The Opportunity

Drexel University is seeking an experienced and creative university housing and dining leader to serve as its inaugural executive director of housing and dining. The expected start date is January 2022.

Founded in 1891, Drexel University (Drexel) is an academically comprehensive and globally engaged urban research university, dedicated to advancing knowledge and society and to providing every student with a valuable, rigorous, experiential, technology-infused education, enriched by the nation’s premier cooperative education program. It fulfills its founder’s vision of preparing each new generation of students for productive professional and civic lives, while also focusing its collective expertise on solving society’s greatest problems. Through its 15 schools and colleges that offer over 200 degree programs, Drexel serves 14,555 undergraduate and 9,034 graduate and professional students; approximately 6,000 students live in university-managed or affiliated housing.

Drexel is one of Philadelphia’s top-10 private employers, and a major engine for economic development in the region. It is committed to being the nation’s most civically engaged university, with community partnerships integrated into every aspect of service and academics.

The Position

Role of the Executive Director of Housing and Dining for Drexel University

 

Reporting to the associate vice president for Drexel Business Services and serving as a key member of the division’s management team, the executive director of housing and dining (executive director) provides leadership and vision for the residential housing and conference occupancy program, as well as dining services for Drexel’s nine university-managed residence halls, three university-affiliated residential buildings, 3,000 students served through the campus dining program, and 12 Greek letter organization houses. The position has primary and direct responsibility for maintaining strategic relationships and management of third-party auxiliary contracts for food service (campus dining and catering), on-campus residential housing, and the University bookstores, as well as overseeing the fiscal operation of outsourced services to ensure contract compliance.

The executive director will be expected to:

  • cultivate, nurture, and sustain relationships and partnerships within the Enrollment Management and Student Success division and across the Drexel community that ensure an outstanding living-learning experience and support student success;
  • effectively develop, manage, utilize, and ensure accountability for all departmental budgets;
  • collaborate with the divisional management team to strengthen existing and identify new revenue streams;
  • champion the vision and goals of the associate vice president for Drexel Business Services; and
  • play a critical role in implementing the University’s Housing & Auxiliary Initiative Team for the strategic plan.

The executive director proactively provides students with a variety of services and educational opportunities that enhance their out-of-class experiences and strives to make constant improvement in satisfaction with the on-campus experience of stakeholders, including students, faculty, and guests. The executive director will contribute to the development and management of Drexel Business Service’s annual revenue budget of approximately $40 million and is responsible for the recruitment and development of a diverse team comprising seven full-time staff, including two direct reports, two part-time staff, 250+ indirect reports, and 20 student staff.

History of the Position

This is a newly structured leadership position within Business Services at Drexel that brings together the functions of the housing services, campus dining and catering, and conference services teams under the leadership of the executive director.

Opportunities and Challenges of the Role

Drexel Business Services is a complex entity with wide-ranging stakeholders and responsibilities. It is imperative that the new executive director of housing and dining fully comprehends and embraces a multi-faceted auxiliary operations that relies on strong partnerships with third-party vendors. Within this context, there are several aspects of the role of executive director in which the successful candidate will need to be prepared to lead after a period of acclimatization and relationship building. These include:

  • Drexel students have high expectations for campus services and stakeholders identified as a top priority a continuing focus on improving student satisfaction. The executive director will be expected to be a creative and innovative leader that leverages their own experience, industry best practices, and interaction with partners to deliver programs that meet the needs of Drexel students.
  • The executive director will find a highly dedicated and capable team within their portfolio. The staff has also gone through a very challenging period responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the executive director must have a strong talent development and coaching skill set and be willing to engage in a thoughtful and strategic way to get to know the staff, their strengths, and areas that need further development
  • The executive director will be responsible for interacting with a number of staff at all levels of the organization and the university, ranging from front line customer service staff to departmental leadership to executive administration. It will be imperative that the executive director have a vision for how the portfolio of services fit into the University’s broader recruitment and retention goals and work collaboratively with partners across the University to ensure there is strong alignment.
  • There is strong interest on the part of the university to better connect the dining services program with the surrounding community and community businesses. The executive director will have an opportunity to lead on this imperative and develop plan to assess needs and opportunities, as well as an accompanying implementation plan.
  • The executive director will be expected to be a strong thought partner to the associate vice president on the unit’s financial strategy, identifying new and innovative revenue streams to strengthen the department’s financial contributions to the university.

