  • Information Management
    • Evaluates goods and services that meet customer needs and desires
    • Prepares reports on operations, goals, and programs
    • Works closely with the division of student life business staff regarding hybrid business and dining systems
    • Analyzes data regarding meal plan usage utilizing Transact system
    • Examines menus and ordering of supplies using the CBORD system
  • Communication Management
    • Ensures full and effective communication within the unit and department
    • Advises student dining committees and performs outreach to other student organizations, particularly those for underrepresented students
    • Serves on departmental and university committees and initiatives as needed
    • Attends meetings and conferences to stay abreast of industry trends and evaluate food product offerings
    • Responds to communications sent to senior administrators from students and parents


The position requires a bachelor’s degree (master’s preferred) in hospitality, restaurant/hotel management, business administration, or a related field, or an equivalent combination of education and related hospitality and supervisory experience, as well as progressive administrative and management expertise in full-time food service operations. Other requirements include excellent written and verbal communication skills, strong leadership and organizational skills, the ability to work collaboratively with a variety of individuals and groups, and a commitment to and alignment with the values of the division of student life, including a demonstrated, active commitment to excellence through diversity, equity, and inclusion. The successful candidate will maintain a commitment to consistently deliver excellent customer service, possess knowledge of event management processes and activities, hold extensive experience with electronic food service systems, and possess or be able to obtain and maintain ServSafe certification.

In addition to the minimum academic and experiential requirements indicated above, other desired characteristics, skills, actions, and abilities noted from the stakeholder discussions include:

  • Administrative and managerial experience at progressive levels in a food service, culinary, or hospitality setting, with the ability to plan strategically, globally, and operationally.
  • An understanding of a self-operated food service environment, though management experience with a third-party food service vendor or experience in corporate hospitality services is also valuable.
  • A highly student-centered philosophy with knowledge of current college student needs and trends, understanding that serving the University of Iowa (UI) students and improving the student experience is the top priority of university dining.
  • A strategic administrator who can develop short- and long-term vision around UI’s student needs, formulate strategic, assessment, and operational plans, and effectively communicate those plans to the community.
  • Strong managerial and administrative skills, with the ability to focus on all aspects of university dining (board, retail, and catering), build a strong organization of food service professionals, and promote a clear vision.
  • Demonstrated collaboration skills with internal departments and external colleagues, with the ability to understand the importance of relationship and partnership building.
  • Sound leadership and organizational development abilities that inspire and develop staff, providing professional and personal development opportunities, promoting unity and teamwork throughout the department, advocating for the staff on all levels, and supporting wellness and work/life priorities in themselves and the staff.
  • Comprehensive understanding of trends, innovations, and current best practices in the food service industry, with demonstrated successes in implementing these concepts and moving a department in a forward direction.
  • A commitment to blending high-end customer service with educational and developmental opportunities.
  • Background and experience in dietetics and nutrition.
  • The ability to listen carefully, ask knowledgeable questions, learn about the institution’s and department’s cultures, accept staff input, and then make quick and well-informed decisions that are best for the UI community.
  • A highly visible individual willing to get out of the office, be present in and interact with staff in the various dining units, attend student events, and serve on campus-wide committees.
  • Demonstrated experience in food services in a higher education setting, if possible, though experience in other diverse areas of the food service industry on a larger scale (resorts, hotels, cruise ships, etc.) will also be helpful.
  • A dynamic and transparent communicator, both within the department and externally, with the ability to effectively market the services and tell the “story” of university dining.
  • Solid budgeting and finance skills, with the ability to forecast needs, project revenues, track expenses, negotiate contracts, control costs, determine reserves and yields, and bring new models to the table.
  • Demonstrated skills as an advocate and champion for diversity, equity, inclusivity, accessibility, and social justice, and a willingness to stand up for these values in every facet of the position.
  • Previous experience with collective bargaining and unionized staff.
  • A comprehensive understanding of the needs of students from myriad ethnic and multicultural backgrounds, as well as lifestyle choices related to food (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, halal, etc.) and a commitment to providing appropriate options to these students.
  • An acute understanding of and empathetic approach to food insecurities, medical and food allergies, mental health/social challenges, and other food-related circumstances requiring special attention.
  • A focus on all aspects of sustainability and its impact on the UI student experience.
  • The ability to make complex decisions when necessary, conduct difficult conversations when pertinent, listen to all sides of an issue, adapt to significant changes on the spur of the moment without being reactive, pivot as necessary, and remain calm no matter the urgency of the situation.
  • Energy and enthusiasm for the role, passion for the work, a consistently positive attitude, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve success and enhance the student experience.


