Getting to Know Natalie McElwee June 2018

Natalie McElweeNatalie McElwee loves to eat. “It’s true,” says the senior sensory scientist at Givaudan Flavors in Cincinnati, “and we do this a lot at my office.” Good food aside, the part of her job she enjoys the most is helping people work through their challenges by providing sensory guidance and insights. “I work with some really wonderful and talented individuals,” she says, “and this makes Givaudan a great place to be.”

McElwee holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, an education that prepared her for the five years she spent with Unilever Home & Personal Care in Trumbull, Conn., before joining Givaudan.

She first became involved with IFT when a former coworker who served on the board of the Ohio Valley Section told her about an opening on the board for a newsletter editor. “She mentioned it would be a great networking opportunity within the food science community, and since I trusted her at our workplace, I figured I’d give it a go,” she says.

With coaching from the previous editor and the board, says McElwee, “I navigated through the challenge and found unique fulfillment with this type of contribution to the section.” The rest, she adds, “is history.” Since then, McElwee has gone on to serve as the Ohio Valley Section’s treasurer for two years, then chair elect for two years, and now as chair.

Of all the experiences she’s had as a volunteer with IFT, she has found the annual kickoff meeting for the Ohio Valley Section to be particularly memorable. “There’s a lot of excitement, since it will have been a while since members have gathered together,” she explains. “Attendees at this event like to hear about the year ahead and meet the new board members as well. We’ve typically held this event at a local vineyard, and it is always well attended. It’s a very positive evening with lots of conversations and laughter (I am sure the wine helps!). I come home from this event every year with momentum and drive—feeling happy, proud, and ready for the year ahead.”

In addition to being a great way to network, volunteering has enriched McElwee’s professional life in several other ways. “I have been exposed to new aspects of food science, expanding my knowledge base outside of sensory science,” she says.

Volunteering has also given her a new perspective on time management. “Often-times,” she says, “we are taxed with work, home, and volunteer responsibilities. And in these moments, I can look to my awesome board members for support. Everyone is willing to help out and knows that the ‘struggle is real’ with day-to-day demands.”

Although it can be intimidating to try something new, McElwee encourages others to step outside of their comfort zone. “New experiences are what help us grow personally and professionally,” she says. “You never know how that new experience will impact you—you might find a new passion! Believe in yourself and get exposure for yourself. Volunteerism takes dedication and commitment, and your investment outside of your professional responsibilities will not go unnoticed by others in your circle.”

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Executive Director, Feeding Tomorrow

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