By Kelsey Casselbury 2014-07-30 11:05:27
A Kentucky gal through and through, 2014-15 SNA President Julia Bauscher takes the reins of Association leadership with a firm grip, a steady pace and her eyes on the prize. BORN AND BRED IN LOUISVILLE, KY., the home of the famous Kentucky Derby, 2014-15 SNA President Julia Bauscher, SNS, has never been the spectator sort. If given the choice, rather than sitting passively on the sidelines, wearing a fabulous Derby hat, she’d much rather be the jockey, steering the horse that is breaking away from the pack, galloping toward the wire at the finish line. Indeed, Bauscher self-identifies as a “joiner”—always ready to jump in and get involved. There’s no better example of this characteristic in action than her history with SNA. From the moment Bauscher became a member of the national Association (and the Kentucky state affiliate) in 1994—just a mere four months after beginning her school nutrition career—she was champing at the bit to assume a leadership role. She did just that when then-Kentucky SNA board member Janey Thornton, PhD, SNS (now the deputy under secretary of Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a former national SNA president) recommended her for a KSNA Board position. At the time, a new member was required to wait five years to seek an elected leadership position in KSNA—a rule since changed—and the moment that waiting period was up, Bauscher was in the running for state vice president and won in her first attempt. Her volunteer leadership involvement increased steadily, as it naturally does for someone so ready, willing and capable to take on responsibility. Bauscher went on to serve as KSNA president, and then moved to the national organization, including six years on the Nutrition Committee, with one two-year term as its chair. After an unsuccessful bid for the secretary/treasurer position, Bauscher waited just one year before deciding to go for broke and run for vice president in Fall 2011. And, as we all know, she won that race and officially crossed the leadership finish line this summer, as she was installed as SNA president at last month’s Annual National Conference (ANC) in Boston. To discover how SNA’s new president, who is also the director of school and community nutrition services for the 145-site Jefferson County Public School system in Louisville, developed her drive and passion for SNA, school meal operations and life in general, School Nutrition sat down with Bauscher to discuss the course that led her from childhood to the top of her profession. Join us in learning more about her personal run for the roses. The Starting Gate: Life Before Foodservice School Nutrition: So, Louisville, Kentucky, is truly home—not just where you live and work today, but where you were born and bred. What did your parents do? Bauscher: My father was in the sales business, selling printing. He worked for a number of companies before he became self-employed in 1977, which was the year I graduated from high school. My mother, on the other hand, was a stay-at-home parent for most of my childhood. Actually, the first job she had outside our home was as a cafeteria manager at the local elementary school we all attended. She was only there three years, but it was kind of ironic that I ended up doing what my mother did. SN: What do you remember about your experiences in school, and more pertinently, in the lunchroom? Did you have a particular interest in food or nutrition as a child or teenager? Bauscher: I loved school. I loved everything about it. My mother thought I’d be a student my entire life! At that time, everyone used tokens to obtain school lunches. As the oldest child of five, I had the privilege of bringing the money to school on Monday and buying all of our tokens for lunch. I can still remember Mrs. Hardy, who would come around every Monday morning with her metal box on a little cart and sell the lunch tokens. My favorite school lunch was “beefaroni”—a kind of baked spaghetti with elbow macaroni. In fact, I have a beef-a-roni and a sloppy Joe song that I would sing at our Nutrition Services Center whenever we were preparing those recipes. I love to sing them in the cafeteria when either dish is on the menu. But overall, my mom packed our lunches a lot. I think it was a cost issue, even back then. My favorite lunch from home was a bologna sandwich with potato chips on it. She never put the potato chips on the sandwich, but we would at lunchtime. I’ll tell you how my interest in nutrition developed. I was really a nerd. I wish I could find my freshman high school photo—ick! I didn’t have older siblings to make me hip, so I was totally square. When I went away to the University of Kentucky (UK) in Lexington, only an hour and 15 minutes from home, I was so homesick. I lost a bunch of weight, and that’s when I really got interested in nutrition. Still, I was pre-med until I was a junior, and then realized, “Medical school is a long time. I really don’t like the sight of blood, and I’m not very patient with sick people.” But I’d be able to graduate on time, while pairing my interest in