The director will lead a robust dining operation at the University of Iowa that includes residential dining (three dining marketplaces), retail dining (14 cafes and convenience stores and a food truck), university catering, and culinary (bakery, cold food prep, and banquets). The current director is retiring after ten years with the university. She took over for the previous director, who had operated residential dining and various retail operations for over 30 years. In 2011, the university completed a reorganization of campus dining operations, creating a unified dining operation under the leadership of university housing and dining. All retail cafes, convenience stores, catering, and culinary became part of the housing and dining family. Since then, the department has expanded its offerings, opening new retail operations and residential marketplaces across the university. The residential marketplaces utilize an “all you care to eat” model, and meal plans include “flex meals,” which can be used in the marketplaces or select retail operations as a meal swipe. University dining is reevaluating its current meal plan program, and the director will play a role in any changes that may be made for the 2024-25 academic year. University dining’s award-winning chefs cater numerous events throughout the year, including many for the university president.


The next director of university dining must possess a broad and deep understanding of national trends and best practices concerning dining, retail, catering, and culinary operations and strong organizational and team development skills that promote a dynamic, forward-thinking vision for the staff. The director should be an aspiring or experienced leader capable of managing complex situations, staunchly committed to supporting and enhancing the student experience, and equipped to contribute to a large, public, state institution at a strategic and operational level. 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, including food insecurities and dietary restrictions, are necessary for the candidate to be successful in this position.

It will be crucial to identify a dedicated, competent, and visionary individual who can manage a complex and comprehensive dining operation, promote and develop the university dining team (including filling any current vacancies), set departmental priorities, put the needs and desires of the UI students at the forefront of the conversation, and boldly and innovatively lead what is already a very successful program into the future.

The following were identified as additional opportunities, priorities, and challenges that will face the new director of university dining.

