Marianne Gillette

I am writing this column as I enjoy the final hours of my Presidential Suite at the 2010 Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago, and I am pleasantly exhausted. This was a fine event, and I am so proud of what the collective WE of IFT accomplished for ourselves, our profession, and our world.

This Annual Meeting & Food Expo was attended by more than 21,500 people from 72 countries. We offered 115 technical sessions with more than 1,900 technical presentations organized by key topics and core sciences. This new scientific program structure was a huge success. The sold-out Expo of more than 1,000 companies was sprinkled with exciting happenings such as student product development competitions, culinology demonstrations, Trend and Solutions Tours, product demonstrations galore, and our new open innovation program.

It was evident at our Annual Meeting & Food Expo that science remains the focus of IFT, and innovation is thriving. We released a new white paper which highlights the historical significance of food science and technology in the development of civilization and in the ability of planet earth to feed tomorrow. Also in Chicago, a team of volunteers and staff reacted quickly to the world’s events and presented a late-breaking session on the impact of the Gulf oil spill on the food system. More than 150 media registered for the conference. Everyone I spoke with in Chicago was pleased with what we accomplished and all were very happy with their 2010 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo experience.

Alone now in my suite, with the busy excitement of our Annual Meeting behind me, I can quietly consider my year as your President. When I was elected, I made a couple of promises to you and to the IFT Board. My first promise was to listen to and consider the voices of IFT members in leading the strategic direction of IFT. I hope you feel that I have done so. Another pledge was to visit at least 10 sections. I have made it to nine, and I will reach my goal by the end of 2010. The section visits were my favorite part of this year, and I have strongly encouraged the Board, and, in particular, the Office of the Presidents, to continue to reach out to our sections in order to personally connect with our core members. The visits provided me with important insights, which the board needs to effectively create member value.

The most evident problem I encountered when talking with section members is the use of the word “THEY” when describing IFT. Many members think “the IFT” is a vague building full of staff in Chicago or members who meet occasionally at hotels somewhere. It is unfortunate that many members of IFT do not have a perspective that we, ourselves, are IFT. WE are IFT.

And WE should be aware that more than 1,300 vital members volunteer their time and talent to our IFT. Those members have accomplished significant work this year. It’s a long list of achievements, including: the new annual meeting technical program, the new website, a new visual identity, a revitalized foundation, strategically focused policy and regulatory activities at the federal level, and, most recently, an agreement to evolve our Divisions into more nimble, flexible, and connected member groups with less required structure and administration. Member workgroups also delivered successful recommendations on certification programs, global strategies, engagement with senior executives, and a new member value proposition. It is a significant volume of highly productive volunteer work, work which would not have been accomplished without the dependable organization we know as “staff.”

This work of WE rides completely upon the performance of our IFT staff. Before my election in 2008, I had no personal connection to our staff in Chicago or Washington, D.C. I now want every member of IFT to know that our organization is unusually fortunate. Our staff is simply awesome. They are extremely competent, professional, driven, engaged, passionate, and resilient. Our thousands of active members provide staff with daily opportunities, problems, visions, direction, and sometimes pure chaos. Our staff weaves these inputs together with their own initiative and expertise to generate a massive output of meaningful member benefits. Our staff also is part of the WE of IFT. IFT is me, it is you, and it is Barbara Byrd Keenan and all her employees in Washington, D.C., and in Chicago.

This was the culmination of a great year, because WE all delivered on the promise of IFT’s mission and contributed at every level of the organization to make it happen. Thank you for this year of transformation—both for me personally and for the WE of our scientific society, IFT. Stay connected!

by Marianne Gillette,
IFT President, 2009–2010
Vice President of Technical Competencies and Platforms,
McCormick & Co. Inc., Hunt Valley, Md.
[email protected]