Uecker Gains Leadership Experience in Supervisor Roles

Ashley Uecker works as a supervisor at Lawson On-The-GO!

Ashley Uecker works as a supervisor at Lawson On-The-GO!

It didn’t take longer than a couple shifts for Ashley Uecker to be on track towards a leadership position in Purdue Dining & Culinary.  

“One of the full-time staff members who I got along with really well told me they needed to get me into a supervisor position, and I think it was only my second day,” Uecker recalls. “I just picked it up really quickly. I asked a lot of questions because I wanted to be comfortable in the role. I put myself out there and I was already getting things done without being told, helping other people and was really comfortable there.” 

Uecker went on to spend three academic years working at Central Production Kitchen (CPK), located in Meredith Residence Hall, quickly earning a student supervisor position – a role she held for about two years. Prior to attending Purdue, Uecker says she hadn’t considered working with food or in food service, but ended up carrying on what became a sort of family tradition. Her two older brothers and a cousin also worked in CPK as Purdue students.  

The student supervisor role was the first leadership experience Uecker says she had held. Veronica Tremmel, then a member of the staff at CPK, served as an important mentor during Uecker’s time at CPK.  

“I’m actually a very shy person,” Uecker says. “I’d never had any positions like that. I worked at a zoo and was a face painter during high school. I worked by myself and there was no ability to even work up to becoming a supervisor. I never considered myself for a supervisor position until it just fell into my lap and I rolled with it.” 

Uecker cites time management, teamwork, delegation and communication as the skills she has built as a supervisor.  

“I plan things out better in my head.” Uecker says. “I’ve gotten a lot better at working with people and considering what they want to do. I always start with asking what they would like to do and, if that doesn’t work out, then I don’t have a problem telling them where they need to help out.” 

Cultivating a positive work environment starts with making every member of the team feel comfortable, which Uecker says she works to create through individual attention and thorough preparation for new employees.  

“I like to give new people my own little tour,” Uecker says. “I like to explain things in my own way because, when people get thrown in, they don’t learn as quickly. I like to give a really in-depth background of what we do, where things are and how we get things done because I think that really helps people fit in better.”  

As a sophomore, Uecker gained additional leadership experience when she was asked to serve as a mentor for the Jumpstart program, which allows students to move into their residence halls and begin working before Boiler Gold Rush. The following year, Uecker served as a supervisor for several Jumpstart groups. Mentors develop close relationships with new students in one-on-one and small group settings as they help new Boilermakers transition into their jobs and life on campus.  

“We took them everywhere,” Uecker says. “They were new, about to start their freshman year of college in a place that they’d never really been, so we showed them almost every building on campus and took a look at their schedules so they’d know where to go. It meant a lot to build that really personal relationship with these students and make them feel welcome.”  

The leadership and communication skills Uecker has developed with Dining & Culinary were put to use this past summer when she served as a quality assurance intern with Indiana Packers, a pork supplier in Delphi, Indiana. In her role, Uecker had to interact with employees from different departments to ensure protocols, food safety requirements and worker safety guidelines were being met.  

“I know that I would not have thrived in that position if I hadn’t improved my communication abilities because it’s a very large facility,” Uecker says. “You have to go out of your way to get to know all of the supervisors in different areas and I know I would not have done very well if it hadn’t been for being a supervisor in Dining.”  

Uecker now serves as the student supervisor for Student Event Services, a Dining & Culinary service that helps students and staff plan and execute events. Uecker has taken the primary role in assembling and delivering Boiler Baskets, a new offering that allows individuals to send baskets of food to Purdue students. She also continues to serve as a student supervisor, now at the On-the-GO! station in Lawson Computer Science Building.  

The position at Lawson has provided new challenges for Uecker, with more customer service duties than the behind-the-scenes production work she performed and supervised in CPK.  

“At Lawson, you’re face-to-face with customers so it’s a little bit more hectic and chaotic when you get a rush,” she says. “That was something that took a little while to get adjusted to.”  

Uecker says she advises all students to consider working with Dining & Culinary.  

“A lot of people don’t consider where they’re getting their food from, but we are such a big part of Purdue,” Uecker says. “There’s so many different roles. It’s not just about working in a dining court – you can do other things like I have.” 

Uecker will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences in December. While she is currently unsure of her next steps, Uecker says she may eventually consider positions in the meat or food product industries due to her experience with food while working with Dining & Culinary.  

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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