  • University dining at UI is proudly an independent self-operation and is not contracted out to a third-party entity. Hence, the opportunity to be inherently creative, innovative, and responsive is widely available to the director and supported by the administration. The staff of university dining is exceptionally proud of the services and quality of food they provide to the campus, so the new director will be entering a positive environment that is highly energized, distinctly student-focused, and prepared for the influx of ideas this individual will bring to the table. The new director of university dining should be ready 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. Through this process, the director will quickly develop a strategic plan to lay out goals for the department’s short- and long-term vision for the future.
  • According to campus stakeholders, the working environment at the University of Iowa is collegial, supportive, and uplifting. The new director must commit to a comprehensive culture of collaboration and partnering, as the UI is committed to building strong, healthy, and mutually supportive relationships as a foundation of the campus culture. Abundant collaboration is an absolute necessity in this role. Upon arrival, the director should be prepared to invest themselves into the staff and units under their purview and external constituents to foster open communication and increased transparency, opportunities for feedback, and stakeholder involvement. As relationships and collaboration on the UI campus create an interconnectedness that fosters the feeling of a close-knit community, the director should work diligently from day one to develop and promote these partnerships, quickly build rapport with the internal staff, the assistant vice president’s departments, the rest of the division of student life, other partners and colleagues throughout campus, and any external retail vendors.
  • While there is no residency requirement at the University of Iowa, meal plans are required of those living on campus, and there is generally demand for meal plans and other retail dining options among the students (and faculty and staff!). Upon arrival, the director of university dining should prioritize conducting a comprehensive assessment of these demands and ongoing trends, executing a deep-dive analysis of the current business plan and budget forecast in place, and developing financial goals for the future. It will be imperative that financials and projections are adequately determined to accommodate future growth and expansion (including any potential new facilities and evolving meal plan options), and it will be necessary that the director utilize creativity in their financial planning to seek additional and alternative sources of revenue over time.
  • The current staff of university dining is highly committed to assisting students in every way, and they are dedicated to offering the best service possible in every situation. The staff works hard, and the new director should make it a priority to get to know the staff quickly as individuals, listen carefully and learn their particular needs, develop trust and confidence across the board, ascertain the programs and services that they conduct, be prepared to provide comprehensive professional support for all staff, and oversee the ongoing development of a strong team. With approximately 1,000 student employees in the department, university dining emphasizes experiential opportunities, leadership promotion, and practical skill development through their employment. The COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering effects have impacted the staffing of university dining at the UI, much as it has across the nation. Upon arrival, the director should be prepared to begin addressing these issues and filling the vacant roles as quickly as possible. There are also a number of relatively new individuals in various departmental leadership roles, so the director will enter an environment that is prepared to move forward together quickly.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical elements of the UI community. The director should be a leader in supporting, understanding, embracing, and nurturing these concepts in all university dining areas. There are many underrepresented populations among the students, faculty, and staff, and university dining must be a model for maintaining a strong sense of equity and an unbiased, supportive environment at all times.
  • UI has a great measure of support for continued advancement and change, with no satisfaction for the status quo, while remaining mindful of the bottom line. The new director should come on board, learn about the office, staff, and institution, and be prepared to move forward quickly, ensuring that the highly successful programs and services currently in place are celebrated and further strengthened. At the same time, programs and services that are underperforming should be addressed or sunset as necessary. The staff of university dining is eager to embrace a leader who brings innovative, exciting new ideas to the table and will lend strong support to the director in the implementation of fresh approaches and concepts.
  • The nature of the relationship between the student body and university dining provides an excellent opportunity for direct student contact and impact. Students and student organizations look to university dining for support, advisement, and direction, and the expectations of the student body are high concerning the programs and services of university dining. The new director should quickly reach out to these various students and groups, learn their needs and desires, develop strong partnerships across the board, and commit to responding rapidly to student needs and other issues. Utilizing student input will be critical for the ongoing success of the dining program.
  • The Iowa Memorial Union (IMU) will undergo an extensive and long-awaited renovation in the coming months. With many dining options in the IMU, the director will need to quickly get “up to speed” on the specifics of this project. The director will be an integral part of the logistics of the dining-related issues before and during this renovation and will lead the reopening of the IMU dining locations as the project wraps up.
  • As noted above, stakeholders stressed that they very much liked working at UI, are very supportive of each other, enjoy the vibrancy of the university, feel that they can always count on their colleagues, and believe that there are many opportunities to make a big difference in this role. Like the campus community, the Iowa City community is also very eclectic, close-knit, welcoming to new members, involved with the campus, open and inviting to town-gown relationships, and, according to stakeholders, maintains a reasonable cost of living and a sense of inclusivity, familiarity, and belonging. Located in Eastern Iowa, there is easy air travel access through Cedar Rapids (a half-hour drive), the state capital of Des Moines is two hours away, and the more metropolitan areas of Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis are a few hours from campus. With an eclectic food scene, many trails and dog parks, Big Ten sports, outdoor festivals throughout the summer, and the beautiful Iowa River bisecting the city, Iowa City has something for everyone.
  • This is an exciting time to join the University of Iowa and an outstanding opportunity for the successful candidate to put their professional mark on university dining, growing and developing this already successful program to even greater success over time. There is tremendous support from the administration for the director and the services that emanate from this department. The successful candidate can look forward to visioning and strategizing with the assistant vice president, peers and colleagues, and the internal staff to innovatively move university dining forward.


At an appropriate interval after joining the University of Iowa, the items listed below will initially define success for the new director of university dining.

  • The university dining staff members are working together cohesively as a team, morale and staff retention are high, staff vacancies are being filled as quickly as possible, trust and respect are established in the department, the director is consistently available and willing to listen to staff, the environment in university dining is upbeat and energized, and professional development opportunities are readily available.
  • Strong relationships have been formed within the university dining staff and among the larger UI community, collaborative partnerships are growing, and the director has a visible presence on campus.
  • Student, staff, and faculty satisfaction levels with food services are maintained at a high level.
  • Communication within university dining and to the campus at large is transparent, frequent, and instructive.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion are foundational concepts throughout university dining in hiring, other internal practices, and outreach to the campus, ensuring that underrepresented communities at UI feel valued, heard, and supported.
  • Students and student organizations are partnering with university dining on programs and initiatives that enrich the student experience, and the department’s student-centric approach is maintained and further enhanced.
  • Traffic in all locations is steady or increasing, and meal plan purchases are rising.
  • Finances are strong, costs are maintained, and revenues are robust.
  • The director has clearly and transparently established operational and strategic plans, and management staff in university dining have a clear direction for the future.
  • University dining at the University of Iowa is respected as a high-end dining program among Big Ten institutions and across the country.