Measures of Success

The executive director of housing and dining will work with the associate vice president for business services to determine specific measures of success and their respective timetables. The search committee offers the following general metrics for the position:

  • The new executive director is an established, trusted, and respected campus leader, recognized as the “face” of the unit, and engaged fully both within and outside the university community.
  • Strong collaborative relationships have been established across campus and in the community, especially with students, faculty, staff, academic and administrative departments, executive administration, third-party vendors, and local partners.
  • Student and other stakeholder satisfaction with the programs and services offered by the unit are rising, based on metrics and qualitative surveys conducted by the executive director and the staff.
  • The newly integrated staff is working together cohesively as a team, staff satisfaction is high, the executive director is consistently available and responsive to staff, and professional development opportunities are
  • Development of a forward-facing strategic plan is underway, with input from multiple stakeholders, the status of all contracts has been assessed, strong partnerships have been established with contracted services, and innovative practices are being initiated throughout various areas in the unit.
  • Innovative fiscal and business practices are in place, and plans for additional revenue generation are being formulated.
  • Communication from all areas within the unit is timely, frequent, and transparent.

Qualifications

Qualifications and Characteristics

This position is an exceptional opportunity for a forward-looking and collaborative leader with a strong knowledge of occupancy management, management of complex contracts, and a history of operational and fiscal success. The successful candidate will possess outstanding communication skills; an appreciation of and vision for the unique role of housing and dining services at a fast-paced, urban, residential campus; and a well-developed organizational agility in navigating complex environments/systems inherent in a large, private, entrepreneurial university structure.

A bachelor’s degree or equivalent is required (master’s preferred), along with a minimum of 10 years of progressively responsible experience in leading college or university housing, dining, and/or other auxiliary services. Strongly preferred qualifications include the following:

  • a record of success in establishing and/or managing P3 partnerships;
  • experience with third-party dining services vendor contract and relationship management; and
  • evidence of engagement with broad-based diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives in the context of university auxiliary services.

The search committee particularly invites applications from candidates with extensive experience in understanding and addressing the interests and needs of broadly diverse populations, including a demonstrated ability to establish trust and maintain positive, effective working relationships with students, faculty, staff, customers, and individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Institution & Location

Overview of Drexel Business Services

Drexel University Business Services works with internal partners and external suppliers to deliver a variety of programs and services essential to the daily lives of students and employees. The department strives for service excellence and prioritizes continual constituent feedback to help improve the services it provides. The Business Services portfolio includes the following offices:

Business Services team members strive to create vibrant campus and community destinations and deliver a variety of programs and services that are essential to recruiting and retaining today’s student and employee. Business Services is successful through teamwork, continuous improvement, collaborative internal and external partnerships and business acumen.

Mission

The mission of Drexel Business Services is to collaborate with internal and external stakeholders to create value, reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Business Services Operating Principles

Continuous Improvement: Business Services works to improve value and operational efficiencies, while reducing costs.

Customer Service: Stakeholder feedback is the primary driver to continuously improve services and create sustainable value. Business Services solicits and reviews feedback to provide timely, excellent service to students, faculty, professional staff, alumni and other stakeholders.

Accountability: Business Services holds the university’s service providers accountable to provide high quality retail and campus services that are market-responsive and enhance the Drexel community.

Stewardship: Business Services establishes and follows efficient operational best practices that support Drexel’s goals and initiatives to promote sound stewardship of resources.

Community Engagement: Business Services leverages its relationships to support the university’s strategic goals.

Leadership of the Division

Don Liberati, Associate Vice

Don Liberati joined Drexel University in July 2014 as executive director of Drexel Business Services and has served as the associate vice president for business services since January 2017. In this role he has overall responsibility for occupancy management and university housing programs, campus dining systems and programs, the Frontline Enterprise, university bookstores, DragonCard Services, retail management and vending, as well as the OneCenter team, which is responsible for planning, organizing, evaluating, and monitoring all financial functions and administrative services for Campus Services and a complex auxiliary services enterprise.

Prior to Drexel, Liberati served in finance and operations leadership roles at Innovative Schools in the greater Philadelphia area, and held progressive leadership positions with AMC Theaters, including 12 years as chief of staff to the executive vice president and senior vice president for U.S. operations. Liberati holds an MPA from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in organizational dynamics from Immaculata University.

Institutional Overview

Institutional Background/History

In founding Drexel University, Philadelphia financier and philanthropist Anthony J. Drexel launched a tradition of innovation.

Mr. Drexel envisioned an institution of higher learning uniquely suited to the needs of a rapidly growing industrial society and of the young men and women seeking their place in it—core values that continue to guide the University in its modern era.

