Three Ways Invested Leaders on a University Campus Create Successful Programs
BY JOE SCHERER
Director of Operations at Pedestal Foods
On any university’s campus, the people at the top make the difference in the experience of every student, faculty and staff member. From the dean to the university president, the choices made by campus leaders affect every aspect of a student’s collegiate career. Dining options, courses offered, on-campus housing renovations – students rely on those in leadership roles to ensure they have access to necessary amenities during life on campus.
At Pedestal Foods, we frequently observe how essential campus leaders can be to the success of university programs and constantly strive to work with schools whose leadership is dedicated to the growth and betterment of their student body as a whole. We have found many outstanding leaders share these three qualities that help their campuses thrive:
1.Strong vision for the future.
The decision-making process at universities should be focused on the long-term future of the school. Because a student’s collegiate time typically covers a span of only a few years, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day decisions and lose track of the bigger picture. Possessing a strong vision for the future is essential to the establishment and success of university programs. One of our best partnerships as a contract dining provider has been with the Lindenwood University campuses in St. Charles, Missouri and Belleville, Illinois. This relationship has been so successful because Dr. Michael Shonrock, the university’s president, has a clear direction on the campus’ future since he took the position in 2015. In addition to working with us to overhaul the dining program and bring national brands such as Chick-fil-A and Qdoba to students, he has also been aggressive in improving the athletics department – a major draw for students and faculty at their university – through a partnership with Under Armour. The programs at Lindenwood are successful becausePresident Shonrockis consistently looking for ways to best serve future students.
2.Up-to-date with industry trends.
Research is key. To understand industry trends and student needs, research is imperative for campus leaders to effectively define and build programs that accomplish the university’s goals. Statistical findings and trend tracking can give university leaders the tools they need to get buy-in from students, faculty and staff for programs that are profitable and all-around beneficial in the long-run. Having that support from the ground up is essential for getting any new program started on the right foot. From a provider’s perspective, we generally look for leaders that want to be engaged and a part of the whole process from research to implementation. Leaders who have a sense of ownership and dedication to the school’s programs tend to be more successful overall.
3.Engaged with student interests.
In a similar vein, campus leaders need to have a genuine interest in what the students want. Of course programs should be set up to bring in additional funds for the university, but if the students aren’t behind it, it likely won’t last long. Students are the backbone of any university, so considering how they will respond and anticipating their needs is one of the most advantageous strategies a campus leader can have. We frequently work with universities to execute campus-wide student surveys, conduct man-on-the-street interviews and monitor student reactions and feedback to new programs. Looking again at the example of Lindenwood University bringing the national brands to campus, the school could have selected any of the top chain restaurants and hoped for the best. Instead, we worked with them to gather student opinions and plan the new dining options accordingly. Consider student schedules, on-campus travel routes, commuter status, extracurricular activities and organizations they are involved with to get a well-rounded idea of which programs will be the most successful and worthwhile.
There is no one way to successfully run a university, but in our experience, effective campus leaders have strong long-term goals, regularly track trends and have a vested interest in student wants and needs.
Joe Scherer is the Director of Operations at Pedestal Foods.