Institution & Location


University housing and dining (UHD) is committed to fostering the academic, social, cultural, and personal growth of residents through the teaching of life skills and responsible citizenship. UHD excels as a campus leader in making all residents and guests feel welcome on campus and is committed to investing in students and facilities while delivering quality services and maintaining competitive rates.

Mission statement

Dining homepage

Housing and dining organizational chart

University dining organizational chart


The University of Iowa, founded in 1847, is the state’s oldest institution of higher education and is located alongside the picturesque Iowa River in Iowa City. A member of the Association of American Universities since 1909 and the Big Ten Conference since 1899, UI is among the top public research institutions in the nation, home to one of the most acclaimed academic medical centers in the country, and is globally recognized for leadership in the study and craft of writing. Home to more than 31,000 students, the university delivers a world-class education in over 200 areas of study and over 100 graduate programs. Its 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio and smaller class sizes than peer institutions allow students to work directly with their professors while gaining real-world experience and valuable, practical skills. With more than 600 student organizations on campus, UI offers a variety of opportunities to get involved and have fun outside the classroom. The university seamlessly blends into the heart of Iowa City, a top ten college town that offers all the amenities of a big city in a safe and open environment, with more than 100 restaurants, local shops, Big Ten athletics, and music venues within walking distance of campus.

Mission and vision

Strategic plan

Organizational chart


  • Total enrollment: 31,317
  • Undergraduate: 21,937
  • Graduate: 6,165
  • Preprofessional: 1,886
  • Post-graduate training: 1,302
  • Black: 3%
  • Alaskan Native or American Indian: 0.1%
  • Asian American: 5%
  • Hispanic: 7.9%
  • Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.1%
  • Two or more races: 3.3%
  • White or unknown race: 74.9%
  • International: 5.5%


The University of Iowa values diversity among students, faculty, and staff and regards equal employment opportunity and affirmative action as tools to achieve diversity. The university believes that a rich diversity of people and the many points of view they bring serve to enhance the quality of the educational experience at the University of Iowa.


Dr. Barbara Wilson, President

Dr. Barbara J. Wilson began her term as the 22nd president of the University of Iowa on July 15, 2021. Based on the university’s comprehensive excellence and creativity across the disciplines, as well as its strong sense of community, her leadership priorities are focused on people. In her first year, the university finalized a new five-year strategic plan, launched transformative faculty recruitment and retention programs, and, through the recently-inaugurated “First Gen Hawks” program, saw increased retention rates among first-in-family students to attend college. Additionally, Wilson and her development team raised over $400 million to support student, faculty, and healthcare initiatives, including the largest gift in the 175-year history of the University of Iowa.

Wilson earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She came to Iowa most recently having served as the executive vice president/vice president for academic affairs of the University of Illinois System. Prior to that, she served as head of the department of communication, vice provost for academic affairs, executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and interim chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Wilson was a member of the Illinois faculty at Urbana-Champaign for 21 years. She was also a professor of communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Louisville.



The University of Iowa offers comprehensive benefits to employees. For a more detailed description of benefits information, click here.

Public Salary Range: $120,000-$130,000

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin May 19, 2023, 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 Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email

Visit the University of Iowa website at

The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy (including childbirth and related conditions), disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, or associational preferences. The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Director, Office of Institutional Equity, the University of Iowa, 202 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-1316, 319-335-0705,

The University of Iowa values diversity among students, faculty, and staff and regards equal employment opportunity and affirmative action as tools to achieve diversity. The University believes that a rich diversity of people and the many points of view they bring serve to enhance the quality of the educational experience at The University of Iowa.