His vision was officially realized in 1891 with the establishment of the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. Originally a non-degree-granting institution, Drexel began conferring the bachelor of science degree in 1914 when its 18 departments were organized into four schools. In 1927, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted Drexel the privilege of conferring the master of science degree and, in 1965, the doctor of philosophy degree.

The cornerstone of Drexel’s career preparation model has been the University’s cooperative education program. Introduced at Drexel in 1919 as one of the first models of its kind, the program has become integral to the University’s educational experience. Through it, students alternate periods of study with periods of full-time professional employment, providing unrivaled, valuable professional experience.

The institution’s curriculum and organization of its academic programs have evolved to include 15 colleges and schools. In accord with this evolution, Drexel has undergone two name changes: in 1936, becoming Drexel Institute of Technology and, in 1970, Drexel University. The current title reflects the institution’s commitment to research as well as the breadth of its programs.

Drexel’s mission, services, and opportunities expanded further in 2002 when MCP Hahnemann University—a major Philadelphia health sciences institution—became the Drexel University College of Medicine, College of Nursing and Health Professions, and Dornsife School of Public Health. In 2011, the University established an affiliation with one of Philadelphia’s most storied institutions, the Academy of Natural Sciences. These historic events have extended the resources of Drexel and led to many productive synergies in teaching and research.

Drexel’s foundation as an innovating institution has established the university as a national leader in higher education. In 1983, Drexel became the nation’s first university to require all undergraduates to have personal access to a microcomputer for use in their coursework. The university continued its commitment to integrating technology when it became the first university to operate a fully wireless campus in 2000. In 2006, Drexel became the first major research university in 25 years to open a new law school and is one of only two universities operating law schools that follow a cooperative model of learning.

Through all of its changes and evolution, Drexel’s core mission has held constant. Since its founding, the institution has remained a privately controlled, nonsectarian, coeducational center of higher learning, distinguished by a commitment to preparing men and women for success in their chosen careers. Its greatly expanded enrollment, campuses, and curriculum reflect a history of responsiveness to societal and individual needs—all of which Mr. Drexel sought to address in his day.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Drexel University’s lively urban campus is located in one of America’s most exciting cities—Philadelphia. In a world-class city for business, art, and education, Philadelphia’s skyscrapers are coupled with a blend of distinct and culturally diverse neighborhoods, creating a unique metropolitan yet intimate urban experience.

Surrounded by tree-lined residential blocks just minutes away from Philadelphia’s downtown Center City district, Drexel makes its home in the neighborhood of University City. Comprised of five additional universities and dotted by coffee shops, restaurants, shops, and farmers markets, University City is just one of the many reasons Philadelphia makes an ideal place for students to live, play, and learn.

Known for its expansive murals and abundance of cheesesteaks, Philadelphia is a city with a deep appreciation for the arts and culture. Home to national symbols such as the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Independence Hall, Philadelphia is brimming with artifacts from many of the nation’s most significant milestones. From the city’s 18th-century architecture to the countless institutions bearing Benjamin Franklin’s name, it’s easy to see why Philadelphia earned the nickname “America’s Birthplace.”

But with a thriving shopping and nightlife scene, an eclectic spectrum of art galleries, boutiques, and museums, and a restaurant scene revered by both five-star chefs and underground foodies, there’s much more to Philadelphia than its legendary icons. While it is indeed a city steeped in tradition, it is simultaneously sprouting roots as one of the nation’s most up-and-coming hubs for innovation, technology, and economic growth. Home to such powerhouse companies as Comcast and Urban Outfitters—as well as a quickly growing number of energetic start-ups—Philadelphia is a natural fit for Drexel’s dynamic community.

Mission

Drexel University fulfills its founder’s vision of preparing each new generation of students for productive professional and civic lives while also focusing its collective expertise on solving society’s greatest problems. Drexel is an academically comprehensive and globally engaged urban research university, dedicated to advancing knowledge and society and to providing every student with a valuable, rigorous, experiential, technology-infused education, enriched by the nation’s premier co-operative education program.

