Getting to Know Amy DeJong June 2017

Amy DeJong

Serving as IFTSA president has been one of the best decisions I have ever made,” says Amy DeJong, who was elected to the role in 2014 after serving as her local chapter president and then national competition chair. In those positions, she discovered that IFT was an organization she wanted to stay involved in, and as she says, “the rest is history.”

“When I first got involved, I never dreamed that I would have half the opportunities I have had,” adds DeJong. As president, she has represented IFTSA around the globe, including China and Ireland. She also learned how to manage groups of people, organize effective meetings, and set and achieve strategic goals, and she says her volunteering experience has helped her grow both personally and professionally. “As a graduate student, it is very easy to become so focused on your research that you lose track of developing leadership and interpersonal skills,” she explains.

In addition, she says her involvement has helped her grow as a scientist by helping her see outside her own research “bubble.” “Working with other students in IFTSA has given me exposure to research techniques and specialties that I otherwise would not have known anything about,” says DeJong. “Leading IFTSA has given me a chance to do big, outside-of-the-box things that have impact much more quickly than academic research.”

It also has helped her develop a different perspective on managing her research. “I’ve learned how to plan, problem solve, and manage tasks that are not as technically draining as research,” she notes. “Practicing these types of things on more friendly topics has helped me better apply similar project management skills to my work.”

DeJong also values the exposure to the greater food industry that this position has given her, whether by connecting at the annual meeting or working alongside other passionate students or planning large-scale events like IFTSA’s first virtual global summit two years ago. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into what was an incredibly successful event and what I hope continues to get even better each year. It was so fun to be part of hundreds of food science students from all over the world who came together to learn about and discuss food science,” she says.

DeJong, who says she has met some of her closest friends through IFT, understands that it can be hard to balance volunteering with professional priorities. She advocates planning ahead, relying on teamwork, and being upfront with others on the team about their workloads to get through the tough spots. “It’s been helpful to let other volunteer leaders know about major deadlines or exams so that we can all help each other out and hopefully keep anyone from becoming overwhelmed while still moving forward with projects,” she says.

It can be easier for volunteers to make time for projects that they feel passionate about, and DeJong encourages members to find what drives them. “Find what you like,” she says. “IFT is a large organization with many different types of groups and opportunities. Start somewhere and try different types of roles until you find something that fits.”

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