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If I were to mention that I use a “custom tailor” or that I bought “custom kitchen cabinets,” you would know exactly what I meant, but if I were to say, “Let’s develop ‘a custom IFT,’” you would wonder what am I thinking.
In quality terms, we talk about knowing your customers and meeting their needs. So a “custom IFT” would be an organization that alters its efforts to match the special needs of its customers. IFT has several customers—academic, student, government, and industrial members immediately come to mind, but what about exhibitors and legislators, and some might even say, the public? Also our international members have special needs. During my term as IFT President, we will take a look at our members and other “customers” and move a step closer to meeting their needs and expectations. We could call this a “Quality Excellence Program.”
Last year, I had a chance to really see the broad scope and size of IFT. We are a much larger society and are involved in many more important activities than I even thought. Since we are an individual membership society, monies and programs come from the membership. To maintain these activities and keep up with inflation, the IFT Council in June approved a $25 increase in membership dues. This is our first dues increase in six years, and we needed to do this before we draw down our contingency savings. At the same time, we are developing a new Strategic Plan, and our financial future will be a big part of this process.
Our treasurer, Richard Hall, has suggested that a “litmus test” be used as we plan activities for the future. This includes asking the following somewhat difficult and uncomfortable questions: (1) How central and essential to the purpose and mission of the Institute is the activity? (2) Can the impact of the activity be measured quantitatively in dollars or non-financial units, and is it being so measured? And (3) What is the impact of the activity on the Institute’s success in fulfilling its purpose and mission?
A Governance Committee Task Force has recommended that the Council be more proactive and have an improved structure. This would involve having a Chair of the Council and a Council Agenda Committee. Hopefully, this will enhance engagement of the Council in Institute issues and better respond to the membership the Council represents. Ultimately, it is your decision as an IFT member, since this proposed new structure will be on a Constitutional ballot to be mailed to you in December.
Other issues that are important to my year as President include the moving of the Chicago headquarters office. After 40 years at its current location in downtown Chicago, IFT will be moving to new offices not far from its current address in March 2002. Space had become a premium, and our lease had run out. Change can be exciting, but it is not easy. You will receive more information as we get closer to the move.
Another program being implemented this year is an undergraduate outcome-based food science curriculum. It will take some time to bring all of our programs into compliance, but the newly approved IFT Undergraduate Education Standards for Degrees in Food Science will help us assure the education of our future food scientists and technologists.
You will also be hearing more from our Foundation this year. It is the source of monies for several of our efforts but none more important than student scholarships. To attract the best young minds into our profession, we must compete for them, and your support of the Foundation is essential. Top high school students have numerous choices, and to be “in the game,” we must be able to offer significant scholarship support. This may have the greatest impact on our future and certainly on the success of the food industry.
I have touched on just a few of the major events that will be occurring this coming year. Some programs were started years ago and others are new initiatives. IFT is a dynamic, volunteer society with many irons constantly in the fire. As President, I find it almost overwhelming, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
by PHILIP E. NELSON
IFT President, 2001–02