nutrition, if I graduated with a major in dietetics. The other interesting part of the story is that I worked at UK Food Services as both an undergraduate and a graduate student. I started working a few hours in the evening several days a week, just helping—prepping food, setting up serving lines, making sure that the salad bar was stocked. Then I became a student supervisor. The manager at the cafeteria was Margaret McIntyre—she was one of my mentors, and she took me under her wing, teaching me everything she knew about foodservice. I also remember working with Mrs. Niles, who was in charge of ingredient control, measuring and weighing ingredients for the recipes, and with Shirley—he was a man—the head cook, making sure everything was prepared on time. I loved working in the cafeteria. That converged with my “perfect storm”—my interest in math and science, not being prepared to be a doctor, loving the cafeteria and getting into dietetics. I completed two years of graduate coursework—42 hours. At that time, I was pursuing a master’s in Restaurant and Institution Administration in the College of Home Economics, but the food-related professors in that department were food scientists. I was a lab assistant for two semesters, helping dissect rat livers. But there wasn’t anyone who was a tenured professor who could oversee my master’s thesis. Without a go-to person in restaurant and administration in a program focused more on science than operations, I never did that little thing called a thesis. First Turn: Early Career SN: Your first official job in the business wasn’t in foodservice operations but sales. How did that come about? Bauscher: If you discount the six years I spent working for UK Food Services, my first job was in sales; I worked for a food broker. It was one of those situations where I was the right person at the right time. I went to work for a family-owned company, which was looking for someone in the Lexington area to call part-time on what was then called “institutional foodservice” accounts—which were hospitals, nursing homes and schools. They wanted someone who knew what a No. 10 can was, and I was their person. I was still in graduate school, still a teaching assistant, and still working part-time in the cafeteria, but also doing these part-time sales calls. I sold products like Sara Lee, Del Monte, Starkist and Lawry’s seasoning mixes. I did that for two and a half years. I liked the sales part of it, but I hated asking customers to buy specific products to earn a bonus. It was too high-pressure. However, I ended up spending 12 years in sales, and I was pretty good at it. After I switched to operations, I discovered why I was so good at it—I actually followed up! I didn’t just visit an account, show them a product and leave; I came back for a follow-up and made sure they had what they needed. Every career move I made in sales was because someone at that company recognized the fact that I was a hard worker. I did a good job and other companies contacted me. I was never looking for a new job. I moved back to Louisville when I went to work for Campbell’s Soup, and I got married a short time after. SN: So, how did you transition into school nutrition operations? Bauscher: At the time, I was working for RJR Nabisco, and I had two small children. I had a regional territory, so I was driving all the way down to western Kentucky—that’s about four and a half hours away—and I was eight and a half months pregnant with my second child. My mother was a nervous wreck, and now being a mom, I can see how she hated me being on the road like that. I certainly liked my school accounts. I used to dress up as one of the Campbell’s kids and go into the public schools at lunchtime and greet all the students. I had fun doing that, and there are still managers in my district who remember me putting on those costumes! Jefferson County Schools was one of my customers, and the a la carte program was exploding at that time. I called Lee Richardson, coordinator of food procurement, about awarding the bid for those competitive foods items. She said, “By the way, I’m retiring to spend more time with my grandchildren, and I think you’d be a perfect replacement.” SN: Before that, had you given thought to going back to the operations side of the business? Bauscher: No. At that time, I was comfortable, more content with sales. But it was starting to wear on me with two small children at home. I was having to travel a lot, so going to work for Jefferson County was very, very convenient. I was coordinator of food procurement for five years. Six weeks after I started, I had to march into my boss’ office and say “I’m pregnant” and take maternity leave. Then, in 1999, we opened our then-new Nutrition Service Center, which is our central kitchen and warehouse. The person who was in charge of the district warehouses came into my office one day and said, “You need to step up. This central kitchen project needs you as its manager.” I said, “I don’t think I should do that.” I had just been elected vice president of the Kentucky SNA; I had made a leadership commitment to