UD's 2014-15 Aramark Scholars

Aramark Scholar profiles

Hands-on internships transform HRIM students' careers


9:29 a.m., June 29, 2015--Each year, a group of University of Delaware hotel, restaurant and institutional management (HRIM) students are selected for unique internship experiences as Aramark Scholars.

The Aramark Scholars program, made possible by a generous gift from Aramark Educational Services, is designed to engage and educate the University’s best HRIM students, while providing them with exposure to Aramark’s operations and management.

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Aramark Scholars teach classes, train their peers and perfect their management skills in UD’s student-operated gourmet restaurant, Vita Nova. The scholars also tour Aramark headquarters and meet with company leaders, including vice president of global risk control and UD alumnus Allan Fernandes.

“Aramark Scholars enrich the HRIM students’ learning experiences in the fall and spring semesters during the Vita Nova lunch and dinner classes,” said Sheryl Kline, chair of the HRIM department. "This program integrates industry into the curriculum and provides a high-impact learning experience for our Aramark Scholars and all the students in the Vita Nova courses.”

Aramark Scholars are selected through a rigorous interview process designed to identify prospective future leaders in the highest level of the industry. Each semester, five students are selected for a total of 10 students each year.  

Each of the Aramark Scholars who participated during the 2014-15 academic year said that these new experiences helped to set the trajectories of their future careers.

Steven Villada

For his Aramark Scholars internship, 2014 HRIM graduate Steven Villada also managed students working in Vita Nova.

“I helped train them as they transitioned into new positions and guided them throughout service, answering any questions they had along the way,” Villada said.

Today, Villada has continued his work for Aramark as food service manager for Cisco Systems in San Jose, California, where he will soon take the role of food service director. 

He said that his career trajectory “goes to show what opportunity for growth and development there is within Aramark.” 

And it all started, he said, with the Aramark Scholars program, which helped him to develop his management style and “learn what it takes to become an effective manager in a food service environment.” 

“I don't believe that I would be where I am now without the help of the program,” Villada said.

Alison Sprong

HRIM student Alison Sprong said that her work as an Aramark Scholar “changed my perspective on what I want to do with my life.”

Before participating in the program, Sprong said, “I had my blinders on to be a pastry chef.”

But as an Aramark Scholar, Sprong was responsible for all of the hot food on the lunch buffet each day and guiding students through the preparation process.

“Watching my students grow and learn was the best part for me,” Sprong said, calling these developing relationships a transformative experience.

“It’s an honor to be called a chef,” Sprong said. “That’s a title you have to earn. When the students started calling me ‘chef,’ that changed my entire perspective on the major. That was a turning point for me.”

Now Sprong is interested in working as a head chef or sous chef, managing others in a fast-paced environment, and in someday opening her own rustic Italian restaurant. She plans to continue her work with Aramark as a student manager.

Tracy Kao

2015 HRIM graduate Tracy Kao spent her Aramark Scholars internship as Vita Nova’s social media manager intern, working with the latest technology on projects like creating a Vita Nova smartphone app.

“The Aramark Scholars program definitely helped me to get hands-on experience,” Kao said. “It broadened my perspective as I was able to use computer software that I had never used before and become more familiar with it.”

Kao plans to work in marketing for the hospitality industry, and she said that completing the Aramark Scholars program makes her feel more prepared for that career.

“My favorite part about the Aramark Scholars Program is that even though it’s a school program, it’s also a real job,” Kao said. “I'm able to learn from my professors and apply what they teach.” 

Brittany Kirnum

For Brittany Kirnum, the Aramark Scholars program allowed her to test her artistic skills in new ways.

Kirnum is passionate about baking and loves to create visual art. Working as a lunch buffet manager at Vita Nova, she said, helped her to expand those interests and gave her “a different view of how the restaurant industry works.”

“At Vita Nova I realized how much fun cooking is,” Kirnum said. “That was exciting and new for me, so I’m looking more into cooking now instead of just baking.”

She said that she also enjoyed learning to manage students during her time as an Aramark Scholar.

“I took away how to teach while working with people at different levels,” she said. “That was one of my favorite parts of working in the kitchen: helping other people and getting them excited about what they were doing as well.”

Kirnum is continuing her work with Aramark as a student manager at Pencader dining hall, and is looking into other internships with Aramark in the future. She hopes to someday utilize her art and entrepreneurial studies minors to open her own bakery making creative cupcakes and cakes. 

Miriam Hughes

“In the service industry, everyone can be your friend,” said HRIM student Miriam Hughes of her experiences as an Aramark Scholar.

“I made so many more friends this semester, and have loved sharing my front of the house knowledge at Vita Nova with them.” 

Hughes, who is interested in event planning and management, said that her work as front of the house student manager reminded her to stay open to new opportunities and taught her new skills. 

“Leading a pre-shift meeting seems like a breeze when you’re attending, but I’ve learned how to phrase questions, maintain Vita Nova Standards and teach a lesson that prepares my peers for a day of lunch service,” Hughes said.

“We really take the time to learn about professionalism and setting specific standards for the way to treat others,” she continued. “I value the information that I’ve been learning in this program, as it is also applicable to living a successful life.”  

Rosemarie Pagano

2015 HRIM graduate Rosemarie Pagano said that being an Aramark Scholar allowed her to share her passion for cooking with her peers. 

“I love to be in the kitchen,” Pagano said. “I enjoy helping, mentoring and sometimes even positively influencing my peers and coworkers by encouraging them to further explore their passion for the kitchen.”

And Pagano’s devotion is certainly paying off. In August, she will attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in California.

“Being an Aramark Scholar is an honor to me,” Pagano said. “I’m excited about working in this field, and I’m grateful to do something I love so much.”

Rachel Overstrom

Rachel Overstrom, another 2015 HRIM graduate, said that her work as an Aramark Scholar helped prepare her for her new career as assistant general manager for Le Pain Quotidien, a restaurant company in Washington, D.C. 

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity I was given to be an Aramark Scholar,” Overstrom said. “It gave me the chance to gain managerial experience in a teaching environment where I was able to learn and grow with the students.”

Being an Aramark Scholar, she continued, “allowed me to implement what I’ve been learning for the past four years, and gain valuable experiences that I can use in my life after college.”

Article by Sunny Rosen

Photo by Lane McLaughlin

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