They say college is a place to find yourself—and 2024 Hospitality Administration graduate Maggie Becraft took this to heart, even if she didn’t plan to.

If you’ve been lucky enough to try one of her melt-in-your-mouth brownies or perfectly textured cakes, you’d taste the skill she’s perfected through four years at Ivy Tech. But during that time, Maggie discovered she wanted to look beyond the world of baking, turning her initial goal of getting a baking certificate to pursuing a bachelor’s.

The shift started with a little nudge from Dr. JoAnne Alvarez, Assistant Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Belong for the statewide Ivy Tech system.

“I definitely doubted myself at the beginning, and JoAnne clocked that immediately,” says Maggie. “She was like what’s the real reason you don't you want to get an associate degree? It’s because I was scared. It was definitely a leap.”

Maggie at the ACPA conference in New York City

That nudge opened a world of experiences to Maggie. She’s made new friends through student leadership, traveled to Italy and New York City, created Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s TikTok page, and so much more to find the perfect recipe for success.

Step One: Take a leap

To put Maggie’s story into perspective, it’s only right to go back to August 2020. A time of uncertainty in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is when Maggie met Dr. Alvarez, and it changed her life.

“I didn't know that much about college. I was first generation, so I figured that at least if my environment doesn't change then the change of doing something new and going to college will be easier.”

Maggie had just graduated high school and chose Ivy Tech due to its proximity to home and a good experience touring the kitchens on Coliseum Campus, guided by Chef Cheryl Hirtzemann. But it was during New Student Orientation that Maggie met Dr. Alvarez.

“I went to a breakout session with her, and it’s crazy to think about now because I don’t really even know why. I was just drawn to her.”

Dr. Alvarez talked about the student organization GOAL y Amigos, an organization that provides a safe space for those with Hispanic heritage and those wanting to learn more about it. Not having any connections to the community, Maggie was hesitant to join, but emailed Dr. Alvarez about it a few weeks later.

Step Two: Finding community

“My first semester of classes were all virtual and online, so the only time I left the house was to go to work, and it was isolating.”

Dr. Alvarez welcomed Maggie to the organization with open arms, giving her a chance to make friends—albeit virtually—and giving her a reason to become more invested in Ivy Tech.

“GOAL y Amigos was everything for me.”

Shortly after joining, Maggie was given a position on the organization’s leadership team as secretary. This was when her opportunities became endless. Dr. Alvarez pushed her team to go through public speaking, take charge of projects, and introduced them to everyone she knew. Plus, that’s where Maggie met her best friend, Thalia.

“I cannot thank JoAnne enough for pushing me and believing in me and giving me a spot on the leadership team. That was huge because I think that was really how I gained my confidence.”

A year later, Maggie asked Dr. Alvarez if she could intern with her in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging—just another step towards her future path.

“She hired a hospitality student for the DEB office, which is unheard of. She knew I could do it. That opened so many doors for me.”

From there she had volunteer opportunities and traveled to conferences in New York City and Chicago. Dr. Alvarez urged her to introduce herself to everyone at the college, a scary but incredibly important experience. It didn’t hurt when she brought some cake along, either.



Step Three: Make the cake and eat it, too

“Both of my grandmas were pretty big into baking, so I got that from them. It was something that I knew that Ivy Tech offered because I feel like it was talked about quite a bit.”

There’s no doubt that Maggie’s a talented baker. Not only can she make a tasty treat, but she’s a skilled decorator. Through the Hospitality Administration program, she’s participated in the European Competition, interned with the Grasshopper Food Truck, shared class projects with coworkers, and helped out with A Reason to Taste. That’s a lot of experience, but it’s Chef Cheryl she credits with really helping her hone her craft.

“She was definitely one of my favorite professors that I ever had because she's had this huge amount of knowledge. She's been doing it for years. You could tell she was really passionate about it."

Picture the Great British Baking Show or any other baking competition. That’s how Maggie describes her experience in Wedding Cakes with Chef Cheryl.

“We would have a class where she'd be like, okay, I need you to make a cake that is 2 tiers, 8-inch on the bottom, 6-inch on the top, and I need you to use fondant. That would be her only direction. So, we got to do whatever we wanted, and it was so much fun to experiment with different techniques and colors and making things that I would want to sell.”

In the end, each student got to take their cakes to a nursing home they chose and share it with residents and staff.

“So, I took it to my grandma’s. It was really nice because she got to see it and eat it.”