them, and I had a baby at home now. He reminded me again that the program needed me to step up. So I applied and got the job to manage the operations of the Nutrition Service Center. Again, I was in the right place at the right time. That was August 1999, and I was in that position for 10 years until [then- Director] Cheryl [Sturgeon] retired in August 2009. All along, Cheryl provided information and opportunities that prepared me to be her successor. I applied and became the director of the whole program. It is almost unbelievable that this month, I’ll have been in this position for five years. Stretch Turn: Creating a Legacy in Louisville SN: You’ve stayed in one district for a significant time. Have you ever felt the desire to change districts, locations or jobs? Bauscher: Absolutely not. This is my home. I couldn’t ask for a more convenient location—1.6 miles from my house—and I’ve never considered changing jobs. Cheryl Sturgeon was, I think, one of the leaders in school nutrition when it came to taking risks. She was very forward-thinking. We were always ahead of every school foodservice trend. We got rid of deep-fat fryers back in 1995, way before many districts even considered doing that. I knew I was working in one of the most progressive school foodservice departments in the country. No, I never thought for a second about going anywhere else. SN: How have your district and your operation changed since you became director? Bauscher: In terms of experience, I was the young person on the staff for many, many years, but that meant everyone else was near retirement. Since I became director five years ago, the department staff has evolved from more than 150 years of collective administrative experience to about 15 years—I’ve got a whole new team in key positions. I’ve been very fortunate to make some very smart hires, and I have an excellent team, who are very dedicated to the same values and principles that have always driven this department: Provide the best meal programs possible to the 101,000 students in Jefferson County. It’s even more significant given the fact that I’m away from the district on SNA business so much. They really carry the torch and get the work done when I’m not directly available to do it. I can’t appreciate them enough for doing that. SN: What are some of the programs and initiatives that you have started since becoming director? Bauscher: We, of course, implemented Breakfast in the Classroom, which has been very successful. We started up the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and at-risk supper program in our district. I remind our staff all the time that what we’re doing with those programs helps the district fulfill its vision: that all students graduate prepared to succeed and contribute to society throughout their lives. Last summer, we started a mobile foodservice program, the Bus Stop Café, which was wildly successful in terms of reaching students where they are in the summer. We expanded that and added an additional bus to the fleet this summer. We’re very excited about that! SN: What are some of the biggest challenges your team—and school nutrition professionals across the country—face today? Bauscher: Wow. I think the biggest challenge is the number of changes we’re dealing with at one time. Our district has been very progressive. We’re promoting farm to school and fresh fruits and vegetables, and we were doing those things before they were required. Nonetheless, there have been changes that have been challenging. Making high school students take a fruit or vegetable when they really don’t want one is still difficult, despite all the promotion we’ve done over the years. Add that to the changes in whole grains, plus looking at what professional standard requirements will mean and what local wellness policy enforcement will mean— together, it can be a little overwhelming. I think that if the pace of change was a little slower, these changes would be a lot more palatable and easier to swallow. But it’s just been boom, boom, boom, boom. Amidst all of that, what has further created stress in my own district is that we switched software companies, which meant a big learning curve for managers. We do everything electronically, and teaching managers how to utilize a brand-new software program while you’re also helping them navigate the required changes in the school meal pattern is a real challenge. SN: Do you still see rewards for your efforts? Bauscher: To see students who, in the past, may have not eaten broccoli or kiwi or butternut squash, to see them enjoy it and try to sneak extra kiwi out of the serving line—that’s really rewarding. Also, we started a student nutrition advisory council; it’s great to see students involved in sampling products, sharing nutrition information and giving their opinion about menus and products. On the Bit: SNA Involvement SN: What made you decide to join SNA? Bauscher: It was probably Cheryl sharing the information with me, but I’ve always been a joiner. I get that civic involvement gene from my parents. Many Association leaders tend to report that they got involved in