Mary K. Schmidl

In my President’s Page last October, I wrote about the ongoing challenge of defining and updating the criteria for IFT Professional Membership, which was not resolved at the Council meeting in Dallas last June.

A Task Force on Professional Membership Criteria was established by the Executive Committee last September. The task force was charged to (1) review the proposed Constitutional amendment and guidelines related to the definition and criteria for Professional Membership and be prepared to make a formal presentation at the June 2001 Council meeting; (2) prepare a list of the benefits of Professional Membership to the Institute and to the members; and (3) present both reports to the Executive Committee in March 2001.

Over the past few months, I have observed the deliberations of the task force, and I have been impressed by two innovative measures that the task force decided on from the outset. First, instead of just drawing up recommendations for presentation to the Executive Committee in March and the Council in June, the task force decided to share its first draft report on the Council listserv in January, so that together the task force and Councilors could develop a worthy report.

Second, it prefaced its recommendations with rationale and background information explaining how and why it arrived at them, what they were intended to achieve, and what they were not intended to achieve. I reproduce here two key excerpts from the rationale:

“The purpose of the ‘Professional Member’ classification is not to have a very high caliber, very long-experienced elite. That exists in the IFT Fellows. Essentially, ‘Professional Membership’ provides recognition for Members who have appropriate academic qualifications, have professional experience in the workplace, and have enhanced their knowledge in food science and technology. Professional membership is the Institute’s approach to recognize persons who have successfully negotiated the ‘apprenticeship’ years to achieve full professional status. The experience gained must have a food science and technology content, but need not necessarily be in research or teaching or product development. It is not the type of job that matters, but the food science and technology content involved in the actual work.”

“Some Members may have begun their careers in other areas, and have then made a career change into food science and technology. The proposed new route ‘c.’ in the Constitutional amendment is intended to provide a formal route for persons changing career with a science (but not food science related) qualification/background and, by fulfilling longer and more stringent requirements, to achieve professional recognition by IFT as Professional Members.”

Professional experience in the workplace is a requirement for Professional Membership and is extremely important. The recently qualified individual entering the workplace is not yet considered a food science and technology professional. That status is gained through experience-based knowledge and experience-based wisdom to apply knowledge. Additionally, the task force has recommended the criteria, methodology, and guidelines for the Qualifications Committee to use in reviewing the applications, i.e., a true peer review.

It is true that some IFT Members who are eligible for Professional Membership have not cared enough to apply for it. The peer-review process and other peer-recognition/benefit proposals by the task force are intended, not to make it easier, but to make it more worthwhile to apply.

It was a substantial challenge to the task force to produce acceptable answers to this longstanding problem, but I agree with the very substantial majority of responding Councilors who have congratulated the task force on getting it right, and with the Executive Committee, which approved the report at its March meeting. In my opinion, the task force has risen to the challenge, and, on behalf of the Institute as President, I thank task force chair Bob Price and all his team for an exceptional job.

Just a word to the 17% of Councilor respondents who would prefer that IFT did not have a Professional Membership category. I appreciate their view, and I suspect that no amount of discussion would persuade them to change it. That, however, has never been, and is not now, an option for consideration. IFT has had a Professional Membership category for some 56 years, and there are many thousands of present-day members proud to carry that designation. I urge those Councilors who hold that view nevertheless to accept that we do have and will have Professional Membership, and that we do have the need to standardize the routes, the criteria, and the monitoring of applicants’ compliance with the criteria; and I urge them to join in approving the task force report and the proposed Constitutional amendment.

I urge all Councilors to lead the whole membership next month by supporting the Constitutional amendment with a thumping great majority. I also urge those of you who have taken your time to read this, to contact your section Councilor and voice your opinion before the Annual Meeting.

IFT President, 2000–01