The Position


Reporting to the assistant vice president of Columbia dining, the executive director of dining operations provides operational and organizational leadership for all areas of the dining and culinary department across both the Morningside and Manhattanville campuses, including sales, marketing, human resources, project management, and finance. The executive director identifies and implements solutions to improve interdepartmental communications, quality customer service, and information processing and analysis, and, in collaboration with university and departmental senior staff members, oversees development and implementation of the department’s key goals. The executive director oversees various aspects of a $34 million dining and culinary center annual operating budget, supervises a team of five officers, and leads a team of approximately 200 staff. The annual salary range is $140-$160,000.

Strategic Planning & Operational Management

  • In collaboration with the assistant vice president and senior staff, the executive director oversees the development of strategic plans for all services offered in the dining and culinary department on both the Morningside and Manhattanville campuses and Baker Field to increase sales and customer satisfaction; ensures successful execution of such plans.
  • Creates and implements service policies, programs, and systems to support the strategic direction and financial goals of the dining and culinary department.
  • Independently creates, oversees, and implements the long- and short-range planning for all services in dining and culinary department, including capital projects, performance management, and business strategy.
  • Collects and analyzes key result areas such as sales data, customer demographics, historical trends, and promotion effectiveness. Oversees and provides direction for the collection of competitive product and pricing information. Recommends sales and pricing strategies based on competitor analysis. Researches industry benchmarks and best practices for comparative analysis against dining results.
  • Creates the strategy for marketing and communications for the academic year, including developing the strategy for small and large events based on food trends, showcasing staff, and analyzing annual events year over year for continuous improvement.
  • Works with marketing to assess effectiveness of social media and marketing programs.
  • Responsible for providing leadership in managing and developing a self-supporting campus food service operation on both the Morningside and Manhattanville campuses.
  • Supervises and supports the AVP’s plan to attain the department’s operational goals while also reinforcing Campus Services’ vision and values.
  • Oversees all aspects of new unit openings, including developing the strategic plan and timeline for a successful opening. The plan must include scheduling, merchandising, and station layouts for both aesthetic and sales purposes and staff training, among other key items
  • Develops, implements, and ensures adherence to Dining Services’ policies and procedures.
  • Leads and enforces the unit managers’ plan to attain their unit’s operational goals. Provides direction and support regarding product merchandising to improve presentation and increase sales.
  • Provides high-level analytic oversight for Dining’s ongoing projects and deliverables. Ensures a departmental calendar of projects and deliverables is maintained. Tracks progress and reports on such progress to ensure implementation of the project on time and within budget.
  • Strategically creates execution plans for all unit marketing and special events with input from trending information, customer, and manager feedback. In addition, reports and presents all analytic information for all events.
  • Ensures adherence to federal, state, local, and Columbia University sanitation and OSHA rules, regulations, standards, and codes. Monitors and holds all units accountable for monthly sanitation audits and NYC DOH inspections.
  • Provides direction and leadership for all department operational aspects, including the continuous improvement of food quality, sanitation, and customer service.
  • Utilizes a variety of tools to assess customers’ opinions. Continually improves products and services of assigned units to meet the needs of the campus community.
  • Oversees all food, supplies, and equipment purchases in collaboration with the executive chef. Monitors food production systems, service, and sanitation to ensure outstanding daily food quality. On a high level, oversees and ensures acceptable inventory levels.
  • Supervises all staff to ensure customer and associate satisfaction in a healthy and safe work environment.
  • Leads the team, providing guidance and support to ensure all weekly deliverables are completed accurately and on time.
  • Analyzes business processes for deliverables and identifies areas for improvements.

Financial Management

  • Collaborates with CUFO finance to facilitate the alignment of financial budgeting and execution to ensure achievement of budget targets and efficient management of resources.
  • Directs budget planning and financial management, including annual sales and revenue targets for all Dining Services businesses. Assumes responsibility for financial results.
  • Implements the assistant vice president’s plans to attain financial and operational goals while reinforcing Campus Services’ vision and values.
  • Reviews financial results with the senior team and unit staff to ensure an understanding of financial profits/losses.
  • Works with the senior operational team to identify programmatic opportunities to improve financial results while maintaining the highest quality products and services.

Human Resources Management & Leadership Development

  • The executive director partners with CUFO human resources to develop an annual schedule for all employee training. In collaboration with the executive chef, ensures the annual plan, including culinary training that meets the ever-changing food trends and students’ needs and requests.
  • Leads the senior management team with performance management in conjunction with CUFO human resources.
  • Assesses and develops the annual training program for managers.
  • Plans and monitors the staffing need in each assigned unit.
  • Provides guidance to unit managers in resolving all employee-related issues and grievances.
  • Acts as a liaison in partnership with CUFO human resources staff to the bargaining unit leadership.
  • Proactively identifies opportunities to foster and promote positive employee relations, which contribute to the division’s strategic goals and direction.
  • Liaisons with CUFO and university human resources for all labor management activity, including training and development of all union labor, and acts as the departmental representative at grievances and contract negotiations.
  • Oversees the performance management process, including annual appraisals, creating professional career development opportunities, and results/behaviors grids, and identifies high potential staff for succession planning for all key roles.

