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Rachel Larson is a 2017 International Gold & Silver Plate Society stipend recipient. She attends Oklahoma State University and is majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management. 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 currently studying Hospitality and Tourism Management with a Minor in Entrepreneurship. I originally chose to study Hospitality and Tourism because my true passion is people. I believe the hospitality industry has a unique opportunity to create relationships, serve others, and allows individuals to make an impact all over the world. When deciding to pursue the hospitality industry, it was a no brainer. I loved the the fact that my major allows me to take my passion for culinary arts, and combine it with my passion to serve individuals.

How has your stipend enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
This stipend will not only help me while I am in college, but it will also alleviate financial stress after graduation. Receiving the stipend will reduce the amount of loans I must take out during my last year of college which will help reduce my debt after graduation. I am currently independent from my parents and work year round in order to pay for my tuition and fulfill any other financial needs. This stipend helps me focus more  on extracurricular actives that help me grow as a young professional, due to the fact I do not have to commit as much time to work. On top of that, I am currently interning and studying abroad in China, and while I received scholarships that have made this opportunity possible, I am currently not making a steady income which has put stress on my finances for the upcoming semester. However, this stipend is allowing me to get a head start on next semesters tuition, and is allowing me to feel less stress when it comes to finances for my last semester of college.

What was your first job in foodservice?
My first job in the hospitality industry was at a local golf course located in Overland Park, Kansas. I was a sophomore in High School and I worked as a server for their special events and banquets department. I primarily worked weddings and golf tournaments, however, I had the opportunity to work wedding showcases along with a variety of small events.

What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
My dream job after graduation would be to open up my own cafe and use it as a transitioning program for homeless men and women who are stuck in poverty. My newest idea is creating a resource center that would be connected to the Cafe. The Cafe would serve as a learning lab, while the rest of the center would provide resume building, general hygiene, mock interviews, etc. We would also allow the individuals who are partaking in the program to use the Centers address as their permanent address, as most individuals are required to have an address when applying for jobs. We would focus on cultivating community and empowering individuals to break the cycle of poverty by giving opportunity to reenter the work force.

What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
Throughout my college career, I have had the honor of participating in a wide variety of leadership roles within my major. Through these positions I have learned communication, time management, delegation, and have found my voice as a leader. I have achieved a better understanding of what it takes to be a manager and I am grateful to have had such challenging and empowering positions to help me develop as a young professional. I have been able to identify strengths and weakness within myself, which has helped me determine what I can bring to future employers, while determining which characteristics I still need to work on. Since being abroad, I have been able to recognize how lucky I am to have a university such as Oklahoma State, which has provided me an education I am proud of. I have been able to utilize the skills and knowledge I have gained from my school, and apply it to my current internship. Through my internship, I have been able to recognize opportunities within the workforce that I would not be able to identify if I had not received training and knowledge from the Hospitality and Tourism Management program at Oklahoma State University.

What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
I believe an ongoing challenge most students face is the fact that our industry takes a lot of dedication and time. Students need to make sure they are truly passionate about our industry, and willing to put in the long hours if they want to avoid burn out. While the first years may be very demanding, you can often establish strong roots ad work up quickly if you are willing to dedicate time and persevere through the extensive hours. On top of of that, there are many new concepts and trends starting to arise within the food and beverage industry. Students need to be keeping up with the trends and foreseeing future trends. Many customer's expect more then a meal, they really want an experience. As young professionals we need to be thinking about how we will make our businesses unique, and how we will be able to sustain a long lasting business.

Do you have mentor? How have they helped you?
I currently do not have one specific mentor within the Hospitality Industry. However, my professors Dar Yasseri, Dr. David Davis, and Dr. Steve Ruby have been key leaders who I have looked up too, and have sought out for professional advice for classes, leadership roles, and future internships.

What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal would have to be my moms Chicken Almandine with Rice or Ree Drummond's Baked Potato soup.

What companies have you worked at for internships?
I am currently interning as a manager in training for Hilton Nanjing Riverside, located in Nanjing China. This program is a six month internship and study abroad program. Prior to this, I served as a High School and Middle School Summer Youth intern at Community Covenant Church located in Lenexa, Kansas.

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.