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Byrdie Thagard is a 2019 IFMA Education Foundation scholarship recipient. She attends the 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 and honestly, I was lucky to sort of fall into it. My first year of school I started in advertising and quickly realized that was not a great fit for me. So I talked to some family and friends and someone brought up hospitality. At that time, I had no idea that was something I could go to school for. That summer I took an introduction to hospitality course and completely loved it. After that, I fully committed and one thing led to another – here I am today.

How has your scholarship enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
My scholarship will greatly affect my career. Receiving this scholarship will allow me to quickly pay off my student loans and smoothly transition into life post-graduation. This decrease in financial burden will allow me to move and get a place of my or possibly stay closer to home and pursue a master’s program.

What was your first job in foodservice?
My first job in hospitality was actually as a hostess in high school. This job taught me how to be organized, forward-thinking, and to have poise under pressure. I believe that learning these traits early on has played a huge part in the successes I have had.

What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
I’m not sure what exactly my “dream job” looks like but I know it would entail helping the foodservice industry transform into being more sustainable while also helping bring healthy, whole food to all people.

What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
I think one of the biggest things I have learned from my time working in foodservice is how to be forward-thinking. So much is changing in foodservice and in the food industry and it’s crucial to be continuously looking forward. I know that this skill will allow me to be a part of positive change.

What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
I think some personal challenges I have faced are those that come with being a woman. I have found that more often than not the back of house is ruled by more men than women. Working in sales this summer I sometimes experienced the feeling of not being taken seriously because I was a girl. While this feeling is extremely frustrating it pushed me to work not only harder but smarter.

Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you?
I have been lucky enough to have a handful of mentors throughout my career. My most recent mentor was my manager in my last internship. He taught me lots about sales, how to be ethical and a lot of lessons. What I think he helped me in the most though was asserting myself in the workplace and how to gain confidence in selling.

What is your favorite meal?
My everyday go-to-meal would easily be a spicy tuna roll but my favorite meal I have ever had would be at this tiny hole in the wall Italian place when I was in Italy. My friends and I were treated like queens while being wined and dined. On top of the incredible service, the food was something sent from the heavens. It was an experience I’ll remember for a lifetime.

What companies have you worked at for internships?
I was a Food & Beverage Intern at Aspen Meadows Resort & Hospitality Territory Sales Intern a Ecolab.

About The IFMA Education Foundation

The IFMA Education Foundation promotes the next generation of foodservice leaders. The Foundation is committed to giving 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.

About People Future 2025 

The IFMA Education Foundations new industry initiative, focused on attracting the best and brightest talent into the foodservice industry. Click here to learn more.

How to help the next generation of foodservice!

  • Support the IFMA Education Foundation by making a donation
  • Get involved in the People Future 2025 initiative

Contact us at IFMA@IFMAworld.com.