Wood's Journey One of Persistence

Whitney Wood

Whitney Wood’s journey to her current role as CBORD coordinator for Purdue Dining & Culinary has been one of persistence, covering a move from out-of-state, inspiration from Purdue students, attaining a degree and pursuing her professional interests.

Wood originally came to the Greater Lafayette area eight years ago when she and her husband, Cory, moved from Tennessee to be closer to family. Within two weeks of the move, she was hired as the supervisor at Port Café, located in Lawson Computer Science Building.

Though the move was made easier by having family in the area, Wood says that her new colleagues helped her transition to the campus environment. Her supervisor, Wanda Woodhams, helped introduce Wood to the processes, expectations and community of Retail Dining.  

“It was an easier transition than I may have had if I was moving to another state or doing another job because I felt completely welcomed,” Wood says. “Retail Dining was my home away from home. We got really close really fast.”

Wood also quickly discovered that she loved working with students.  

“I felt like I had this great team of students,” Wood says. “When I’d come in, it would instantly put a smile on my face to see them diligently working and inspiring each other.”

As a supervisor, Wood closely observed the challenges students face while balancing their coursework with a job. Seeing them navigate these challenges provided the inspiration for Wood’s next step – the pursuit of a degree.

“I saw the students and thought if they can come to work and go to school at the same time, I can too,” Wood says. “I don’t think I would have been able to complete college or have the motivation and drive to go back and get my degree until I had seen the students doing it. Seeing all their struggles and how they were able to manage it I thought was really inspiring.”

Wood enrolled in Ivy Tech Community College and earned an Associate of Science in Business Administration in 2019. She plans to complete a bachelor’s degree through Purdue Global at a future date. 

“I started to like the idea of exploring business management because it opens doors and relates to the skills I was already using with Dining,” Wood says. “I decided to go in that direction and realized that this is how my brain works. This is something I’m really interested in doing and I should pursue it.”

In addition to the inspiration provided by students, Wood received financial assistance through the John C. Smalley Memorial Grant. The grant is given twice each year to University Residences and Dining & Culinary staff to provide educational opportunities, recognize excellent service and encourage individuals to pursue education that can lead to advancement with the university. Wood says the tuition assistance was helpful in her pursuit of the degree.

“It really did take a chunk off what I owed at the end of the year, so it was very beneficial,” Wood says.

Wood’s supervisor position in Port also opened the door to her next opportunity with Dining & Culinary when she met Sally Baugues, then the CBORD coordinator for Dining & Culinary, and Joan Berryman, who was the CBORD process assistant. Through conversations with Baugues and Berryman, as well as working in the CBORD system on inventory, ordering and other administrative tasks, Wood discovered she enjoyed and was good at using the software. After the process assistant role opened up, Wood applied and obtained the position, which she held for about two and a half years.

During this time, Wood says Baugues served as an important mentor in helping learn more about the CBORD system as well as providing personal guidance in how to slow down, take her time and pay attention to details. When Baugues retired, Wood applied for and obtained the CBORD coordinator position in October.

Wood’s behind-the-scenes work with CBORD, a food service management system that contains all of Dining & Culinary’s menus, recipes and ingredients, helps streamline processes for management and allows students to make decisions regarding their diet. The system allows Dining & Culinary to construct and forecast menus, create orders, find ingredients, share nutrition information and more.

When Dining & Culinary purchases a new ingredient, Wood and her team enter data such as weight, vendor, price and other information relevant to a recipe so when that recipe is used, CBORD can generate nutritional information and share it through Dining’s Mobile Menus app. Special care has to be taken for units of measurement, serving size, allergens and other considerations. The system has years of data and recipes stored, which sometimes need to be accessed and updated with new nutritional information as required by the USDA. For example, Wood’s student intern recently completed a significant project that involved adding information on added sugars to each recipe.

In addition to the behind-the-scenes impact she makes, Wood also serves as an enthusiastic advocate for Dining & Culinary students and staff. She encourages staff to nominate students for honors such as the Above and Beyond the Call of Duty (ABCD) Award and publicly supports initiatives such as Purdue Day of Giving. She says the late Amanda Adams, former employee success manager for Dining & Culinary, served as an inspiration for her work ethic and commitment to staff and students. 

“Amanda was Dining’s cheerleader and I’ve carried that with me,” Wood says. “I always participate on social media for Purdue Day of Giving, making videos and sharing photos. It’s an easy way to participate and maybe it will help someone take time out of their day to donate or participate and be silly for a minute. I would really like to carry that spirit forward.”

Over the last two years, Dining & Culinary has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide uninterrupted meal service to students on campus. This has involved pivots to take-out and hybrid service models at various points, delivering food to students in quarantine and meeting all the ensuing challenges involved with procuring products and navigating supply-chain issues to craft a residential dining experience that supports students. Wood says she has found the inspiration to persist through this adversity in her coworkers throughout Dining & Culinary. 

“I think Purdue Dining employees are probably the people who have the most grit on campus because they can roll with the punches,” Wood says. “They are very hardworking and that inspires me to be at their level. I have to make sure that I’m working just as hard, if not harder, to make their lives easier. I’ve been heavily influenced by almost everybody that I interact with at Purdue because it really does feel like it’s a place where everybody understands that we’re in this together and we’re all here to support each other. I just love being a part of that.”

After overcoming these challenges, Wood says she is looking forward to returning to an environment that allows for more creativity in Dining & Culinary operations, including the creation of new recipes. She’s also working on using CBORD to improve the processes for forecasting need, building menus and more.

Wood says a journey like hers is possible for anyone in Dining & Culinary.

“There’s different ways to advance just by showing an interest in what you like,” Wood says. “I showed interest in a food service system and that’s what got me to where I am.”

No matter what challenges or future opportunities may come Wood’s way, she says she’s happy to be part of the Dining & Culinary team.

“Not all of us may have graduated from here, but we’re all Boilermakers,” Wood says. “Everyone supports each other and that’s the most important thing for me. I love seeing everyone work together and take their careers different places.”

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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