IT Management

  • In collaboration with CUFO IT, identifies opportunities for system upgrades or changes. Provides department-wide direction for improvement in all areas where technology can improve team efficiency. Identifies opportunities to upgrade systems and innovate for customer satisfaction.


A bachelor’s degree and a minimum of eight years of work experience are required. Operations experience in a university or not-for-profit setting is preferred. The executive director will be a collaborative leader who can encourage innovative change. The ideal candidate will possess supervisory experience and demonstrated problem assessment and resolution skills in a complex, interdisciplinary setting.

Other characteristics of a successful candidate include:

  • An entrepreneurial spirit focused on continually improving the “guest” experience.
  • A vision for the growth of the dining organization with focus to impact the campus and student meal plans.
  • Proven ability to build a strong team characterized by a focus on quality.
  • Creative freedom focused on the student experience and continuing to create dining spaces that serve as welcoming and inclusive safe havens for students in a high-stress academic environment.


The executive director for dining operations is a newly created position without anyone in a similar role since Vicki Dunn, assistant vice president for Columbia Dining, was promoted in 2017.


The executive director of dining operations must possess a deep understanding of best practices and inspire culinary innovations for Columbia University dining on each campus. The executive director must be a leader dedicated to building a strong team motivated by the desire to make a difference in the lives of students and staff through the dining experience. Based on the needs of the campus and the deep commitment of the current dining staff, the next executive director must be a hands-on and collaborative leader willing to lend a hand at a moment’s notice, while also thinking strategically about the future. Columbia Dining has nearly 7,500 meal plan holders, of which the majority are undergraduate students. The dining team is an integral part of the student experience at Columbia and creates and continues important campus traditions, which encompass lasting memories for the Columbia community. The executive director role is high-touch, deeply collaborative, and focused on excellence of service and development of staff.

The following are possible opportunities, priorities, and challenges for the next executive director of dining operations for Columbia University.

  • The executive director will have a smart, dedicated, and creative team willing to do their part to build a great organization. The staff is prepared for a leader with high standards ready to provide synergy to a hardworking and committed team.
  • The culture of Columbia Dining can be encompassed in this response from a staff member about what motivates them, “…when we work hard, the winner is the guest.” Throughout the organization, the ability to see themselves as servant leaders through a contribution to a larger purpose was evident.
  • The executive director will have to immediately begin building and leveraging existing relationships across the campus (es) to move the dining mission forward and to have strong university support when high-need or emergency situations arise.
  • The executive director must understand the unpredictable nature of the role and be accessible for emergency response when necessary, either during or beyond normal business hours.
  • The executive director must prioritize relationship building across the dining department, creating a sense of team and synergy among existing staff.
  • To maintain alignment, the executive director must build a strong relationship with supervisor Vicki Dunn, AVP for Columbia Dining.
  • The executive director must employ a hands-on approach to the work, be immediately visible, be willing to support and learn from staff, and embrace the Columbia Dining culture.
  • The executive director must not see themselves as a leader who intends to lead from their office, but rather must prioritize becoming a highly visible member of the community and accessible to all members of the team.
  • The next executive director will have the opportunity to report to a highly experienced dining operations professional (both within and outside of Columbia University) with high expectations and strong consideration for the impact of a dining program on student success.


The following items will define success for the next executive director for dining operations:

  • The executive director has built strong rapport with university’s current dining staff and supervisor to focus on goal and vision alignment.
  • The executive director has developed a plan to build synergy among direct reports and coordinate efforts for creating efficiencies where needed.
  • The executive director is familiar with all dining facilities and has identified nuances, strengths, and opportunities for each operation to provide support for local managers.
  • The executive director has found ways to understand the current Columbia student by finding ways to interact with and get an idea of student needs and expectations.

Institution & Location


Columbia Dining is committed to one thing: Good Food. This passion is evident throughout each detail of the operation and every delicious meal served. It is what guides the decisions made every day, from the nutritious, quality ingredients selected to the sustainable practices woven throughout every facet of the operation.

Sustainable Purchasing

Approximately 58 percent of all food served is purchased from vendors within 250 miles of the Morningside campus. They work with a New York City Greenmarket and area farms to choose local, fair trade, and organic foods whenever possible.


The culinary team, including our chefs and managers, have all received formal education and training in the culinary arts from respected institutions. Columbia Dining also offers continuous learning opportunities through annual trainings with the esteemed Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

Food Insecurity

Columbia Dining is committed to supporting university and student efforts to address hunger among its student community and the stigma associated with food insecurity.

