Find Your Passion and Change the World
As he sat in the Student Union on the Greenspring campus during his final semester, Corey Polyoka ’08 (business administration) did not anticipate that the application he was filling out for a position at Woodberry Kitchen, a locally owned restaurant in Hampden, would eventually lead to his role as Partner and Director of Operations of Foodshed LLC.
Polyoka made the decision to attend Villa Julie College because he was looking for a local liberal arts institution with diversified courses and a strong business program. He was also confident that he would find a sense of community at VJC. As a student, Polyoka liked that many of his professors “embraced environmental issues surrounding business practices” and made an effort to bring discussions of that nature into the classroom. He credits his economics professor, Ora Freedman, with providing “a strong framework for sustainability practices that her students could understand.” These discussions sparked his interest, and he was charged to make a difference.
As a millennial, Polyoka felt that he had developed an investment in green living and wanted to carry that passion into his life beyond the classroom. In addition to the time spent in class discussing these topics, he recalls participating in the annual “Do It in the Dark” event, where students gather to promote environmental awareness surrounding energy.
When he was hired as the first member of the staff at Woodberry Kitchen, Polyoka began working to support the vision of owners Spike and Amy Gjerde to create a network of dining options in Baltimore committed to supporting local agriculture and preserving the uniqueness of the mid-Atlantic region. Today, Foodshed LLC encapsulates 10 businesses across three cities, and the company’s commitment to providing locally-sourced food is unparalleled. Polyoka has indeed had an impact on the company’s success, as he has grown from his role as manager of Woodbery Kitchen. He has been credited with building a business intelligence system for financial reporting, creating a bar program, and much more.
After graduating, Polyoka decided to wait to have children until he had created change in his industry and in the world. “Life happened and my children came first. Now I’m motivated by my family to make a difference,” he says with a smile.
When asked what advice he’d like to share with current students, he says, “Upon leaving college, it’s okay that you don’t have a lot to contribute. Get into something that you enjoy and learn how it works.” He also suggests that new graduates start at the very bottom and invest time in learning about a job or an industry.
When Polyoka started working as a dishwasher 13 years ago, he did not expect to be in the position he is in today. “Too often young people devalue the time that it takes to become truly proficient in the workplace,” he says. Polyoka hopes that this mindset can shift—and that Stevenson University graduates will be at the forefront of that change.