leadership when they were asked to do whatever. But I’m not sure mine was so much of an “ask” as a “tell.” Janey Thornton was involved in KSNA, and she recommended me for a board appointment. She knew me from my sales days when her district was one of my key K-12 accounts. We had a chair of history and property, and she said, “I’m going to put you on the board.” I kept all of the mementos—programs, photos, displays—from all the previous conferences; I had a whole room full of stuff! Today, it’s stored electronically, I think, and that KSNA board position was subsequently eliminated. I attended my first SNA ANC in 1994, just five months after I had begun my school foodservice career. Sitting in the back of the General Session, I saw Dorothy Caldwell be installed as president and address members, and I thought, “Wow, I’d like to do that.” SN: After serving as KSNA president, you served six years on SNA’s Nutrition Committee, both as a member and as its chair. That seems to have started quite a leadership tenure. Bauscher: I ran for secretary/treasurer, and I lost that election. I waited a year before I threw my name back in the ring for vice president, because my son would be graduating from high school in May 2013. I knew that if I was trying to serve as president-elect or even president while he was a senior, I’d miss a lot of special moments. SN: How do you think your SNA membership has benefited you over the years? Bauscher: Wow. I can’t even express that adequately. The friends that you meet and the information that you share is so valuable in terms of improving and expanding your program. The training through SNA has had a major impact on our program, which continues to be, I think, one of the most progressive school food operations in the country. People and companies becoming familiar with who you are because you’re an Association leader makes getting connected a lot easier in terms of sharing resources, ideas, programs, etc. You make a huge commitment when you’re a volunteer leader, and there’s a lot of time away from the district. But, I continually remind my boss that this has benefited our district in many ways. When someone says “Jefferson County Public Schools,” others know who we are. SN: What will be your focus during your term as SNA President? Bauscher: Exactly what my collective theme says: “Engage, Energize and Excel.” I really want to focus on getting members to engage in something new. No matter what you do in life, professionally or personally, you gotta get engaged, because engagement leads to more energy, which creates improvement, which results in excelling in ways you never imagined. I want to help members see what I call the cycle of continuous improvement: engaging, energizing and excelling. Also, we will get deep into Reauthorization 2015, and as much as that’s something that will be arduous, I do look forward to being part of that process and to being one of the leaders responsible for drafting a successful Reauthorization bill. Head of the Stretch: Home Life SN: Tell us about your life outside of the office. Bauscher: I have three kids: Emily is the oldest and just turned 25. She works in customer service at Gannett, a media company. It’s her first full-time job, which I think is really good for her—she appreciates good customer service more than ever! Brian is 23 and is at the University of Kentucky; he hopes to finish his degree in accounting this summer. Adrian is 19, and he is finishing up his first year at Jefferson Community & Technical College here in Louisville. He’s still deciding what to do. Emily and Adrian still live at home. I was married for close to 20 years; though it ended, honestly, we’re still friends. In the past, I’ve volunteered in my church a lot. When my kids played baseball, I was in charge of all the scorekeepers. Today, my leadership responsi- bilities with SNA take up most of my volunteer time. SN: You’ve said you love reading as a way to relax. Favorite book? Bauscher: I knew you were going to ask that. I love Jane Eyre; I like classics, anything by Jane Austen. But, of course, I also love a good trashy Nora Roberts— that’s my beach reading. I generally have three to four things going at the same time, and don’t feel like I ever get through anything. I don’t watch TV. I prefer to spend quiet time reading—that’s my stress reliever. And I enjoy a good glass of wine on occasion. It’s a balanced approach to stress management. I don’t know if you would consider it a hobby, but I absolutely love flowers. There are always fresh flowers on my kitchen table. Right now, there are stargazer lilies that I’m waiting on to bloom. And I love photos. Ask anyone who’s my Facebook friend, I love photos. If I wasn’t working in school foodservice, I’d be a florist or photographer. SN: What do you do to prioritize your health? Bauscher: My brothers and sisters all were twigs; although not overweight, I always felt self-conscious among those twigs. I started working out in college, and since then, exercise has been a regular part of my life. There have been spells where it’s hard to fit in, but I’ve always come