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Nov. 15, 2012 Volume 34, No. 13

Campus Dining Services director is a leader in the field of food

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VARIETY The Student Center is a campus hub for study, gatherings and eateries. Julaine Kiehn and her Campus Dining Services team were intregal to the center’s culinary development, a process that took eight years. Photo by Nicholas Benner


After 25 years, dining services director still passionate about her job

Hard meatloaf. Steamed carrots. Creamed spinach. Day-old nachos smothered in stiff cheese. 

Nightmarish dining hall food options like these have sent shudders down college students’ spines for decades. 

But those days are long gone at MU. The days of buffet-line food service have been replaced with more selection, such as a made-to-order pasta station, a create-your-own pancake bar, a grill with multiple options and various pizzas that rotate out daily.

Julaine Kiehn, director of Campus Dining Services, has been involved in most of the dining changes since her arrival at MU 25 years ago. 

For her first five years, she was the department’s assistant director. Back then, six residential dining services were in operation and every menu was the same. Today, there are 20 residential and retail dining services locations, and residential all-you-can-eat menus change daily.

According to Kiehn, there has been one constant during her MU career: the focus on customers, especially the students. It is her attention to customers and her involvement in the National Association of College & University Food Services that recently earned her a spot in Food Service Director Magazine as one of the 20 most influential people in non-commercial foodservice. Also on the list is First Lady Michelle Obama.  

Kiehn leads a team of managers and support staff who oversee 700 student staff members and 200 nonstudent staff members. Under Kiehn’s supervision, Campus Dining Services provides residential and retail dining to customers by offering both dine-in and carryout options.

Much of Kiehn’s time over the years has involved planning new and renovating existing dining sites on campus. One of the bigger projects was the dining options in the MU Student Center, which first opened five of its on-site restaurants in August 2010. Eighteen months later, another restaurant and the Mizzou Market convenience store opened. Working with Jeff Zeilenga, assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs, and others on the team, Kiehn spent eight years devising a restaurant plan for the center. 

The group surveyed students about what dining options they would like to have. The feedback Kiehn received ultimately led to offering restaurants, such as Kate & Emma’s, Do Mundo’s, Pomodoro and Mort’s. Dining services directors from other universities have visited the Student Center and other campus dining locations to garner ideas for their own dining services.

“It’s a compliment, and it’s also a responsibility,” Kiehn said.  

After a quarter century on the job, some directors begin to wind down their workload. Not Kiehn. Next on her list is expanding Plaza 900 and finishing renovation of Mark Twain Market. 

“You need to have a passion for what you do, and that makes it all worthwhile,” Kiehn said. 

— Ashley Carman