Boilers & Beyond – Mary Jo Zeiser

We had an amazing time interviewing Mary Jo Zeiser, a Purdue Alumni that currently works as Manager of Student Success for Purdue Dining & Culinary. Due to all her contributions to student life and Purdue campus, she’s the recent recipient of the Student Life is You or SLISU award! She was nominated for best representing the 5 Student Life Principles of Student Learning, Leadership Development, Inclusions, Stewardship, and Unity.

To start off, what did you major in while at Purdue?

It was called Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional & Tourism Management or RHIT. It’s now renamed Hospitality and Tourism Management or HTM. We had to choose a concentration and I ended up choosing management.  

That’s interesting! Makes you wonder what else has changed for the major. While you were a student at Purdue, did you work in Dining & Culinary?

Yes, I worked at Harrison Grille. I started off in the kitchen as a Student Associate then became a Waiter Caption in training, which is the equivalent to a Student Supervisor now. I later became a Student Manager.

Wow that’s awesome, you must have worked hard for such a great position! What made you decide to work for PD&C instead of other places on campus?

So funny story, I had no intention of working in dining and actually didn’t intend on majoring in HTMI either. I started off as an Accounting major and I knew I wanted a job while studying, but I didn’t know what. I was later convinced to apply for a job in dining and I ended up working at Harrison which later inspired me to switch to HTMI.

What an amazing story! We’re glad you decided to choose Purdue Dining during your time as a student here and after! You must really enjoy it here so we must ask, what do you love most about our University?

I would say that it keeps you young since I always get to work with so many young adults.

Speaking of which, you’re no longer working at Harrison Grille but rather as the Manager of Student Success, how’s that like?

I have a team with me working in 4 different areas:

  1. Training students for leadership positions
  2. Collaborating with academic courses such as COM 114 and other Industrial Engineering courses
  3. Seeing what internship opportunities in PD&C are available to students
  4. Lastly,  working with our admissions office on Purdue’s Recruitment Council to discuss options for meal plans, dining locations on campus, and other dining related questions.

Sounds like you have a lot to do! Now you recently won the Student Life is You Award or the SLISU, what does winning the SLISU award mean to you?

It came as a total shock to me, I was so surprised. Then I felt honored that my colleagues even considered and nominated me. 

What other awards have you received from working in Purdue dining?

I have received two BRAVO awards for my work with students, internships, and class collaborations. I also received one through the IR department where Dining was recognized for Senior Design Partner of the year.

You’ve done some amazing things for Purdue so we’re glad you are being recognized for it! Now for some fun personal questions, what is your favorite place to eat on campus?

I would say Earhart Dining Court because I like making my own items and Earhart gives me a range of options.

That’s a great choice! What about your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to and why?

I have to say the Caribbean, it’s so nice and relaxing. No one is rushing around, and everyone is running on Island time.

We need some of that energy around here, especially since we’re in midterm season! How about your favorite TV Series?

I have to say Criminal Minds, I love crime shows.

Okay last question, what is one thing you’ve learned through working at Purdue that you keep with you every day?

When I was a student and became Student Manager I was told that “You may not be liked by everyone, or be everyone’s best friend, but the goal is for everyone to respect you.”

Wow don’t mind us using that advice too! Congrats on winning the SLISU award Mary Jo and thank you for letting us interview you and for all the incredible work you and your team do!


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