For my NUTR 495 field experience, I underwent the National Society of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Internship at the University of Kansas. My preceptor was the Assistant Director of Residential Dining and a Registered Dietitian. In addition to my preceptor, I worked closely with a variety of dining staff members at KU, including managers and supervisors of residential and retail dining locations, catering directors, procurement managers, Sysco representatives, and dietitians.
One of the aspects of my NACUFS experience that I found so enjoyable was how every day was different, both in terms of my duties and the people I was working with. I spent time working in all three of KU’s residential dining locations, various on-campus retail locations, and staffing catering events to learn about the duties of the dining staff. Additionally, I shadowed supervisors and managers to understand management duties such as staffing, budgeting, event planning, and customer service. I spent smaller amounts of time working with dietitians, procurement managers, Sysco representatives, and even underwent coffee barista training. All of these different experiences enhanced my understanding of the many aspects involved in collegiate food services, along with allowing me to develop management and professional networking skills.
In addition to my daily work duties, I completed two final projects that incorporated all of the knowledge that I acquired throughout the experience: planning and managing a theme dinner and creating a business plan for a food truck concept. The theme dinner involved testing and standardizing recipes, choosing menu items, planning decorations, creating a staff schedule, following a budget, developing marketing materials, and acting as the manager on the day of the dinner. The food truck business plan outlined all aspects required to implement a food truck at KU, including a labor schedule and budget, food menu and budget, equipment, service times and locations, and developing a marketing plan.
Along with enjoying my exciting schedule, I also liked that the NACUFS experience allowed me the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people. The various employees I interacted with had varying experiences and wisdom to share with me, which allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. Not to mention, I acquired new friendships and professional connections.
While this experience was absolutely amazing, it could be difficult at times because it was busy and fast-paced consisting of 40-hour work weeks in addition to outside projects. Additionally, being far from home was a slight adjustment at first; however, I found that stepping outside of my comfort zone, both in terms of going somewhere different and remaining open to new work experiences, was a very important aspect to my learning. I gained confidence, created meaningful connections, and became much more independent as a result. Overall, the NACUFS experience allowed me to acquire transferable skills, apply knowledge from my classes, and grow both professionally and personally. I would highly recommend taking a chance and applying for the NACUFS internship!
Written by: Talia Follador