Kansas State University alumna Mary B. Gregoire, a registered dietitian and charter fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains how her graduate school experiences helped her get to where she is today.
Why did you pursue your graduate degree at K-State? What made you decide to go into the food service and hospitality management area?
I was very interested in being able to get a doctorate in foodservice management. K-State was recognized as being a leader in foodservice management. I looked at the program and it looked very strong. I came to Manhattan and met with faculty in the program, heard about student experiences and was convinced K-State was the best option for me. I have not regretted that decision at all.
What are some of your favorite experiences being a K-State graduate student?
The HRIM faculty did a great job of developing a community spirit among graduate students. There were picnics to interact with faculty and graduate students, dedicated graduate student study space, and lunches in the quantity foods lab with faculty. The comradery that developed helped strengthen the relationship among the students and the faculty. The little trips to Call Hall helped brighten the day as the semester progressed and the work got harder.
Who were some of your advocates during graduate school? Who helped pave your way to academic and professional success?
There were a number of people at K-State who contributed to my success. On the academic side, Drs. Marian Spears, Allene Vaden, Faith Roach and Janice Dana were outstanding mentors; operationally Jean Riggs, John Pence and Mary Molt helped develop my skills in foodservice operations management.
Provide your career since completing your doctorate at K-State?
I have held a variety of administrative positions in both education and operations since completing my doctorate degree. And because of a very supportive husband and family, we have moved several times as my career unfolded.
After finishing my doctorate, I was hired as a K-State faculty member and served for many years as graduate program director. Because of my interest in expanding my research skills, I accepted a position as associate director of research for the National Food Service Management Institute (now Institute for Child Nutrition) in Hattiesburg, MS.
My desire to return to operations led to our move to the Chicago, IL area and my position as associate director of food and nutrition services and dietetic internship director at Rush University Medical Center (Rush) and professor of clinical nutrition at Rush University.
Heavy recruiting by Iowa State University and my former faculty mentor at K-State, Dr. Janice Dana, led me to accept the position as department chair for the department of Apparel, Education Studies and Hospitality Management and our move to Ames, IA.
I became what Rush fondly calls a “boomerang” employee when I returned to Rush as the director of food and nutrition services for the medical center and department chair for clinical nutrition within Rush University.
Two years ago I accepted the position of Executive Director of the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, the accrediting agency for more than 570 programs in the US and abroad.
How has your graduate experience prepared you for the opportunities and challenges for the different positions you have held since graduation?
It gave me the knowledge base and skill set I needed to serve in very diverse administrative positions throughout my career. Academically, I learned the theories and supporting research in areas of human resource management, accounting, finance, education and foodservice management. Operationally, I learned the technical and creative skills to successfully manage foodservice operations in my work with dining services. My research skills were honed working with Drs. Don Hoyt and Ron Downey. My graduate program helped develop my teaching skills as I was able to teach foodservice management courses while doing my doctorate.
How important is networking and presenting at professional meetings for graduate students?
Very important. While I was a doctoral student, the faculty took groups of us to professional meetings and introduced us to the leaders in the field which helped develop my network and led to my being recruited to various positions because of this network. Presenting research at these meetings helped strengthen my presentation skills and vita as I entered the work world. Interacting with colleagues from across the country becomes an important part of professional meetings as one’s career unfolds.
Gregoire earned a doctorate in foodservice and hospitality management from Kansas State University in 1985, received the College of Human Ecology Distinguished Research Award in 2007 and served as the Grace M Shugart lecturer in 2013.
Gregoire is executive director of the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). In this role she is responsible for providing support to the planning, development, and effective implementation of all functions of ACEND, including standard setting and evaluation of nutrition and dietetics education programs. She provides oversight of ACEND’s financial and human resources and plans and directs services to address nutrition and dietetics education issues.
She is the author of “Foodservice Organizations: A Managerial and Systems Approach,” a textbook that is widely used in dietetics and hospitality management programs.