September 26, 2018 | ° F

U. selects potentials to head Dining Services

From an applicant pool of about 75, the search committee in charge of replacing Executive Director of Dining Services Charles Sams, who plans to leave next semester, selected four hopefuls.

The committee, headed by Associate Vice president for Student Affairs Patrick Love, chose two external candidates to seek a larger and more significant challenge as well as two internal potentials for the position.

"We've got some great candidates, which in essence is what you aspire to have," Love said. "You want to have a number of candidates feeling like they can't lose."

Potential directors include Shawn LaPean, director of Cal Dining at University of California-Berkeley; Kris Colt, assistant director of Dining Services at Rutgers University-Camden; Richard Berlin, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Campus Dining; and Joseph Charette, associate director of University Dining Services.

Love said choosing the ultimate selection may be the most difficult choice for the final decision-maker, Vice President of Student Affairs Gregory S. Blimling.

The committee of members from Housing and Residence Life, Student Life, Dining Services, Rutgers-Camden Dining Services and student leaders, prepared a document evaluating the four finalists, Love said.

"I received feedback about each of the candidates, and I may ask one or two candidates to return to Rutgers for additional interviews," Blimling said. "Based on those interviews and other information I have about each candidate, I will select the most qualified person and offer that person the position."

The office's goal is to have the new executive director hired in time for that individual to begin work at the University this summer, he said.

Sams was asked to tour the external applicants around the various dining facilities over a two-day period, he said. Although Sams was not a part of the search committee, he was asked to send his comments and impressions about each of the hopefuls.

"Sams has been an incredible leader in developing dining services, in meeting student needs, ensuring quality and trying to manage the costs while continually renovating and updating facilities," Love said. "He's going to leave incredible shoes to fill for whoever follows him."

University Dining Services is one of the largest collegiate dining services in the United States, Love said. Student dining, catering, athletics, facilities supporting dining and the expansion of the dining halls on different campuses are some of the important pieces to the large operation.

"It's a growing, vibrant organization that contributes greatly to quality to the experience of students, not just in the residence halls, any student who chooses to take advantage of their services," Love said. "About 8,500 students are required to be on a meal plan, yet 17,000 students choose to be."

Entrants must have experience in collegiate dining even if their career started elsewhere, Love said. They must also understand the finances and culinary side to the operation and have experience as a leader and a manager who is student-centered.

Sams said the applicant must have a good understanding of the mathematics aspect to the operations, something he has developed over time.

Out of the dining services of Pennsylvania State University, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts and University of Maryland, the University is still the least expensive, he said.

"We're looking for one person to come into an organization that's well run, ever-evolving and yet continues to lead and look for creative ways to address the needs of the greater community and address students' desires," Love said.

Being relaxed and easygoing is one quality the new candidate may need to speak with students and people, Sams said.

During his 28-year career, Sams said he did not mind laughing at himself or with others.

"They asked me, ‘Why do I always have to go to the bathroom after I eat at Brower?'" Sams said. "How do you answer that? You have to answer it with a smile."

Sams joined the University team in 1983 and his last formal day will be the last day of this year. He said wants to think of himself as moving on, and he still feels young enough and in good health.

"I have given the University an appropriate amount of life, time and energy because when you're the dining guy at R.U. it's pretty consuming. Everybody wants to talk to you," he said. "It's probably the most subjective job here."

Sams said he made a career and used the resources to bring a better quality of life to the dining operation.

One of the projects he plans to complete by the end of his stay is the new dining hall on Livingston campus. He said the University would see a building that grew from understanding what students value and also helps students understand their wants should be met.

"If [colleges] can afford it like we can at Rutgers, particularly dining, we should give back to the students more than they expect and that's what you're going to see at the Livingston," he said. "You're going to say, ‘I would never dreamed it would be this nice.'"

Sams said the individual selected as the new director will not face critical problems since a strong group of managers and staff, a strong fiscal situation and new buildings all the way to Camden remain.

"I'm leaving it polished and ready to go," Sams said. "The real pressure on the new person to maintain the standards we've set which are very high if not maintain, elevate them."

Reena Diamante

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