back to it. I’m walking a lot more lately, because as my bones and joints get older, some of the intense workouts I used to do before are pretty tough on the body. I do have an elliptical in my office. I stock up on all my trade magazines, like School Nutrition, and SNA-related reading and try to get on the elliptical 20 to 30 minutes a day, which is perfect—you go home, and it’s done. The Finish Line: Looking Toward the Future SN: What are your hopes for the next generation of students eating school meals? Bauscher: We cannot deny that childhood obesity is a major problem that we’re facing in this country. I would hope that, over the course of the years to come, school meals will play an important role in addressing that problem and decreasing the rate of childhood obesity. I hope that we can definitively make the connection between healthy school meal programs and student achievement. SN: What makes the field of K-12 school nutrition unique and special? Bauscher: Our segment, of all the foodservice segments out there, serves the best audience: our children. I think that really makes it worthwhile and makes it a very noble field to be in. Our segment also shares information and best practices to help one another. SN: What advice would you give to someone interested in entering the school nutrition profession? Bauscher: Enjoy the ride. Be patient. Embrace change, how about that? That’s the perfect thing to tell newbies. SN: If you could go back and talk to your younger self, fresh from the University of Kentucky, what might you advise? Bauscher: Always grab opportunities. I’ve been so fortunate to have opportunities come my way. Sometimes you’re more comfortable where you’re at, but I say, take a risk and try something new. It’s gotten me where I am today. Never burn any bridges, and never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Kelsey Casselbury is associate editor of School Nutrition. Photos by Rick Brady. A Few of Julia’s Favorite Things School Nutrition asked, and our new SNA president answered! What is Julia’s favorite…? • Book: It’s hard to pick just one! Jane Eyre • Movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life” • Food Indulgence: Vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup • School Nutrition Activity: Eating with kids is awesome! • Place Visited: Charleston, S.C. • Day/Time: Sunday mornings • Meal to Cook at Home: Chicken Gumbo • School Subjects: Math and science SN also asked Bauscher to complete the following sentences: • If I didn’t work in school nutrition, I’d be: …a floral designer and professional photographer. • The talent I wish I had is: …to be able to sing! • If I could trade places with someone for one day it would be: …Foodservice Director Dean Hamburg, who works in Alaska! • My dream dinner guests would be: …my grandparents. • If I could change just one thing about myself, it would be: …my impatience. • One thing you don’t know about me is: …that I wanted to grow up to be a nun when I was in grade school! A Kentucky Thoroughbred By The Numbers SN: What are three adjectives that you would use to define yourself as a leader? Bauscher: I’d say organized, but everyone would laugh at me. I’m passionate, focused and persistent. And ask me in an hour, and I’d probably come up with three different words. SN: Name three people who have had the most impact on your career path. Bauscher: Cheryl Sturgeon, my former director at Jefferson County Public Schools. SNA Past President Janey Thornton, PhD, SNS, who is now deputy under secretary of Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at USDA; she encouraged me to get involved, helped me find leadership roles and still acts as a sounding board and resource. Margaret McIntyre, the manager at Blazer Cafeteria at the University of Kentucky. She mentored me like her own daughter for six years. SN: List three things that get you “engaged and energized” about SNA and the school nutrition profession. Bauscher: We have the best customers and workers in the world! It is challenging and fun to please kids. School nutrition employees are very hard-working, caring people. The students they serve, they claim and treat as their own. Also, the friends I have met across the United States working in our profession inspire me every day, and I can’t thank all of them enough for that gift! BONUS WEB CONTENT Bonus Web Content School Nutrition is making this profile of new SNA President Julia Bauscher available in Spanish. If you or someone you know would like to read a Spanish translation of this article, you will find a link on the magazine’s Bonus Web Content Archives page on SNA’s website, www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent. Contenido Adicional La School Nutrition a creado el perfil del nuevo Presidente de SNA, Julia Bauscher, disponible en español. Si usted o alguien que usted conoce desea leer la traducción en español de este artículo, lo encontrará en el enlace en la página del Bonus Web Content en el sitio web de SNA, www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent.
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