Mary Rachel Wolfe ’17
From Fruit Pie to Arts Leadership: A Recipe for Success for One Graduate Student
LEAP student Marissa LoNigro sat down with Mary Rachel Wolfe to find out what brought her to the program.
Do pastry chefs need arts leadership training?
They do, according to Mary Rachel Wolfe, a graduate student in the LEAP Institute for the Arts. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Mary Rachel became interested in event planning through her work as a pastry chef. That led her to wonder how her career could grow with more focused training in arts leadership and management. Fellow graduate student Marissa LoNigro sat down with her to talk about what led her to the program.
ML: So, you’re a pastry chef!
MRW: I started working at Lost Valley Ranch in Sedalia, Colorado running a kid’s program. At the end of the summer I was looking for a full time job at the ranch, and it just happened to that the pastry chef at the time was leaving. I just said, “Hey, let me try that!”
ML: Did you have any experience as a pastry chef?
MRW: No! They had to show me everything, but it ended up being something I really loved. That’s when I started dabbling in event planning. I like that festival management has so much to do with food and culture.
ML: How did you end up moving to Colorado from Alabama?
MRW: I graduated in May 2013 from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. I moved to Colorado the same week I graduated!
ML: What made you want to pursue a master’s degree?
MRW: I knew I wanted to come back to school but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I applied everywhere- DU, CSU, and others- and I got in everywhere for education, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I was thinking about getting my MBA, but I wasn’t sure that was really what I wanted. I was looking through the degree catalogue at CSU, and I saw the Arts Leadership degree offered through the LEAP Institute for the Arts. I had never heard of it before! I came to visit the program and took some classes, and I felt like this was a much better fit.
ML: What are some of the things that drew you to this Master’s degree?
MRW: When I compared this degree to an MBA I felt like this was much more personalized and people-oriented. This art leadership degree in particular provides training opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise get in other programs. This field is so new so it’s just really different. I also love Fort Collins. I love the culture.
ML: Do you think your undergraduate degree in education helps you with arts leadership studies?
MRW: I think education applies well. In the master’s program we learn about working with people of different ages and demographics, and that’s something I’ve already been trained in. At first I was nervous because I wasn’t coming from an arts background but then I thought why not? Why wouldn’t a pastry background be just as applicable?
ML: How is the degree going for you so far?
MRW: I’m learning so much! It makes more sense every time we do something. I think Dr. DeVereaux’s teaching sticks, and we only see her once a week! I love the unity in the class, and it just gets better every week.
ML: Is there something special about the program to you? Something that stands out in particular?
MRW: I’m really excited about our internships. I’m looking forward to finding something to do with food. I’m really excited to see the progression and direction of the whole degree, and where that’s going to take us. I like that it’s a new, unique degree. It creates opportunities you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
ML: Of course, because you worked as a pastry chef, I have to ask: what’s your favorite dessert?
MRW: Well I was really known for my chocolate chip cookies. The ranch kept a cookie jar to welcome guests, and my chocolate chip cookies were really popular. I really enjoyed making shortcake and fruit pie. We did a lot of rustic, homey desserts, because we were on a ranch. It was a good feeling to create something every day that made people so happy.