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5 Things I Learned as an IFT Board of Director

The connections that I’ve made not only allowed me to gain mentors, and be a mentor, but have also taught me much more about myself and the profession I love. One of the roles that has been the most impactful has been my role as an IFT Board of Director.  

I’ve been an IFT member since my freshman year at Alabama A&M University [AAMU]. I started off by serving in various leadership roles in the Food Science Club at AAMU and then joined the college bowl team at Cornell University. Over the years, I volunteered with IFT because I wanted to give back to an organization that played such a vital role in my career. I’ve had the opportunity to develop my public speaking ability through presenting research at the IFT Annual Meeting and being an instructor for the CFS prep course and the Fundamentals of Sensory Science short course. I’ve even expanded my network while serving as the Content Advisor for the Sensory and Consumer Sciences Division. The connections that I’ve made have allowed me to gain mentors, and be a mentor, to students and new professionals. As a second-year IFT board member, I reflect on the 5 most important things that I’ve learned so far

1) My Responsibilities
During board orientation, I was given a book titled Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, which is published by BoardSource. I found this reference to be extremely helpful, as I navigated my first year on the board. I’ve had the opportunity to ensure that adequate resources support IFT’s mission, serve on a strategic planning committee to revise and develop goals, present board performance results at the summer meeting, enhance IFT’s public standing by speaking at section meetings and universities and assess the CEO’s performance.

2) Mission, Vision, and Strategic Promises
At every board meeting, the mission, vision and strategic promises are printed on the back of our tent cards to serve as a reminder. Our mission is what we do, which is to advance the science of food and its application across the global food system. Our vision is where we are going, which is a world where science and innovation are universally accepted as essential to a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply for everyone. And our strategic promises--develop, network, innovate, advocate, and include--are the reasons why we exist. These promises allow the organization to develop SMART goals to increase member value and drive organizational accountability to help achieve IFT’s mission and vision.

3) The IFT Staff is Great
There are approximately 85 staff members that work at IFT, and it’s amazing to think that each year, they are able to support all of its programs and activities, and organize one of the largest food-related scientific meetings and expos in the world. The staff also receives support and training through the American Society of Association Executives [ASAE], and each year the IFT’s president-elect and CEO attend a symposium at ASAE. So in essence, there’s an association for associations.

4) Volunteers are Critical to the Organization’s Success
I’ve met many IFT members that care as much as I do about IFT and the future of food. IFT really depends on volunteers like you and me, to be active throughout the many IFT communities including IFT Student Association (IFTSA), Feeding Tomorrow Foundation, topical Divisions, regional Sections, workgroups, task forces, committees, New Professionals Work Group, to help drive the organization forward. Whether you’re an active member, have a leadership role, or support one of the communities, IFT appreciates you.

5. Board Liaison Program Fosters Communication and Connection 
While I’m a member of the Chicago IFT Section, I support the Iowa IFT SectionSt. Louis IFT Section, and Wisconsin IFT Section through the Board Liaison program. This program allows for myself and other board members to obtain first-hand knowledge of each section’s strengths and opportunities through meetings and section visits, which helps foster peer-to-peer relationships between each section and board members. I recently had the opportunity to visit all three of my sections during a 2-week period in April.

On April 2nd, I visited Aksarben [anagram for Nebraska] and Iowa sections suppliers’ expo in Omaha, Nebraska. The section started the event by showing the Food Evolution Movie that was funded by IFT. I've officially seen this documentary eight times now, and I can probably narrate at least fifty percent of the movie.

The next stop on my board liaison tour was the student night event at the University of Wisconsin, Madison on April 4th. The event started with a speed networking session, followed by dinner, a panel discussion with four industry professionals, and concluded with 6 students being awarded scholarships.

The last and final stop was on April 10th at the St. Louis’ Suppliers’ Expo. This section encouraged student participation by exhibiting student research posters at the event. I also met an exhibitor that told me that she met her fiancé at the IFT17 annual meeting in Las Vegas and that she was getting married in a couple of weeks on April 27th!

I’m not sure if IFT is going to take my advice on a new advertising campaign… “IFT, where science and innovation lead to new possible connections, and sometimes love,” but you never know.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, my peers, and the IFT organization during my time on the board. As my final year as a Board of Director approaches, I look forward to continuing to work with my peers and the organization to help ensure that IFT’s vision becomes a reality.

If you know someone that would be a great organizational steward for IFT, please nominate them during the next round of IFT nominations in the fall.

Bryson Bolton 
About Bryson C. Bolton 

Bryson C. Bolton is the Manager of Sensory and Sample Collections at Synergy Flavors. He leads a team that strategically partners with RD&I, Quality, and the Commercial Team to integrate sensory understanding into the flavor and application design process. He also manages a team that ships flavors and applications to domestic and international customers.

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