Staff Spotlight: Karen Bolser

Karen Bolser and her husband were living in Sunman, Indiana when a farm became available for sale just 50 minutes north in the town of Liberty. They visited the farm, bought it, moved in and have been happily living there since 1995.

“Both my husband and I grew up on a farm, so it wasn’t like it was a new thing to either one of us,” said Bolser. “Doing it ourselves was new. It was a lot of trial and error, but we managed.”

The farm has seen its fair share of changes over the past 21 years or so. Bolser is now a mother of three kids, and the farm is home to a wide range of animals including 25 heads of cattle, cows, four dogs, several cats, chickens, a horse and a goose. Between the animals and just over 80 acres of land devoted to corn and hay, Bolser and her family enjoy the busy farm lifestyle.

“We like spending time with the animals. We have all of our cows named. We call them and they come to eat,” said Bolser. “I like spending time with the kids and my husband and doing things as a family that way. Our farm is really a family affair. It’s just what we’ve done. We’ve taught the kids that it takes everybody to make it work, just like it does here.”

Bolser serves as the general manager of Harris Dining Center for Miami University dining services where she is responsible for various duties including monitoring food costs, staffing and other tasks to ensure the operation runs smoothly. Much like how teamwork is so important on the farm, Bolser emphasizes teamwork with the Harris dining staff.

“It takes everyone in this building to make this work. There isn’t one person who’s any more important than anyone else, and I make sure I convey that to them,” said Bolser. “I really believe you can’t run any operation without recognizing that every person is important.”

While Bolser has always sought opportunities to help others, she hasn’t always worked in food. Bolser grew up in southeast Indiana and attended Indiana State University, earning a degree in nutrition while minoring in chemistry. After college, Bolser worked in healthcare outside of Cincinnati before taking a managerial role with Miami’s dining services in 1998. Since then, Bolser has worked across campus at Harris, Alexander, Western, Armstrong and Maplestreet, before returning to Harris in her current position.

Even before getting a job at Miami, Bolser enjoyed working with food. As a child, she would watch her mom bake and cook at home, which helped cultivate an interest in food preparation. Bolser also was involved in 4-H growing up where she made different foods and performed related demonstrations.

“When I graduated high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I got involved in nutrition. If I had to do it over, I would probably do things differently, but I know I would still be in food service,” said Bolser. “I’ve always enjoyed cooking and being around people. I just enjoy it.”

Now, Bolser works with a full-time manager, a part-time manager, her full-time staff and her student employees to provide top-notch food service to guests at Harris Dining Center. She enjoys building relationships with them and doing her part to set them up for success. The real reward for Bolser is when all the hard work pays off.

“The most exciting part of the job is when the students we’re serving are happy and pleased with what we’ve done, and when the staff is pleased with the outcome of their work,” said Bolser. “I think it’s all very exciting. When the staff feels accomplished, that makes me feel accomplished.”

Teamwork is essential to Bolser. Whether it’s getting through chores on the farm, or preparing for meal service at Harris, Bolser preaches the value of working together and leaning on one another to be successful.

“I enjoy sharing positive feedback with all the staff because they’re the ones who do it,” said Bolser. “I would rather be the person who is behind everyone else because I’m not the one who makes this work. My staff is, and it makes me proud when they do well and get recognized.”

The Hard Questions

Favorite dish to prepare? To eat?

Prepare – The portobello asparagus penne pasta with the herbed cream cheese in it. That’s one of my favorites and the kids love it. I also enjoy baking. I like to bake from scratch, particularly cakes. I’m not a great pie baker, but that’s because of the crust. Me and the crust, we just don’t get along. We never have.

Eat – I’d have to go with the portobello asparagus penne pasta because the whole family really likes it. When you go through all that work, you want your kids to eat it, so that makes me happy.

What’s something that’s on your bucket list?

I want to go to Alaska and go on a cruise there. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska. I don’t know why, but I think that would be interesting to do.

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

The most important thing I’ve learned in the last five years is not to take things for granted and make sure you spend time with people who matter to you. I’d also say to always try to do the right thing and stand up for what you believe in.

What would you want to be famous for?

I don’t want to be famous. I want the people around me to succeed and for me to help them get there. I would want my kids to succeed and for me to play a part in helping them get where they want to be and do what they want to do with their lives. I’d love to be a part of all that.

When are you happiest?

I’m happy at work and enjoy being at work. I’m happy at home when everyone’s together. I’m happy when I’m alone at home and when I’m just doing stuff at home.

What kitchen appliance are you and why?

I guess I would have to say a Kitchen Aid mixer because it’s sturdy, it’s strong and it gets the job done.

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

Well, I’d have to bring a good book to read, otherwise I might get a little bored. I guess I’d have to bring a fishing pole and some way to start a fire, so maybe matches or some flint.

Cat or dog? I’m going to have to say cats. I think that’s because they’re more independent and don’t need as much attention as a dog needs.

Cake or pie? Cake.

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