After a search that spanned the better part of a year, Northern Michigan University hired Greg Minner as Dining Services Director. He officially assumed the duties on August 4.
Minner has two decades of experience in university food service and comes to NMU after more than 12 years in the Pennsylvania State University system, where he was the assistant general manager of housing and food services. He had traveled through the Marquette area with his family in the past, and even named his daughter after the city.
When he noticed the job posting online last spring, he began to look at the prospects.
“I had been up here for vacations and things like that,” he said. “I thought, ‘You know, this might be a nice opportunity to try something different.'”
Minner applied for the job soon after and now fills a position that had been officially vacant since last fall, when then-director Andre Mallie resigned after accepting a job in California. Arthur Gischia, associate vice president for Business and Auxiliary Services, served as the interim Dining Services director while the university conducted an employment search.
After advertising nationally and receiving minimal interest during the fall, Gischia and NMU decided it would be best to wait for a larger pool of more qualified applicants. The position was re-advertised after the first of the year and received much more interest.
A committee-consisting of representatives from student government, dining services and conference and catering, as well as housing and residence life formed a short list of candidates. Four applicants were interviewed and three, including Minner, made campus visits.
During their visits, each individual was asked the same set of questions by the committee. Gischia said that no applicant knew the questions in advance and that the candidates were judged not only on their answers to the questions, but also on their reactions to the situation.
“Greg Minner’s ability to react to that was what I felt made him stand out far above the other candidates,” Gischia said. “He is very low key, he listens well and he communicates very effectively. The students who were members of the committee were asking him questions and he, in turn, was asking them questions. I just thought that was such a unique trait.”
After the interview process was complete, the committee discussed the choices only briefly.
“Once we got through his interview they were unanimous in saying, ‘We think he’s the person for the job,'” Gischia said.
Minner will now need to become accustomed to always operating from a single campus. Penn State has 24 campuses spread throughout the state of Pennsylvania and he had to help coordinate operations on a large scale.
He figured he put on 10-20,000 miles per year traveling between satellite campuses and said that he often spent nights on the road. That travel time was the major catalyst in Minner’s career change.
“Coming here offers an opportunity to be more personable and more opportunities to meet with people on a regular basis,” Minner said. “Looking at Penn State-they call it the 1,000-pound gorilla sometimes. Here, there is an opportunity to move faster on innovative ideas. In a smaller atmosphere, you’re closer to people you’re working with day-in and day-out.”
That willingness to move forward with innovative ideas carries over from Mallie’s time as director, when he oversaw the creation of Fiera’s and Temaki & Tea. Although he has held his new position for less than a month, Minner has already started to impart his own style on NMU, introducing new menus and re-working portions of the NMU dining experience.
Students can expect to hear more specifics about Minner’s plans in the future.
“Innovative ideas are great, but I think you have to plan them out,” he said. “What we’re working on right now is a marketing calendar and how we will market to the students these ideas that we have.”
Even more important than innovation, however, Minner said that he wants to improve the product that the consumers receive at NMU.
“What I really want to focus on is the quality that we present to the customer and that we’re making sure the quality is there and that the quality is coming out,” he said.
And if during the coming semester anyone is looking for Minner, who spent Welcome Weekend on campus greeting both staff and students, it would be best to start the search somewhere other than his office.
“I probably spend the least amount of time in here as anywhere on campus,” he said. “And I just think it’s important that I’m out there-that people can see that I care about what’s going on with the food service and what’s going to happen in the future.”