Strategic Plan: Drexel 2030, Designing the Future

Since its founding, Drexel’s distinctive fusion of experiential learning, research, and scholarship has prepared students of all backgrounds to face the world’s challenges with creativity and a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Built into the Drexel model, and advanced in the University’s previous strategic plan, is the power of partnerships—from local solutions-based learning and civic engagement with communities and organizations in Philadelphia, to global research collaborations and deep, productive relationships with a broad array of cross-sector employer-partners. In the coming decade, Drexel will build on this heritage of collaboration to respond both to profound shifts in higher education and to the broader challenges facing society, which include the fault lines around inequity, systemic racial injustice, and economic uncertainty exposed by a global public health crisis. To ensure that a Drexel education and student experiences are as responsive, impactful, and inclusive as possible, Drexel 2030, Designing the Future articulates strategies for more effectively and intentionally uniting the university’s academic and scholarly enterprise to meet the needs of the rapidly changing work environment its students will encounter—whether for the first time, or as lifelong learners.

For more information, visit https://drexel.edu/strategicPlan/

Leadership

John Fry, President

John Fry was appointed Drexel University’s 14th president in 2010 and set out to transform Drexel into a private research university with a strong public purpose: an institution that harnesses its strengths to serve its students, its neighborhood, its city, and the nation. Prior to Drexel, Fry was president of Franklin & Marshall College, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania, and a management consultant for the higher education and nonprofit sectors.

Under Fry’s leadership, Drexel has set a national example for the execution of public-private partnerships, and become a powerful force for economic development in Greater Philadelphia. He has championed major neighborhood revitalization initiatives, including the creation of a multi-faceted university extension center in Mantua—the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships—extensive economic development efforts, and significant partnerships to support local neighborhood schools. He negotiated a groundbreaking affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, launched the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship to foster entrepreneurial learning, and forged a series of academic and research partnerships to enhance Drexel’s global connections in China, Turkey, Israel, Brazil, Chile, India, and South Korea. Also during Fry’s tenure, Drexel has seen a significant increase in fundraising and a growing number of philanthropic partners.

As part of Drexel’s role as an anchor institution, Fry announced the creation of a subsidiary enterprise, now under Drexel Applied Innovation, to help faculty and students partner with the private sector to build businesses around their inventions. Such relationships will be at the heart of Schuylkill Yards, a $3.5-billion, mixed-use development on University real estate adjacent to Philadelphia’s Amtrak 30th Street Station.

Fry serves on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, the Kresge Foundation, the Wistar Institute, and Lafayette College. He also served two years as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, concluding his tenure in October 2018.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Fry graduated from Lafayette College and earned a master’s degree in business administration from the New York University Stern School of Business.

Learn more about the President’s cabinet at https://drexel.edu/president/leadership/cabinet/.

Drexel Fast Facts

Enrollment

  • 23,589 total students
  • 14,555 undergraduate students
  • 9,034 graduate and professional students
  • 4,910 online students

Academic Offerings

  • 200+ degree programs
  • 15 colleges and schools

Drexel Co-op

  • One of the nation’s oldest, largest, and best-known cooperative education programs, with over 100 years of enhancing the student experience
  • Most undergraduates and graduates from select graduate programs alternate classroom study with up to three periods of full-time, paid, or unpaid employment in their field

Research

  • Awarded the designation of “R1 Doctoral University — Very High Research Activity” by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions (2019)
  • Recognized for the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership program as a leader in bringing new technologies to market
  • Disclosed 84 total new inventions and received 36 new United States patents in fiscal year 2020

Technology Leadership

  • First university to require all entering students to have microcomputers (1983)
  • First major university to operate a fully wireless campus, indoors and out (2000)
  • First mobile Web portal service for students (2002)
  • First university portal app (DrexelOne Mobile) offered across all five major mobile platforms (2011)

Drexel Online

  • Provides Drexel degree programs through innovative, Internet-based, universally accessible education
  • Builds on the University’s pioneering efforts in online education, which began in 1996

Benefits Overview

Benefits Overview

  • Medical insurance
  • Prescription plan
  • Dental coverage
  • Vision insurance
  • Life, accident and disability insurance
  • Tuition remission
  • Tuition exchange
  • Health Advocate
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • 403(b) retirement plans

 

For more information, visit: https://drexel.edu/hr/benefits/overview/

Application & Nomination

Application and Nomination
Drexel has retained the services of Spelman Johnson, a leading national executive search firm, to assist with leading this search. Review of applications will begin Monday, October 25, 2021, 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 forwarded to Michel Frendian at mrf@spelmanjohnson.com. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the Drexel University website at www.drexel.edu and the Drexel housing and residence life website at https://drexel.edu/campusservices/universityHousing/overview/.

Drexel University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer, welcomes individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and believes that an inclusive and respectful environment enriches the University community and the educational and employment experience of its members. The University prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, status as a veteran or special disabled veteran, gender identity or expression, genetic information, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions and any other prohibited characteristic.