By Bill Klien
Imagine receiving your undergraduate degree and then immediately being put in charge of an ice cream shop that serves more than 400 customers every day and employs two dozen workers during the peak season.
It happened to Sara Brummel. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a double major in marketing and human resources, Brummel joined UW-Madison's Babcock Hall Dairy Store in December as store manager.
She will serve in the position for two years as part of a new internship program designed by Bill Klein, manager of the campus dairy plant, which is part of UW-Madison's food science department.
"When I ask myself, ''Why was (the dairy plant) built?" I always go back to the fact that this place is meant to provide an educational experience for students," says Klein. "We're trying to make use of these facilities as a place where students can get some experience before they go off into the real world."
But this job is no cupcake - not even an ice-cream cake. The store's standards as a food operation and its loyal customer base mean the expectations for Brummel are high.
"When I first started, I was told the dairy store is a campus showpiece," she says, "and that I should try to make it even more of a showpiece."
Brummel already has overseen an ambitious number of changes during the eight months she's been in charge, some of which have made demonstrable positive impacts on the store's bottom line.
Instead of closing at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, the store now sells ice cream until 4 p.m., and it opens earlier on weekdays to accommodate the breakfast crowd.
There's new organic, fair-trade coffee roasted locally just for the store, and the bakery items arrive fresh daily. The store now accepts all major credit cards and sells plastic gift cards.
Soon there will be in-store televisions that describe all the ice cream flavors on tap, as well as an updated Web site.
Her favorite new project, though, is developing new ice cream flavors.
She's currently working on one called Jump Around, named for the popular song played before the fourth quarter of Badger football games at Camp Randall Stadium. Jump Around will be a bright red, vanilla-flavored ice cream with white marshmallow swirls and chocolate-covered peanut butter footballs, explains Brummel, an avid Badgers fan who had season tickets as a student.
But she's still struggling to perfect the ice cream's color.
"We don't want to launch a Badger red ice cream that's pink," she says.
Klein is so pleased with Brummel's progress he will continue the internship program when she leaves by hiring another student to take her place. He is also considering hiring interns to fill other key position in the dairy plant. And while the young graduates may need more training and direction, Klein thinks it's definitely worth the extra effort.
"What I like about it is I get an enthusiastic employee who's got a lot of ideas, who's very smart and wants to make their mark," he says.
For her part, Brummel is also getting what she wants. She needs two years of professional experience before applying to UW-Madison's business school, where she plans to pursue an MBA.
"As a recent grad, it was pretty amazing to be put into this kind of management position right away and to be given the kinds of responsibilities that I have," she says. "If I do go to graduate school, it's a really great experience, and if not, it's still a great experience."