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Student Workers Grow Professional, Personal Skills with Dining & Culinary

View of Cary Quad from across Stadium Avenue in the Spring

There are many different avenues to leadership positions with Purdue Dining & Culinary.

For Noor Elmhadi, student human resources manager at Ford Dining Court, the process started as a mandate from her parents to replace her off-campus job with an on-campus position. She began her employment in Dining & Culinary through the Jumpstart program, which allows students to move in to their residence hall six days before Boiler Gold Rush, receive training and start their jobs early.

I’ve made such great friends and they’ve honestly helped me through some of the toughest times of my life.

“I thought with everyone’s first job experiences, you’re going to be miserable and that’s just how it is,” says Elmahdi, a senior studying psychology. “Then, I worked at Ford and thought oh my gosh, I don’t have to be miserable at work! I’ve made such great friends and they’ve honestly helped me through some of the toughest times of my life.”

Townsend Lambert, a supervisor-in-training at Ford, initially applied to Dining & Culinary at the recommendation of a friend. He found that he loved the job almost immediately.

“This was the first job I’d ever worked,” says Lambert, who is double-majoring in building information modeling and virtual product integration. “I came in and didn’t know where to go, but I got walked around the dining court, got introduced to so many people and had a great time. I came back, I made friends with my supervisors and they would teach me some things about improving myself and my skills and help me to become whatever I wanted to do.”

As students progress as employees, they are eligible to apply for leadership positions in Dining & Culinary including supervisor and manager roles. In Elmahdi’s current role as student human resources managers, she is responsible for hiring, scheduling and training more than 100 employees in addition to serving as a mediator and first point of contact for student employees at Ford. She says she’s found the position to be a strong fit.

“Throughout my promotion experience, I’ve realized that I really enjoy working with people,” says Elmahdi. “I like finding ways to figure out how to make the best positive work environment for students. I like working with students. I like thinking creatively in how to solve different problems because I love the job so much. I really want other people to get the experience that I’m getting right now.”

Lambert says the supervisor position was recommended to him by his previous supervisors, who thought he would be a good fit. He says he’s found leadership roles to his liking.

“I saw the kind of work they did, where they go around and help everyone,” says Lambert. “I really liked the idea of that. I also really liked the idea of being able to manage and teach the new people. I really enjoy helping people enjoy it as much as I do.”

I’ve been working a lot on my leadership skills as well, which is something you can transfer to any job.

Throughout their time in Dining & Culinary, Elmahdi and Lambert each say they have built important skills that transfer to other aspects of their lives.

“This helps me a lot with my communication skills,” says Lambert. “I’m still working on it, but I think that as a supervisor-in-training I’ve been working a lot on my leadership skills as well, which is something you can transfer to any job.”

“I think the biggest skill for me would be confidence,” says Elmahdi. “When I first started off at Ford Dining Court, I would speak one sentence and that would be it. Throughout the years, my promotions and leadership positions have really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, be confident and also be a good leader.”

Though the avenues to their respective positions have been different, the constant theme Elmahdi and Lambert come back to is their love for the people they work with.

“My roommates right now are people I would have not met if I didn’t work at Ford,” says Elmahdi. “As someone with a lot of social anxiety, getting the opportunity to work at Ford and meeting these kinds of coworkers has really helped me build confidence and really put myself out there.”

Lambert says one of his favorite aspects of working at Ford is a post-work tradition on Mondays. Any employee who wants to join can go to buy a fountain drink from Circle K and the student employees will walk around together, hang out and see each other back to their respective residences.

“One big thing I’ve heard from people when I’ve said they should try working here is they talk about how they don’t want to work in the food industry again after working a fast food job,” says Lambert. “I make a big point that working here is nothing like that. It’s a lot more fun and I think it’s important that people know that.”

Dining & Culinary is seeking student applicants for on-campus positions this fall. Benefits include work schedules that are flexible to students’ class schedules and the convenience of working on-campus in an environment where members abide by safety measures instituted in accordance with the Protect Purdue plan. To view open positions and submit an application, visit this page.

Dining & Culinary’s mission is to nourish and inspire the Purdue community. The organization embraces a focus on co-curricular education and leadership development as an integral part of the Purdue experience. Dining & Culinary offers more than 250 internships and intentional learning opportunities as part of its commitment to partnering with Purdue students.