That wasn’t the only special experience Maggie had in the program. In January 2023, she took the challenge and entered the European Competition—an annual competition for culinary and baking students to compete for a trip to Italy.

“It was nerve-wracking. A lot of classes have been pretty small, and I’ve never seen the kitchen that full. You had to coordinate around. Like, okay, who's using an oven? Who's using the proof box? Who's using the stove top? And making sure that you're not in anybody else's way, but also making sure that when it comes time you need to use something that is available.”

After a stressful few hours of making bread, two desserts, and decorating a cake, Maggie was one of 7 students chosen to go to Italy, which was basically a food tour with a lot of wine and cheese tastings and bread and pasta. She also explored a lot of cities, including smaller ones she’d never heard of. She shared her experience with a takeover on Ivy Tech Fort Wayne's Instagram and Facebook.

“The trip was amazing. The food was great. I saw the best views I've ever seen. And I had never been out of the country. So like, once again this was an experience that if it wouldn't have been for school, I don't think I would have gone to Italy.”

Step Four: Embrace the full circle moments

But wait, isn’t she getting a degree in digital marketing?

When Maggie was working with Dr. Alvarez, she had to opportunity to run the GOAL y Amigos Instagram page. Her mentor pushed her to apply for the newly opened social media strategist position in the Ivy Tech Fort Wayne Marketing department in August 2022, where Maggie discovered her love for digital marketing. She’s an asset to the small team which consists of Vice Chancellor of Marketing Jessica Neuenschwander, Assistant Director of Communications Natasha Leland, and Content Coordinator Joe Wood.

“At least in high school, I never saw myself having an office job. I didn't think that that was something I would enjoy when I started working for JoAnne, but I realized I liked it. That made me want to go after this job, and the tasks that go along with it are my most favorite I’ve had.”

Maggie has had a huge impact on the school’s social media. She’s driven traffic to the pages through a carefully crafted posting schedule and exploring trends that will appeal to the audience. What she considers her greatest accomplishment: creating Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s Tik Tok page.

“That was huge, and it was something that I really wanted to do and was excited about. We didn't have one and short form video content is so fun. Having the ability to do that and having Jessica trust me enough to take care of it is really cool.”

She often partners with Joe and Tony the Titan to create some of the fun and silly content that is shared to the social media pages. One of the things she appreciates most about the job that no two days are the same. She has the opportunity to travel around campus and interview students and employees.

“A lot of times I’ll have a Tik Tok idea for someone who wouldn’t do them normally, and it’s super fun to see somebody out of their element being silly and having fun with it.”

Another aspect of the job she loves is her team.

“I just love the environment that we built and the little holiday cards we make. I love dressing up for Halloween and then anytime we've gotten to travel, like going to the conference in Indianapolis.”


At the May 2024 graduation ceremony, Maggie also picked up a certificate in digital marketing. It was through her marketing experience that she knew that’s the path she wanted to pursue. She’s had the opportunity to learn more about analytics, graphic design, and photography.

Her certificate helped her gain a deeper understanding of marketing, and her associate degree taught her how to work under pressure. Both experiences and the support of the college community have been pivotal in Maggie’s success and brought together the full circle moment.

I feel like there's a lot of misconceptions and negative stereotypes about community college, and I feel like every time I told people about an opportunity I had, they were surprised. There are a lot of amazing ways to get involved and opportunities to do crazy stuff.

– Maggie Becraft | 2024 Hospitality Administration Grad

Step Five: Enjoy the journey

Grateful for the support of her family, Dr. Alvarez, the marketing team, and all her friends, Maggie is now ready to enter the next chapter of her life across the street at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

While she reflects on the positive experience, of course, there were challenges, like being a first generation college student and watching her friends attend four-year universities out of town. But Ivy Tech was where she found herself, and her involvement in student organizations led her to gain experiences she’ll never forget.

“I feel like there's a lot of misconceptions and negative stereotypes about community college, and I feel like every time I told people about an opportunity I had, they were surprised. There are a lot of amazing ways to get involved and opportunities to do crazy stuff.”

This summer, Maggie will be taking another graphic design class at Ivy Tech and continuing to find ways to bring exciting content to Ivy Tech Fort Wayne’s social media pages. You might also find her working on dance routines for the Shawnee-Jefferson Middle School dance team or baking a cake.

With graduation under her belt, she’s ready to tackle whatever comes next.

“I took the part-time route of school, so it took me 4 years instead of two. It's nice to see it coming to a close and all of that hard work, you know?”


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.