Sheri Schellhaass

Even though I like to think that my food science colleagues and I will live forever, the reality is that regardless of how young we feel, we are all getting older. As I inch ever so slowly toward my eventual retirement, I find myself reflecting on all the profoundly beneficial work and innovative advances that food scientists and technologists have done over the past several decades. Thanks to food science and technology, yogurt contains ingredients that promote colon health, the nutrients in foods have been preserved to last beyond harvest time, and a large variety of tasty and nutritious foods can be prepared to eat in a matter of minutes.

While our profession has made great advances, I have no doubt that even more can be accomplished. But by whom? When my colleagues and I decide to retire, there need to be individuals to whom we can pass the baton. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture estimates that by the year 2010, individuals with degrees in food and agricultural sciences will be few and far between. It is therefore incumbent upon all of us in this great profession to recruit successive generations of food science and technology leaders.

IFT is certainly doing its part. With five popular annual competitions and 52 chapters, the IFT Student Association (IFTSA) is one of the largest and most active student food-science organizations in the country. Since its inception in 1972, IFTSA has provided distinct resources and quality experiences for students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in food science and technology. IFTSA enriches the experiences of our future food scientists and food technologists by offering excellent networking opportunities with leading food specialists and food companies. For example, the IFTSA board spent part of its annual midyear meeting this year at Frito-Lay headquarters in Plano, Texas. In addition, eight of IFTSA’s student leaders met with seasoned IFT leaders at the 2008 Strategic Leadership Forum.

IFTSA’s professional development activities help prepare students to enter the workforce, grooming them for success and leadership: IFTSA’s first-ever Webcast, titled "Finding Your First Job in the Food Industry" and held in May 2008, exemplifies this sentiment; more than 60 students participated. Additionally, IFTSA’s presidents identified strategic priorities such as providing year-round value and innovative learning opportunities, enhancing IFTSA’s core programs and initiatives, and improving its capacity for communication and outreach.

One very promising outreach effort for food science and technology newcomers began in 2007: The IFT New Professionals’ Community for recent graduates or those who have worked in the food profession for less than 10 years. With the launch of educational tools and programs based on exploration of the global marketplace and skill trends in employee recruitment, this group will be a valuable resource for student members transitioning to careers in food science and technology. In addition, an on-demand professional development online series should commence this fall. Besides top-notch career development and networking opportunities, IFT new professionals also have a free online newsletter, Eat Your Words, and an IFT Facebook community page. Both offer new professionals opportunities to meet individuals with similar mindsets, expand their professional contacts, enhance their professional skills, and have fun. More than 500 IFT members have opted into this exciting community.

I am very proud that our society has implemented strategic initiatives to reach out to individuals early in their food science careers. Carrying out our mission requires commitment to our profession. So I extend the following challenge to IFT’s newly minted food science and technology professionals and those in training.

Continue to accept and embrace the role of leadership by participating in IFT activities. As you navigate your careers, elevate your level of responsibility, and tackle food-related issues over the coming years, remember the four goals of our strategic plan. First, act as stewards for the profession and its community through learning, networking, and leadership development. Second, be research champions and innovation catalysts by supporting emerging food science and fostering technological development. Third, serve as influential advocates and trusted food science experts by engaging in advocacy and communication that enhances recognition of the profession. And fourth, be global citizens and partners by proactively contributing to the global advancement of food science. I am enthusiastic to witness your achievements in the field of food science and innovative contributions to the food industry.

by Sheri Schellhaass,
IFT President, 2008–09
Vice President of Research and Development, General Mills, Minneapolis, Minn.
[email protected]