Ashley Decker is a 2018 IFMA Education Foundation scholarship recipient. She attends the Niagara University and is majoring in Food and Consumer Packaged Good Marketing. Find out what she had to say when we asked her a few questions about her foodservice scholarship and future career.
What is your major & what made you decide on it?
I am enrolled in the Food and Consumer Packaged Good Marketing Program. I was in the general Marketing Program when I first started at Niagara, and they introduced the Food and CPG Program my sophomore year. The presentation I attended to learn about the program was what convinced me this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was fascinated by the food service side of marketing and how a majority of the jobs in the marketing field come from consumer brands and food. The Buffalo-Niagara region is home to some of the top companies in this sector and has endless internship and job opportunities so I knew I would be getting real world experiences
from this program.
How has your scholarship enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
This scholarship means the world to me. I have a sister who also is enrolled in this program at Niagara University. When it comes time to pay tuition, my family gets to do it twice. So to have this help is a huge blessing. It also reassures me that I have people who believe in me and my future in this industry so it makes me want to work that much harder.
What was your first job in foodservice?
I started as cashier at a local hot dog stand when I was 15. Since then I have worked in other restaurants in various positions so I have been able to experience many different aspects of food service.
What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
I would love to be a marketing manager at a well established company. I am very passionate about innovation in the industry and as a marketing manager I would be able to use that innovation and create new products that meet consumer needs.
What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
My entire education is an asset I will bring with me to the industry. My professors all have real world experience in foodservice and I will use their past success's and failure's to my advantage. Their stories help give me a picture of what day to day work is like in the industry and to me, it does not sound like work, but something that I will enjoy.
What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
I believe that one major challenge is getting real world experience. The classroom gives us the knowledge we need however we do not get the chance to apply that knowledge until we are in a job setting. Having more experiences outside of the classroom is imperative to this education. Niagara's program is new however the professors are making sure we have more and more of these opportunities available.
Do you have mentor? How have they helped you?
My mentor is Dr. Peggy Choong. She has been an invaluable asset as I am completing my education. I have taken every course she teaches because her knowledge and insights help expand my mind outside the classroom. She has been instrumental in helping me get my foot in the door at major companies. Her investment in my education is incredible. She has taken me to the Private Label Manufacturing Association Trade Show which opened my eyes to the private label side of the industry. She recommended me for my internship position, and for this scholarship. She believes in my passion and future and the relationship I have created with her is one I hope to continue for years to come. I cannot thank her enough for everything she has done for me.
What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is something my mom has made me since I was young. She makes a delicious turkey tetrazzini. I have asked for it since I was little and I cannot wait to be able to make it for my own children some day.
What companies have you worked at for internships?
I currently have extended my summer internship at Rich Product's into the fall. I am working with the Foodservice Pizza team.
About The IFMA Education Foundation
The IFMA Education Foundation promotes the next generation of foodservice leaders. The Foundation is committed to give qualified culinary, marketing or food science students support toward completion of education requirements. Over the years, we've accomplished our goal by providing scholarships, publications, educational programs, internships and stipends to accredited institutions and individuals enrolled in accredited institutions.
Do you want to support the next generation of foodservice by making a donation to IFMA's Education Foundation?
Contact us at IFMA@ifmaworld.com.