Meeting UMD’s new Dining Director: Q&A with Betsy Helgesen
Food is a big topic around UMD, from the Superior Dining Center to the on-campus food court. Recently, UMD has hired a new Director of Dining Services—Betsy Helgesen. Helgesen worked at Harvard University and managed Starbucks locations before coming to work at UMD. She’s excited to work with the students and staff here and has some innovative, exciting ideas for UMD’s dining services, as she shared with The Bark over email.
Q. What made you want to work at UMD?
“There is so much that excited me about working at UMD: working for and with students, the scope of work, the openness to new ideas, a university environment and the special nature of Duluth, the city.”
Q. As Dining Director, what do you do?
“I spend time working with teams and individuals to work toward common goals. I listen to suggestions, concerns, feedback. I assess challenges and solicit solutions. I create strategic plans, food plans, safety plans, menu plans. I disseminate information and try to fine-tune systems that create repeated success. And meanwhile, I try to stay current with trends and ensure that our food is innovative and delicious.”
Q. Have you worked at a university or college before? How is UMD different from where you’ve worked before?
“I worked at Harvard University when I was a student, but I was a librarian who was handy with a microwave and a toaster oven. In my working years I have worked for Starbucks Coffee, Aramark, a number of hospitals and I owned my own restaurant for more than 15 years. When I worked at Starbucks I managed more individuals than I do here at UMD, but they were in different locations, so having my own huge team under one roof is a new dynamic. My own restaurant and the hospitals at which I worked were smaller and independent enough, that I was able to be very nimble in my decision-making and action-taking. The team here at UMD and I need to approach decisions thoughtfully and thoroughly. I will never stop declaring my respect for the dining services team here at UMD. The number of students flowing through Superior Dining still amazes me and leaves me in awe of the production and service teams. They work hard and get great results.”
Q. What are you excited for as Dining Director?
“I am excited to lead a team of exceptional team members with a wealth of experience, passion, and resilience. I look forward to growing the department by developing new outlets, kitchens, and service areas. I can't wait to introduce new menu items, seasonal menus, and fresh ideas. At this point, I am also excited to meet people, remember their names, and find my office!”
Q. Should students be anticipating any changes to Dining Services?
“Absolutely, the food scene is always and should always be changing. As we get new items from the farm, we will change up soups, specials, and the salad bar. As seasons change, you should see items flow in and flow out and be seasonally relevant. Holidays will be acknowledged - national food days will provide inspiration. We will always be working to be innovative, fresh, and to excite you with our choices.”
Q. What should students know about you?
“I am passionate about food and want to know when you LOVE an item that we offer. Please give a shout out when you get something that you love. Make suggestions for items that you eat outside of our walls that you love and maybe they can inspire the next item on our menu. I want to work with my team to create a dining experience to nourish, comfort, and excite you.”
Helgesen has started her work at UMD and UMD students can expect to see her ideas around campus in the future.