How did you become interested in your major?
I had to think strategically. I had just been let go of my job in the city and found myself cooking every night as a stress reliever. I loved the hospitality industry and this was my “in.” I chose culinary arts because that is where my experience was.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue this career?
There wasn’t a single person responsible. However, my family was very supportive, and remembering how much my father loved the industry when I was a child, how my grandmother loved to bake, and the joy my late grandfather found in cooking often for many people in Atlanta helped me feel as if I was making the right decision.
Did you have to overcome any obstacles or challenges to come to the CIA?
Yes, a year ago, late winter/spring 2015, I came back to finish my associate degree. I didn’t have the funds and was completely tapped out from a previous degree. I came hoping to just find a way. I ran out of money, couldn’t get back in school, and ended up homeless, often sleeping in my car until I found a job and saved up enough money to find a place in Poughkeepsie. I kept coming back up to the school and soon began working at The Egg. Things started to look up and I was soon blessed to meet someone who would help me get over the financial hump and finish my associate degree.
Do you already have a degree from another college or did you previously have a different career?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Leadership Studies from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA.
Why did you choose the CIA?
I chose the CIA because of its connection to Cornell University. I plan on starting the Master of Management in Hospitality program next May at Cornell University. Also, this campus is beautiful and it was a stark contrast to the concrete jungle that is NYC.
What do you like best about the CIA?
I like the network that the CIA offers. It is extremely valuable if you tap into it.
What is/are the best lesson(s) you’ve learned while at the CIA or what advice would you give to new students?
I would tell a new student that this, more than anything they have done thus far, is an indication of the mantra “you get out what you put in”—not just in the classroom, but getting to know administration, other students, faculty, and staff. I’d tell them to extern somewhere that may be out of their comfort zone, somewhere that will help them begin thinking about this industry in more ways than just the kitchen.
What are your career goals or plans right after graduation?
I am lining up opportunities, interviewing in different arenas. I haven’t committed to one thing yet, but if I had it my way I’d travel the world connecting alumni and their experience at the CIA to their current culture, community, and cuisine. I believe there is a great opportunity to use multi-media platforms to highlight interesting and dynamic perspectives of what this college has offered the international hospitality industry.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering attending the CIA?
My advice to someone considering an education at the CIA is to think outside of the box. Research and find out how alumni are doing. See the different paths so many have taken. Realize the depth of the international hospitality industry and global gastronomy. Understand that cuisine is tied to cultural experiences and community building. Then look at how the CIA is moving in that same global direction. Don’t you want to be a part of that?