Saybrook College Associate Master Cathy Van Dyke SOM ’86 will now wear a second hat as Yale Dining’s director of residential dining, filling the vacancy left last January by Regenia Phillips.
Though Van Dyke, who was selected this month after a nationwide search, has no experience with dining services, she comes from an operations management background, having previously worked with RPM systems, a New Haven-based environmental consulting firm. Rafi Taherian, executive director of Yale Dining, said Dining administrators ultimately chose to hire Van Dyke because of her prior experience within the Yale community.
“Cathy is already embedded in the [residential] college experience and didn’t have to learn it all over,” Taherian said. “This is a huge head start.”
Van Dyke, who is the wife of Saybrook master Paul Hudak, is currently helping Ron DeSantis, Yale Dining’s director of culinary excellence, to rework the menu choices and improve healthfulness by eliminating packaged and processed food, she said. The director of residential dining also acts as an interface between residential dining, the Yale College Council, residential college masters and deans and the Yale College Dean’s Office, Van Dyke said, so she hopes to “ensure communication is there.”
As she settles into her new role, Van Dyke plans to meet with all residential college dining hall workers and dining hall managers, she said. She added that she intends to develop specific goals and initiatives with each dining hall.
Before beginning her post at Yale Dining on Aug. 20, Van Dyke chaired the service committee for the Council of Masters, which handles residential college interactions with grounds, facilities, dining and transportation services. Through her work with the committee, Van Dyke said, she became close with Taherian, who encouraged her to apply for the position.
Van Dyke said the move is a return to her “operational roots,” where she specialized in manufacturing and process improvement. Because residential college dining involves taking a recipe and making it identical on a large scale, she added, her skills are tailored well to her new role.
“Yale Dining isn’t your typical operation, so it’s exciting to tackle the complexity of it,” she said.
Jonathan Edwards dinning hall worker Connie Ellison-Douglass said she met Van Dyke briefly at a meeting last week and thinks Van Dyke “seems like she’s willing to get to know people.” Ellison-Douglass added that she hopes Van Dyke will focus on creating a wider variety of food options for students.
“I think the food quality is good,” she said, “but no offense, everything is curry.”
After leaving her post at Yale, Phillips now works with Aramark as general manager of nutrition services at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.