Laura Duba SNA Member Since 2013 » Brookings, South Dakota SNA of South Dakota President Laura Duba, RD, LN, prefers to lead by example, whether she’s brainstorming menu ideas with her 33-person team at Brookings (S.D.) School District or working part-time toward her master’s degree at South Dakota State University. Growing up and working beside her father and grandfather in the family firm taught Duba practical lessons about how to run a business, as well as valuable life lessons about loyalty and hard work. These inform how she leads, as well as how she cultivates a culture of leadership where she works and serves. Foundations of Leadership Growing up in Worthington, Minn., I always had a passion for food. I’m a big family person, and my family loved to cook—everyone was always in the kitchen whether it was a holiday or not! Cooking may be a family tradition, but it’s not the family business! I was the fifth generation of my family to work for Duba Sheetmetal Work; I grew up installing furnaces and air conditioners, and bending lots of sheet metal. In fact, I still go back and help out when I can. I view my foodservice department as a business in and of itself, and my background working for my family really prepared me for that. I think my passion for nutrition stems from my mother having multiple sclerosis. Initially, I wanted to pursue something in healthcare, but once I got into my dietetic internship, my perspective changed. I was in a clinical setting with people who had a health condition that needed to be addressed, but child nutrition programs are more preventive—and that inspired me. Educating our students and offering them the best nutrition possible will hopefully prevent health issues down the road, and that is exciting to me. Fostering Leadership Qualities I have a collaborative leadership style. I share my goals with staff, offering ideas to start the conversation with them. After all, they will implement these new initiatives! For example, I don’t create menus and dictate what we’ll be serving—I’m not trying to make their lives difficult! I want my staff to work with me, to use their experiences and for us all to work toward goals together. I can’t say enough about my team! I’m so fortunate; I came on as director in July 2013 and have benefited from their institutional memory. I truly care about our department and the people who work here, and it’s important to me that they feel like they can come to me with their concerns—and their ideas. I don’t want them to be afraid to try new things. When an opportunity presents itself, I want them to take it! When I started work on my master’s degree, I wondered, “What am I doing?” I was state president-elect when I started, and am president now—it’s a lot of work, but it’s going to be worth it. I believe that in the end, we will always appreciate the things we choose to pursue, and regret those things we didn’t go for, and I keep that philosophy in mind when I’m setting goals. Leadership Is an Attitude When it comes to leadership, there are many directions one can go. We can attend leadership conferences and participate in sessions about leadership, but when it comes to applying what we’ve learned, we have our own approach. I’m a people person; I love to talk, and I’m not afraid to take on new challenges. A positive attitude can have a huge impact on your chances of success, so I try to approach life with that in mind. I want to monitor my attitude and help those around me to do the same. Believing in the capabilities and possibilities of others is important. Sometimes, people don’t believe in themselves until someone else sees their potential and puts that “bug in their ear.” It might not happen overnight, but you need to be persistent. Ask someone to consider trying something new and remind them that you have confidence in their abilities. At some point, they will realize, “Hey, maybe I can do that!”—all because someone else believed in them. I think that’s where my leadership qualities come from; having 100% supportive parents who were there for me no matter what I wanted to do in my education or career. I try to follow their example and be a listening ear, asking others, “What I can do to help you achieve your goals?” This is another way of being a leader. Yelling at people when they make a mistake doesn’t fix the problem, and it doesn’t make either of us feel better. I prefer to work together as a team to correct mistakes. I also try to keep things in perspective. We always laugh, because Brookings is the seventh-largest school district in South Dakota, but when we go to SNA conferences, we’re one of the smallest districts in attendance! The Magic of Mentors SNA President-Elect Gay Anderson is wonderful. She has been an amazing mentor to me, and I’m so fortunate to benefit from her experiences and her example. I’m also lucky to have great administrators in my own district, and I can always turn to them for help, too. I can’t say enough about my parents and their leadership example. They taught me to be open to new things, because you never know what you might get out of an experience. Those little life lessons were so important, and they still guide me today. I take every opportunity as a learning opportunity. Whether I’m at a conference or in a meeting with my managers or just walking through the kitchen, I’m trying to build relationships, so we are always working better together. 30-SECOND BIO CHILDHOOD HOMETOWN Worthington, Minnesota CURRENT HOMETOWN Brookings, South Dakota YEARS IN SCHOOL NUTRITION 5 EDUCATION B.S. Nutrition & Food Science, Dietetic Specialization, South Dakota State University; currently pursuing an M.S. in Nutrition & Exercise Sciences, with a Certificate in Transdisciplinary Child Obesity Prevention, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine PROGRAM AT A GLANCE 33 staff at 6 school sites, serving lunch and breakfast to 3,450 students with a $1.8 million budget SNA LEADERSHIP SNA of South Dakota state president; SNA Young Professionals Task Force FAMILY Laura enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, Chad, and lives close enough to see her sister and parents often.
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