Sheri Schellhaass

Inspiration can come at unexpected moments. But with our meetings, our e-mails, our Blackberries, and all the other demands, we simply miss them. I find that both intellect and emotion peak when I focus on a particularly significant moment—what I refer to as a “monumental moment.” That happens to me frequently on my trips to Washington, D.C., the home to a number of monuments that celebrate the rich history of the United States. When I take the time to glance, structures such as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial serve to inspire and fill me with excitement over the day’s possibilities. I become overwhelmed with the notion that anything is accomplishable with the right attitude, foundation, and plan.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring U.S. monument is the Statue of Liberty, complete with the inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Meant to welcome immigrants to the land of freedom and opportunity, these words, and the statue itself, also symbolize community. I cannot think of a more iconic structure that embodies IFT’s commitment to providing an inclusive and welcoming community for all food science and technology professionals and the knowledge and tools they need to enhance their professional capacity and competency.

Historically, our nonprofit society has served as a forum for food industry professionals to share, learn, and contribute to the advancement of food science. But in order for us to continue to live up to the IFT mission and to create countless monumental moments, change must occur. Over time, food technologies have evolved to become even more advanced. Twenty-five years ago, did anyone suspect that nano-sized materials would become the rage of the food science community? Similarly, the nation’s food supply has changed to become more global. Twenty-five years ago, sushi restaurants were few and far between. Today, many food microbiologists stand in line for the chance to dine on raw fish!

If the food industry, food science, and even the food profession can undergo transformations on a regular basis, shouldn’t the society representing food science leaders evolve as well? Now more than ever, IFT is uniquely positioned to be the resource of choice for food science and technology professionals, consumers, and legislators. As members of IFT, we have a tremendous opportunity to develop and communicate science-based positions on contemporary food issues. We cannot address contemporary issues using an outdated modus operandi, however.

While we have the utmost respect for our organizational foundation and those who worked diligently before us, we have the opportunity to continue to develop an IFT community that is meaningful for multiple generations—past, present, and future. In order to realize this opportunity, subtle changes within our structure must occur. Most of these changes involve creating programs and services that utilize your time and talents optimally. The success of IFT’s strategic plan depends on you. Your input and knowledge are invaluable, but the organization also needs your participation in activities to help realize our goals and mission.

The most important way you can participate is by helping prepare for future generations of food challenges. I believe a good way to accomplish this is by welcoming and mentoring future generations of food science and technology professionals and grooming them for leadership. I envision that IFT will always have a place at the forefront of emerging science and knowledge-based innovation. This will require a continuing process of dialog and discovery, which could not occur without fresh faces and new ideas being introduced within our already impressive community of volunteer members.

The four goals of the strategic plan are designed to realize this vision. They embody the future direction of IFT. The plan will evolve as we continue to communicate within our community and assess the continuity and relevancy of these goals. In the meantime, I hope your dedication is renewed and your inspiration is ignited by the new directions IFT is heading.

When I think of our commitment to provide an inclusive and welcoming community for this generation of food science and technology professionals and the next, I am reminded of the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, which I have altered to mark this exciting transition: “Give us your knowledgeable, your inspired, your food science and technology professionals yearning to breathe innovation into this society’s future.” Let’s welcome new members to our society with open arms and encourage the diversity of their backgrounds, experiences, and needs to drive richness into this community.

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