Staff Spotlight: Sally Shepherd

People have different ways of unwinding and relaxing outside of work. For Sally Shepherd, one outlet is being outdoors, whether through gardening or just being out in nature. Another is the various renovation projects she finds around the house, much to the dismay of her husband.

“I love to restore houses and furniture. I like to make things,” said Shepherd with a smile. “My husband gets angry with me sometimes because we live in a house built in 1849 and it is constant work, so I’ll start trying to see what’s under something and it ends up being a major project. What should have been something little turns into a big project because I started trying to find the history in things.”  

For Shepherd, casual hobbies like gardening or restoration serve as a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle that accompany her day job as an executive manager for Miami University’s dining services, overseeing the daily operations at Harris Dining Center, Western Dining Commons and Maplestreet Station.

“It takes your mind away from the daily routine,” said Shepherd. “I find myself thinking about things that happened at work, or wherever, and I can sometimes come up with solutions too. You can have that ‘aha’ moment. It’s relaxing for me.”

While birds and soil may seem like a far cry from the world of stainless steel, Shepherd believes she is drawn to both for a similar reason. She enjoys being an active participant in the growth of someone or something.

“It’s a sense of satisfaction,” said Shepherd. “Seeing things grow from a piece of bare ground and then all of a sudden to have something popping out of it is really satisfying. It’s like people. You know a student who comes in as a freshman and then you see them leaving as an adult. It is very rewarding.”  

People are a large part of her job. For Shepherd, it’s a priority and something she loves. She leads and manages her staff with the individual in mind. Anyone who has ever met her can attest to being greeted with a big smile.

“I enjoy the interaction with the customers and staff,” said Shepherd. “Food service people are special people. You have to have it in your blood. It’s different everyday and there’s never a mundane moment. I try to make everybody feel welcome.”

Shepherd didn’t always think she would spend most of her career in food service. She started in the industry at the age of 15 as a concession worker at a movie theater. It was only serving popcorn and soda pop, but it was the beginning of discovering her career path.

“It was the customer service thing that started then,” said Shepherd. “I did spend some time working for Ohio Casualty as an underwriter trainee, but it was then I decided a desk job wasn’t for me. I wanted the customer interaction and more activity in my day.”

Shepherd graduated from Miami, but took the long way back to the area. She and her husband, who is also in the food industry, moved to Cleveland, New Orleans, back to Cleveland and upstate New York before returning to Oxford.

Shepherd has worked at Miami since 2000, taking on various managerial roles in dining locations including Martin Dining Hall, Harris Dining Center, Erickson Dining Hall, Hamilton Dining Hall, King Cafe and Armstrong Student Center before being promoted to executive manager. Shepherd still moves around campus frequently, but now does so as a part of her daily rounds to her three dining locations.

“I talk with managers. I talk with the staff and see how things are going,” said Shepherd. “I just like to let them know that I care. The biggest thing with me is these people. I want to make sure they are supported. There are so many things that affect people. I try not to get involved with personal lives, but if they want to share, I’ll listen.”

Shepherd enjoys the challenges and the high-level of energy that accompany her job, but she also takes a lesson from one of her hobbies. Like with gardening, Shepherd strives to create the optimal environment for growth. For her staff, that comes through the relationships she builds, recognizing the role they play in the operation as a whole.

“I approach every one of them everyday to ask how they’re doing. I try to let them know that I am concerned not only about their work here, but for them as individuals,” said Shepherd. “We can’t do what we do without them, and I want them to know that I care.”

The Hard Questions

Favorite dish to prepare? To eat?

PrepareI love making chili. I do have good chili, I think.

EatMiami’s cavatini. Ask Helen Johnson about that. We would have cavatini at Hamilton Dining Hall. When we did, Dave Davis, Helen Johnson, myself, and a couple other managers who worked there would always have lunch together. Every time we had cavatini, Helen would tease me about how much I mounded up my plate with cavatini.

What kitchen appliance are you?

An oven because I keep things warm, and I make things happen.

What is the most important thing you have learned in the last five years?

The importance of being open to change, both at work and in my personal life.

What would you want to be famous for?

For making an operation, especially from the staff’s perspective, a place where everybody wants to work and wants to come to. I would be very happy to be famous for that.

If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring with you?

I’ve thought about this before. I would bring some type of utensil, or a pan type thing to hold water. I would also bring fishing line and a multi-tool.

If you were an animal, which would you be?

I would be a dog. I would be a faithful companion.  

What’s your favorite TV show?

Right now it has to be “The Walking Dead.”

Cat or dog? I’m a dog person.

Cake or pie? I’m more of a cake person.

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