Brittnee Rourke began her first semester at Bowling Green State University this fall. And while she was new to BGSU’s campus, she arrived with junior academic standing and an associate degree in culinary arts already on her resume. By starting her education at Lorain County Community College and transferring, Rourke gained confidence in her academic skills and a clarify in her career path.
“At LCCC, I was able to get ahead, save money and figure out what career I want to have,” Rourke said. “LCCC let me see the many options I have with a culinary career and my mentors helped me decide which path I wanted to go down.”
Rourke began at LCCC in fall of 2018 and was immersed into the culinary world. In fact, she was only a few weeks into the program when she buttoned up her chef jacket and got cooking for LCCC’s NOSH event in fall of 2018. NOSH is LCCC’s Culinary Arts Institute showcase event that featured live cooking demonstrations, interactive tasting experiences, and a variety of culinary samples. Rourke went into the evening not knowing many other students in the culinary program but was ready and excited to cook for the community members who attended the event. By then end of the night, her nervousness had melted away.
“I walked into NOSH and barely knew anyone in the program. When I left that night, I knew everyone,” she recalled.
In the quiet that came after the hustle and bustle, Rourke took a second to breathe and reflect.
“Being part of the event was so exciting and rewarding. I just knew I was in the right place,” she said.
The chefs of the culinary program saw Rourke come alive that night at NOSH, and knew they’d found a leader.
“It was only her first semester, but we saw Brittnee take on another level of growth that night,” Chef Adam Schmith said. “She began to embrace communication with guests, answering questions about our program, and holding herself as an ambassador of our Culinary Arts division. She showed herself as a true leader.”
Starting to simmer
Rourke came to LCCC with a clear plan for her future. She’d been working at a local family restaurant for several years and planned to earn LCCC’s associate of applied business degree in culinary arts and then transfer to a four-year university for a bachelor’s degree in business. With those credentials, she would open her own restaurant. That plan may have stayed in place, she said, if not for the mentorship of the faculty of LCCC’s Culinary Arts program.
“The chefs really started to open my eyes about what else I can do with a culinary degree. I had thought that opening my own restaurant or being a chef in a restaurant was the main thing I could do, but they helped to explore so many other options.”
With the support of Chef Schmith, Chef Brad Ball and Chef Ashley Black, Rourke began to expand her ideas of what her future could hold as a culinary graduate and chef. Through the connections of the LCCC chefs and her LCCC academic advisor, Cassandra Tenorio, Rourke began to shadow people in the area who work in culinary related fields.
“I was able to spend time with people and learn what they do each day in their careers. It helped me understand how many different opportunities I had with a culinary degree,” Rourke said.
Her adventures in job shadowing took her to local restaurants, as well to a hospital where she shadowed a dietician who specializes in diabetes. Ultimately, she found her passion during a tour of the lab of a local food science company. By the time she earned her associate degree in culinary arts in May 2020, Rourke had a solid plan for her future.
“My goal is to work for a company in their test kitchen, developing recipes that can be used on a larger scale,” Rourke said.
The funds to transfer
To get closer to her dream of developing recipes, Rourke transferred this fall to Bowling Green State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science. The program is a natural continuation of her experience at LCCC in the culinary program. And she entered classes ready to go to work, thanks to her experiences in the kitchen at LCCC.
“At LCCC, I was able to get ahead and learned so much,” Rourke said. “A lot of my classes transferred, so I am able to focus on the main classes for my nutrition degree at BGSU.”
To help fund her bachelor’s degree, Rourke received the Ohio Transfer Council’s David Gall Memorial Scholarship. The $1,000 scholarship was awarded to Rourke due to her high academic achievement at LCCC, her involvement with LCCC programs, and her plans to get involved at her BGSU.
“The scholarship is a huge help toward paying my tuition,” Rourke said. “I was really honored to be selected for the David Gall scholarship.”
Doing the prep work
Rourke has always known she needed to be smart about the cost of higher education. So, when she was still a high school student at Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst, Rourke took advantage of every opportunity, including taking college courses through LCCC’s College Credit Plus program. During her high school years, Rourke completed an English class, a nutrition class, and a television broadcasting course.
When she thought about college during those years, she imagined herself going far away from home. When the time came, however, she found that looking closer to home would prove to be her best option.
“I had this idea that you had to go to New York, California and big place like that in order to be successful,” she said. “When I began assessing my options, I realized how much money I could save at LCCC while still achieving my goals. I chose LCCC and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Rourke graduated high school in 2018. Her academic achievements qualified her for LCCC’s Diversity Incentive Award scholarship, which covered nearly all the costs of her associate degree. And because she had completed a few core classes through LCCC’s College Credit Plus, she was able to give herself the opportunity to take more classes and explore her interests.
“Each of my CCP classes helped me in my major once I got to LCCC. Getting them done for free was a huge benefit for my college career,” Rourke said.
Finding her future
As Rourke heads toward her future, she feels well prepared with the foundation she built at LCCC. And she feels thankful to be an alumna of a very special culinary program.
“The LCCC culinary program is truly destined to become one of those great schools you hear about. I’ll never forget the connection I have with the chefs. They truly care about each student,” Rourke said.
Schmith and the chefs in the LCCC Culinary Arts department are confident Rourke will find success.
“Brittnee and any of our graduates are invited to come back and see us any time,” Schmith said. “I have no doubt that she will be successful, and we are always here for her.”