Dining & Culinary food service interns in front of the Purdue Memorial Union arch.

Dining & Culinary summer food service interns, from left: Haley Gill, Maddy Bates, Kena Phimmasen, Jess Laures, Kaitlan Tracy and Grace Van Meter.

Purdue Dining & Culinary hosted six students from universities across the country for a 10-week summer food service internship, which provided participants with experiential learning opportunities on and off campus. 

Interns gained hands-on experience in Earhart Dining Court, where they worked and received training for every position up to dining court supervisor. The culmination of their work was a week of staff relief as dining court supervisors. The internship combined this experience with a series of lunch-and-learns with food service professionals and culinary expeditions, where students visited different organizations and businesses to learn about their operations.

Molly Winkeler, registered dietitian and one of the internship’s coordinators, says the overall goal of the internship is to provide participating students with a variety of experiences while giving them something tangible to put on their resume.

“We capitalized on the resume building aspect of it by thinking about how we can show students all the ways they can use their degree in areas they might not be as familiar with,” Winkeler said. 

Working in the dining courts teaches interns the various aspects of food production and provides opportunities to earn certifications and gain leadership experience. Interns completed certifications such as allergen training, ServSafe and even a knife certification.

For many interns, such as Purdue senior Kaitlan Tracy, serving as a supervisor was an eye-opening experience.

“We got to do a lot of observing of what a supervisor does in their role,” Tracy said. “Not only are you in charge of work production, but you’re also in charge of people. You’ve got to make sure everything is running smoothly, whether it’s knowing who to schedule with each other on the same station or how to fix something.” 

For Maddy Bates, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, the dining court experience was a confidence builder.

“I think people tend to sell themselves short and think they can’t do something,” Bates said. “Even with just a week’s experience of being a supervisor, I now think I can do that. Without being able to be put into a role like that, given the experience and being told to go and do, I don’t think I would be able to say I could be a supervisor.”  

Interns said they developed numerous soft skills, particularly in relating to people with varying expectations, backgrounds, personalities and levels of experience. In difficult situations, Haley Gill, a senior from Bluffton University, said that members of the Dining & Culinary staff, such as Sierra Morin, culinary coordinator, helped restore confidence in their training and knowledge.

“Sierra told us to stick up for ourselves and I think that was a big takeaway,” Gill said. “She told us we knew what we were doing, so be confident because we were where we were supposed to be.”

Lunch-and-learns included visits with Sarah Johnson, former director of residential dining at Purdue, as well as a corporate dietitian from Taco Bell and numerous dietitians with varied experiences, including eating disorders, the prison system, private practices, 4-H and gluten-free products. The program also leveraged campus resources to provide interns with tours of the university’s athletic dining facilities and meet with representatives from Purdue’s coordinated program for dietetics.

Culinary expeditions took interns away from campus to various businesses and organizations. Expeditions included visits to US Foods, Wolf’s Fine Handmade Chocolate, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, Albanese Candy Factory Outlet, Noble Coffee & Tea Company and The Homestead. Winkeler and Gretchen Jewell, associate director of auxiliary dining services and co-coordinator of the internship program, leveraged their networks as well as those of colleagues in Dining & Culinary to book visits. While the culinary expeditions created opportunities for the interns to have fun, the focuses of each trip were seeing what goes on behind the scenes, speaking to food service professionals and gaining exposure to a new part of the industry.

Food service interns enjoyed a visit to Albanese Candy Factory Outlet in Merrillville, Indiana.

Food service interns enjoyed a visit to Albanese Candy Factory Outlet in Merrillville, Indiana.

Kena Phimmasen, an intern who is studying dietetics at Ball State, says hearing about the educational background of food service professionals was eye-opening. Phimmasen says she now plans to seek a Master of Business Administration in addition to her dietetics degree.

“A lot of the people we met had master’s that weren’t even nutrition related,” Phimmasen said. “I think it’s interesting to see that there are so many pathways. This internship has been a very diversified experience because, even though it’s based on dietetics and food service, we all still have our own little niche that we’d like to follow and we’ve been able to meet with someone or have some sort of experience connected to the pathways that we are most interested in.” 

Several interns, including Grace Van Meter, a senior from Mississippi State, remarked that they felt more empowered to make decisions in their future careers – especially when it comes to asking for opportunities. VanMeter cited the lunch and learn with Taco Bell dietitian Missy Schaaphook and conversations with Jewell and Winkeler as eye-opening.

“Missy went to her supervisor and told them that Taco Bell could really benefit from her role in becoming a dietitian,” Van Meter said. “That really opened my eyes into thinking I could create my own job if I see a need. I can use my degree in a corporate position and a corporate place. Those conversations, and talking with Molly and Gretchen about their roles, made me realize I can do things myself. I can apply dietetics to the business side and form a career for myself. That has really sparked my interest in doing more community nutrition, but in a white-collar sort of company.”

Jewell said that this networking aspect of the internship is crucial.

“A lot of these businesses are stories of people,” Jewell said. “It’s about hearing from a woman who was in a high-powered position, decided it wasn’t for her, made a change and now owns a business. It’s her story and we’re allowing it to be presented to these interns who have their whole lives ahead of them. These parts of the experience might not be nutrition-focused, but these are the pieces that are going to mean something to them in the future." 


Interns tour Wolf's Fine Handmade Chocolate

Interns tour Wolf's Fine Handmade Chocolate in West Lafayette.

Interns said that they found the peer networking aspect of the internship as beneficial as meeting professionals. Whether it was going to Turkey Run State Park or Tropicanoe Cove, or simply having peers their own age to relate to, interns say they created a tight bond.

“I think the professional connections are a big takeaway, but having five other connections to people that are going through the same thing you are is very nice,” Gill said. “I think it will be cool to have these five girls to talk with about what we’re going through as we graduate.” 

Summer 2022 interns included:

  • Haley Gill, Bluffton University
  • Maddy Bates, University of Wisconsin – Stout
  • Kaitlan Tracy, Purdue University
  • Grace Van Meter, Mississippi State University
  • Kena Phimmasen, Ball State University
  • Jess Laures, Iowa State University

Purdue Dining & Culinary is fueling the future and building a community where everyone has a seat at the table. By crafting a residential dining experience and fostering community building, Dining & Culinary provides an essential support system for the well-being of students, with compassion that goes beyond the meal. As champions of each step Boilermakers take on their academic journeys and the student experience, Dining & Culinary offers student employment and cocurricular learning opportunities for students to practice communication, leadership, decision making, problem-solving and teamwork while preparing for successful careers.   

Writer: Matt Vader | Editors: Tammy Loew, Renee Kashawlic, Danielle Fawbush

Editorial Board: Barb Frazee, Tammy Loew, Renee Kashawlic | Inquiries Contact: studentlifemarketing@purdue.edu

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