Chris Downs headshot

Chris Downs

Cameron Wicks

Students are the future of IFT and the science of the food community. Their passion, attitudes, and beliefs will play a tremendous role in shaping what lies ahead. Spending even a little time with our IFT Student Association (IFTSA) leaders makes it clear that the food system is in extremely capable hands. I am pleased to have IFTSA President Cameron Wicks join me this month as we explore the impact that multigenerational perspectives have on IFT and the future of food.

Although we are aligned on goals, aspirations, and values that guide our actions, it comes as no surprise that IFTSA members and their classmates view the world and the workplace differently than more seasoned members of the IFT community. And there’s a reason. Each generation’s core values, views toward work, attitudes about family, perspectives on social issues, and more differ based on factors that range from defining moments in history to economic shifts to the evolution of technology use, among many others.

Every scientific field thrives on diversity of thought, and multigenerational perspectives are an important aspect of that. We need bold ideas, unique viewpoints, and innovative solutions if we have any hope of attaining a world where science and innovation are connected and universally accepted as essential to improving food for everyone. Each member of our community in every region of the world is an important contributor to this vision. But there’s something truly special about engaging with our profession’s up-and-comers.

Our students care deeply about their field of study. They are excited to have an opportunity to influence such a vital component of the human experience. They recognize the criticality of the work—feeding a rapidly growing world population without causing further deterioration of our planet is no small task. They know they are up against some extreme hurdles, and they are ready for them.

In the past year, IFTSA rolled out a new strategic plan with a mission to enrich the academic experience and empower students to thrive individually and collectively. The plan has two major promises: prepare for the future and celebrate the community. It’s been exciting to see these promises manifest themselves in new and unique ways.

"Every scientific field thrives on diversity of thought, and multi-generational perspectives are an important aspect of that. "

IFTSA hosted its inaugural Chapter Spirit Week in February, which brought 24 of our student chapters together virtually for a series of fun and engaging challenges. From simplifying their research into words an elementary student would understand to participating in our resume workshop or cooking class, sharing food puns, and recruiting new members, Spirit Week was an exciting new way for students to show their IFTSA pride, connect with fellow foodies, and win generous cash awards and bragging rights. We congratulate Louisiana State University, University of Arizona, and University of California, Davis, for taking home top honors.

We also expanded our global footprint as we welcomed San Ignacio de Loyola University in Lima, Peru, as our newest international IFTSA chapter. The food system has no geographic boundaries, so every opportunity to engage with and learn from people in areas of the world different from our own is valuable. We look forward to getting to know these passionate new students within our IFTSA community.

We continue to see students eagerly take advantage of tried-and-true opportunities for learning, networking, and growth such as the Technical Research Papers (posters), the popular College Bowl competition, our undergraduate and graduate research competitions, and our product development competitions. In addition, four IFT Divisions—the Food Packaging Division, International Division, Product Development Division, and Protein Division—have added to the experience, introducing new competitions to expand students’ skills and create opportunities to network outside the classroom. Our students put a lot of time, thought, and energy into their research and submissions, and we look forward to seeing the outcome of these efforts at IFT FIRST: Annual Event and Expo in July.

For the first time in history, there are five generations actively in the workforce, and we are fortunate to have this breadth of knowledge and experience right here within the IFT community. We implore you to take advantage of every chance to engage with those in a different generation than your own. We have much to learn and gain from each other, and the global food system will be better for it.

About the Authors

Chris Downs, PhD, is IFT President, 2022–2023 ([email protected]).
Chris Downs headshot
Cameron Wicks is IFTSA President, 2022–2023 ([email protected]).