On Sept, 27, 2019, the Board of Governors of the William Jewell College National Alumni Association recognized Kiki Strecker, Director of Dining Services, for her “whole-hearted service and loyalty” to the college. This was part of a Homecoming week recognition of distinguished members of the William Jewell community.
Strecker runs all things food at William Jewell College, from the dining hall, to catering, to Jewell events. Strecker has been working with Jewell for six years, and her tireless work has created organization and cohesion across all members of the Jewell family, from athletes and alumni to retirees and sorority members.
Her contribution to Jewell could be summed up in one word: kindness. Strecker takes care of everyone in the dining hall, and many students fondly refer to her as their second mother. She prides herself on a job well done, and part of that involves taking into consideration the needs of others.
Strecker began working with Jewell and Fresh Ideas in 2013. When Fresh Ideas first began at Jewell, things weren’t ship-shape. Therefore, Fresh Ideas called in Strecker and asked her to take over the account for Fresh Ideas on campus. Strecker says that “caring and listening” enabled her to navigate through the first stretches of this tough transition.
Fresh Ideas inherited employees that had worked for Jewell for around 15-20 years, and these employees were understandably suspicious about this new program. But by caring about and listening to their concerns, Strecker was able to build an inclusive work environment with her staff that was conducive to workplace efficiency and community cohesion.
Strecker remembers that the first semester when she was doing employee reviews, one of her employees came up to her and said they had never had a management team that was so wanted to be so involved before. Strecker thinks that this is a massive shame – she prides herself on her ability to help her staff and students adapt to change by creating open avenues of communication.
When asked about the highlight of her career, Strecker said that it is taking care of people.
“If I have someone with special dietary needs in the dining hall, then I’m making sure that they have their gluten free option,” Strecker said. “Or they can’t have fried foods because of medical problems or anything like that. My greatest joy is making sure that people are taken care of. It’s an honor to be recognized for something that I enjoy doing and that comes to me instinctually.”
Food is something that all of us need to survive. For Strecker, being able to satisfy that need is wonderful. It is part of the way that she contributes to the lives of all those within the Jewell community.
Strecker says she has been working in food services for forever. However, while food may be the clearest expression of Strecker’s charitable nature, her beneficence is not relegated to the food service industry. She knows the value that a compliment can have in cheering someone’s day or the way that a hug can comfort someone in need.
“Be nice,” Stecker advises the student body. “Take care of people. Go that extra step. It’s so much easier to be nice than mean. Accept individual people. We’re all so uniquely different, and that’s what so great.”
Strecker has great plans for Fresh Ideas that involve taking risks to break away from the monotony of everyday cafeteria life and accommodating different dietary needs. Strecker spoke about changing the menu and trying new combinations of flavors so as to keep students on their toes.
Strecker also mentioned that it was important for her to be able to meet the needs of all her students. Each year, students have different dietary needs. According to Strecker, there were a lot of vegans at the school last year. While there are less vegans this year, Strecker nonetheless says that she wants these individuals to be taken care of.
There can be no Jewell without Strecker, the wonderfully cheery woman who makes sure that all of us are well-fed and happy. The Board of Governors may have recognized Strecker officially, but the Jewell community already viewed her as an honorary member of our Cardinal family.