Dawn Aubrey is the President of NACUFS, the association that provides its 550 higher learning institutions and 500 industry members with networking and educational opportunities across the country.
In Dawn’s own words, their mission “is to support and promote excellence in collegiate dining and to elevate that dining”. NACUFS’s National Conference is taking place right now in Anaheim California, so we took the opportunity to chat with Dawn about NACUFS’s her career, NACUFS’s goals and priorities and whats on the docket at the National Conference.
Dawn, can you talk about your path to being President of NACUFS?
In college I worked in dining while double majoring in economics and math. I was the recruited by a food service contractor to work as a manager and I have been in the industry ever since. Including my years as a student I’ve been working in food service for 31 years. I moved on to self-operated jobs, both of which I found through NACUFS. If you look back throughout my career NACUFS has helped me tremendously. I worked in NACUFS helping out in a variety of ways and after three years of being pursued to be the President I agreed. It has been an intense and truly wonderful experience that has enriched me as a professional.
Why does college and university dining appeal to you?
I feel like it is an opportunity to support and promote excellence. I believe with all of my hear that collegiate dining is the birthplace of trends, whether it be sustainable eating, local purchasing or anything else. Students entrust us with their dining options and we feel obligated to meet and exceed those expectations.
You said NACUFS is about elevating dining. Could you expand on that?
Dining is a truly essential service. It has a great impact on students and we want them to have a good experience. It is about more than just eating. It is about sustainability, health and wellness and doing the right thing of the right reasons. We want to give our operators the ability to communicate with their administration and the campus community at large. As an association, we want to be able to present our members to the industry as valuable professionals.
Does NACUFS advocate for collegiate dining?
Our mission is to support and promote excellence in collegiate dining. We have just revised our governance structure , we have new bylaws and have transitioned to a strategic governing board of trustees. So right now the advocacy for us is all about our member and elevating dining. We want to help our members tell their story and to articulate their value to the student experience.
What are the benefits that NACUFS can offer to members?
The benefits can be broken down into the three pillars, and when you harness those opportunities it makes members better professionals. They are peer communication, information and data and education. Peer to peer networking allows members to communicate everything from best practices to problem solving techniques or even new equipment and technology.
Information wise we have benchmarking surveys so you can know all about pay rates at other schools dependent on factors like size, region and others. We also have customer service satisfaction surveys were yo can look at the entire nation and compare yourself to others.
We also provide educational opportunities like workshops and other experiences, including at our National Conference that is going on now.
What are some of the marquee events and workshops at the conference?
We have keynote speakers who reflect what our members want to learn about. For example this year one of our keynote speakers is Jillian Michaels who focuses on health and wellness. We also have hour increment workshops and speakers and there is a whole menu of those for people to choose from.
Finally we have our showcase where members can interact with people in the industry. It is where our members can also learn about new technology, equipment and services that our industry members have to offer.