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Theodora McKinney is a 2016 IFMA Education Foundation scholarship recipient. She attends Michigan State University and is majoring in Hospitality Business. 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?
My major is Hospitality Business. I fell in love with the science of people and the connections and impacts food and beverage can have on their experiences in life. I worked at a restaurant in high school and loved the atmosphere. Upon arriving and MSU, I found myself struggling to enjoy my chosen major and switched twice before someone I met asked, "You're hospitality business right? You have to be, you're too good with people not to pursue it!" I had not known exactly what hospitality business was and thought it was only the focus of hotels and lodging. With further research, I was able to find the perfect major and plan for the future and love of the food and beverage industry.

How has your scholarship enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
This scholarship has allowed me to further my knowledge and expand my hands on experience in food and beverage. Michigan state does not offer an in depth scope or focus on the craft beverage industry so a portion of the scholarship is helping me take courses from a certificate program on the business of craft beverage.

Along side that course, it is being put towards financing my final semester at MSU.

What was your first job in foodservice?
I was a hostess at the age of 15 at a restaurant I'd be going to since I was a child. I worked for a year until I was legally able to become a server.

What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
I would love to work in the craft brewery and brewpub industry!

What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
Throughout school, conferences, networking and social settings, I've learned that ideally, the customer is always right, but only to an extent. This is a common misconception within the hospitality field. I think it is important not only to have your consumer in mind, but also know the values of your company and employees. Being able to explain a situation or solution thoroughly to someone who is not in our industry, but able to communicate with people from all different backgrounds is important. Everyone comes from different experiences and being open to different ideas or collaborations and experiences is who our industry grows to the next level.

Additionally, sanitation within our industry is so important and can be overlooked. Not only the ethics behind it, but being able to preserve and maintain a safe foodservice environment is so critical to every position in the tier of food service. Whether you be in the manufacturing industry, delivery service or physical restaurant, every individual plays an important role in the overall goal of the foodservice industry: making sure the consumer gets a safe and delicious product in a timely manner.

What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
I think one of the largest challenges that students like myself face in today's world of foodservice is our lack of experience keeps us from obtaining positions but our strong passions to learn draw us to them. The trend of looking for individuals with exact experience is growing due to companies losing interest in the task of training and helping grow the individual.

As a student, I am not at all worried about pay when it comes to a job, but try to focus on my opportunities to learn and grow within a company. A manager or supervisor who will allow me to job shadow, attempt something and critique my work so I can gain more hands on skills, are the best type of professionals! Students are learning that not as many professionals have the interest in helping you achieve your objectives.

Do you have mentor? How have they helped you?
Yes! I have three different mentors from different segments of hospitality business.

Jade Kiosse is from the Club managers association of america and has helped me in navigating how to reach out and network, as well as, knowing what industry is right for me. Although I do not wish to go into the club segment, I am still aware of their large food and beverage options. He has helped me open my eyes to different options.

Dr. Jaemin Cha, professor at The School of Hospitality Business has helped immensely on helping and promoting my involvement in The School as well as exposing me to another side of the foodservice industry... Research and Sanitation (ServSafe).

Last but certainly not least, the wonderful John Flood. I met John Flood through IFMA during the fall and have had a great connection ever since. John is always a phone call away and is so encouraging on how to network with all levels of professionals within the segments of hospitality business. He knew of my interest in the craft beverage industry and introduced me to someone from Bell's Brewery right away. John makes every effort to help connect students like myself to the industry in whatever way possible. I have called John asking simple advice and the next thing I know, he is calling his contacts from all over the United States in order to help point me in the right direction.

What is your favorite meal?
I love a delicious Eggs Benedict with a fresh glass of juice or coffee.

What companies have you worked at for internships?
I have worked for Olga's Kitchen (Lansing, Michigan- level I) & Ausable Club (Keene Valley, New York- level II).

About 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.