Student Community

Columbia Dining is proud to support the efforts of the Columbia student community and provide donations for student group fundraisers and special events such as the Run for Hunger, CCI Hunger Dinner, the Child Rights Conference, Relay for Life, and various student council fundraising events.

Local Community

They firmly believe in supporting the community of which Columbia is a part. The dining team maintains a strong relationship with Yes Solutions, a local organization dedicated to supporting neighborhood families in need. They also donate surplus fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhood churches, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens or provide kitchen equipment to neighborhood churches, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens.

Facilities and Operations home page

Facilities and Operations mission, vision, and values

Dining Operations organizational chart


Vicki Dunn – Assistant Vice President, Columbia Dining

Vicki joined Columbia University in 2007. Under her leadership, Columbia Dining has built a solid reputation as a high-quality, customer-oriented department. Vicki’s focus for Dining is providing total customer satisfaction and meeting the needs of the diverse Columbia population. Prior to joining Columbia, Vicki was the senior director of marketing for Sodexo Campus Services. Vicki holds an associate degree in operational sciences from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. In her free time, Vicki enjoys baking (brownies are her specialty), reading, and caring for her dogs.

Scott J. Wright – Vice President for Campus Services

Scott Wright is the Vice President for Campus Services, which includes many of the areas students experience outside of the classroom during their time at Columbia: Dining, Undergraduate Housing, Event Management, Lerner Hall, Transportation, Mail, Print and Environmental Stewardship.

A strong advocate for student interests, he enjoys the challenges of serving Columbia’s diverse student community in the unique setting of New York City. Scott has been at Columbia since 1999. Prior to working at Columbia, Scott spent 15 years with ARAMARK, supervising food service and facility management for university clients in the western 11 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.


A leader in higher education in the nation and around the world for more than 250 years, Columbia University in the City of New York seeks to attract and engage the best minds in pursuit of greater human understanding, pioneering new discoveries, and service to society. Its distinguished faculty, alumni, and student body are expanding the boundaries of knowledge in medicine, science, the arts, the humanities, and the professions. The university comprises 17 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, four affiliated colleges and seminaries, and a wide array of research institutes and global centers around the world. As a vital part of New York, the university’s research and teaching are enhanced by the vast resources of one of the world’s greatest cities. An intellectual community of over 50,000 students, faculty, and staff, Columbia is working continually to expand its mission of teaching, research, patient care, and public service. University Dining serves a vibrant student population with a primarily undergraduate student focus.

Mission statement

Strategic Planning


Total enrollment: 30,135
Undergraduate: 8,148
Graduate: 21,987

Male: 51%
Female: 49%

Retention rate: 99%

White: 33%
African American: 7%
Asian: 17%
Hispanic: 15%
Two or more races: 6%
Race unknown: 4%
Non-resident: 18%


Columbia is dedicated to increasing diversity in its workforce, its student body, and its educational programs. Achieving continued academic excellence and creating a vibrant university community require nothing less.

Both to prepare our students for citizenship in a pluralistic world and to keep Columbia at the forefront of knowledge, the University seeks to recognize and draw upon the talents of a diverse range of outstanding faculty, research officers, staff, and students and to foster the free exploration and expression of differing ideas, beliefs, and perspectives through scholarly inquiry and civil discourse. In developing its academic programs, Columbia furthers the thoughtful examination of cultural distinctions by developing curricula that prepare students to be responsible members of diverse societies.

In fulfilling its mission to advance diversity at the University, Columbia seeks to hire, retain, and promote exceptionally talented women and men from different racial, cultural, economic, and ethnic backgrounds regardless of their sexual orientation or disability status. Through effective and fully compliant affirmative action and equal opportunity policies, Columbia strives to recruit members of groups traditionally underrepresented in American higher education and to increase the number of minority and women candidates in its graduate and professional programs.

Building a diverse university community is not the work of a moment. It requires sustained commitment, concerted effort, and the attention of us all. I reaffirm Columbia University’s commitment to this mission and to the realization of our core values of inclusion and excellence.


Lee C. Bollinger – President

Lee C. Bollinger became Columbia University’s 19th president in 2002 and is the longest serving Ivy League president. Under his leadership, Columbia stands again at the very top rank of great research universities, distinguished by comprehensive academic excellence, an innovative and sustainable approach to global engagement, two of the largest capital campaigns in the history of higher education, and the institution’s most ambitious campus expansion in over a century.

President Bollinger is Columbia’s first Seth Low Professor of the University, a member of the Columbia Law School faculty, and one of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars. Learn more about the president here.

Benefits Overview

Columbia University offers a full range of benefits to help employees stay healthy, build long-term financial security for retirement, and meet educational goals. Explore the Health and Welfare, Tax Savings, Tuition, Well-being, and Voluntary Benefits options available here.

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin February 21, 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 Julie Leos at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email

The annual salary range for this position is $140-$160,000.

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