Who knew someone with a background in corporate banking would go on to explore culinary arts, philanthropy and law school? All of these things would not be possible for Anna Powell had she not gotten her start at Ivy Tech Community College. Anna is a 2014 Ivy Tech graduate with an associate degree in Hospitality Administration. It all began when she found out her job was changing during the financial crisis in 2009. Her former employer gave her the choice to move to a location in Ohio or take a severance. Anna chose to stay in her area and take the severance, but after a year knew it wasn’t right for her. After weighing some options she chose to move to Indianapolis from her home in Vicksburg, Michigan.
After her move, Anna became involved with Dress for Success, a group that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, attire and development tools. During her time there, she attended a speaking session that talked about living your passion. She walked out knowing she had to accomplish her dream of going to culinary school. Anna then took Second Helpings’ 10-week culinary job training program and graduated in July 2011. She immediately started working as a sous chef at a downtown Indianapolis restaurant. Anna loved the job, but wanted even more—which is when she began to look further into culinary school. However, as a first generation student, she hadn’t thought culinary school could be possible, as she didn’t know about student loans or financial aid.
During her search, Anna knew some of the schools would leave her with over $40,000 in debt, which was not feasible for the type of job she would have after graduation. Between that and the opportunities available through Ivy Tech, she knew it was the right fit for her.
While she was in school, Anna appreciated all the help Ivy Tech offered. As a non-traditional student coming back, everything had changed since she had been in high school. Ivy Tech helped her with the transition, writing, tutoring and much more. She spent much of her time volunteering and was the American Culinary Federation student chapter president. Anna was also involved with Ivy Tech’s TRIO Student Support Services Program, which provides support to first-generation, low-income students and disabled students.
In addition, Anna took part in the Hospitality Administration’s annual trip to France. Students are chosen based on a point system that looks at grade point average, volunteer experience and more. She had never been overseas before and said it was a life changing experience for her. Once she got back, she realized the entire world was open to her and she could do anything she wanted.
Since graduating, Anna has become the chef and catering manager for Ivy Tech’s Courses Catering, which serves both internal and external clients. She was hired on as a student and the role progressed. Anna manages a small staff and catering team that prepares everything and handles events from start to finish. Courses Catering can have up to five events in a week so she meets with the staff to arrange them around their work, school and family schedules. She said loves how the students take charge and she can rely on them to help execute flawless events.
Her favorite part of the job? Pitching menus to clients. “I have a standardized menu that people can choose from but some people want me to create something for them,” she said. “I love making recipes, finding what they love and incorporating it into the event.” When it comes to memorable events, Anna is honored when someone asks them to cater their wedding.
“It is such a huge day in people’s lives and it’s so memorable.”
Clients love how she can be flexible and work with them on their menu. For one of the weddings she catered, the bride originally came to her because she heard she could have anything they wanted. When Anna asked what the couple enjoyed to eat, the bride responded that they really liked pizza. Anna immediately began to think how they could elevate pizza. She worked with her staff and they made delicious upscale pizzas and served them to each table on butler carts.
For those considering going back to school, and for those who want to eventually obtain a bachelor’s degree, Anna recommends those students choose Ivy Tech because of the great transfer opportunities. She also notes the affordability.
“You’re not going to leave with surmounting debt. Even if you came here for a couple years and then went to IUPUI, you would not leave with much debt,” she explained.
Anna’s goals do not stop with her time at Courses Catering. As of fall 2016, she is currently studying philanthropy at IUPUI’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. While she studies, she also has an internship with the Ivy Tech Foundation. Once she graduates, she plans on taking the LSAT and going to law school in 2017. “Ivy Tech opened doors for me,” Anna said. “When I was younger, I would take a job on salary. Now, it’s been the other way around and makes for a more joyful week. I enjoy what I do and I love being here.”
For more on Anna, check out the article “Indy chef to cook Thanksgiving feast at Standing Rock, ” by Indianapolis news station WISH TV from Thanksgiving 2016.
Anna was also a recipient of the 2017 William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion. This award honors IUPUI graduates who have excelled in their commitment to the community through activities such as service learning, volunteerism, community and social issue advocacy and more.