September 26, 2011
Debbie Conrad: Catering to VSU's Success
VALDOSTA -- Deborah “Debbie” Conrad has observed Valdosta State
University’s catering department evolve into an elite dining
service over the past two decades.
“When I first came to the college, catering was pretty basic,” she said. “We only served food in Palms Dining Center then. From Palms to the University Center and then the Student Union, catering has expanded and continues to expand. We now have catering vehicles and not only serve the university, but several schools, businesses and organizations in the community.”
Conrad initially worked as an assistant to the director of dining from 1984 to 1990. She then moved to Europe with her husband, a retired airman in the U.S. Air Force, for three years. She returned to then-Valdosta State College in 1993 as an administrative secretary in dining, and quickly advanced to director of catering. She has served as director for 18 years.
Conrad oversees planning for events that include catering services, maintains the catering budget and manages the schedules for chefs, dining staff and student servers. Events range from basic breakfast and coffee service to cookouts and black tie dinners.
“Because every event is unique, every day on the job is different, exciting and challenging in some way. In catering, our world changes with a phone call.”
Conrad’s dedication and commitment to providing quality dining services for the university and community were recently rewarded when she received the 2011 Excellence in Service for Classified Staff award at this year’s convocation.
“To me, the award really validates where I am in my career. I was surprised to be nominated and chosen for this award. I really care about the VSU administration, faculty, staff and students, and to know that they appreciate the work that I do is an honor. I’ve lived all over with my husband being in the military, but Valdosta has become my home and the VSU community has become a part of my family.”
Conrad said that she is proud of several accomplishments in her career, but she is most proud of the impact her job has on the students she works with daily.
“The students who work in catering and dining services get firsthand knowledge of how to oversee events, deal with dignitaries and business leaders and take initiative. No matter where they go in life, they can always apply what they learn from working here. The experience really opens their eyes to another side of campus.”
Conrad said she plans to continue to evolve with the campus as it grows.
“It has been a wild ride, but catering never stops. I’m prepared to face the challenges that come with growth and interesting to see the direction in which catering moves at VSU.”