University of Minnesota’s Integrated Food Systems Leadership Program (IFSL) Announces Graduation of Inaugural Class and Welcomes 2021 Cohort

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IFSL program prepares food system leaders to pave a new path forward for global food system

With what I learned from the IFSL program, I look forward to a career of building a more equitable and just food system, where everyone has access to food that nourishes them physically, mentally, and culturally, said Sook Jin Ong.

The University of Minnesota’s Integrated Food Systems Leadership (IFSL) program is pleased to announce the completion of its inaugural cohort.

Launched in 2019 to help build the next generation of food system leaders, IFSL’s ground-breaking graduate-certificate program fosters leadership, collaboration, and innovation in the food system. The IFSL program was made possible by the vision and collaboration of three colleges at University of Minnesota who recognized the need to break down silos to achieve better results: College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), School of Public Health (SPH), and College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).

The IFSL program equips emerging food system leaders with the knowledge, skills, and mindset needed to achieve a more effective and sustainable food system. The program’s interactive online format allows for discussions, analysis and sharing of viewpoints with fellow cohorts and IFSL’s diverse panel of food system industry advisors.

“The need for courageous food system leaders willing to take smart, innovative risks in order to provide sustainable solutions is larger than ever,” said Dr. Jennifer van de Ligt, IFSL program Director. “Demonstrated through the inaugural cohort’s capstone projects, it’s clear that these leaders understand the big challenges the food system faces and the leadership skills needed to pave a new path forward. We have already begun building on the success and learnings from the first year of our program as the 2021 cohort launches.”

The twelve members in IFSL’s 2020 graduating cohort included food system professionals with diverse roles and disciplines across the food system – from farm to fork, public to private – providing depth and breadth of knowledge on their leadership journey. Throughout the program, the IFSL inaugural cohort utilized the impact of their applied learnings to gain promotions, transition to new roles or career opportunities, and apply their program experiences as they expanded their leadership roles in their organizations. Read more here about how the 2020 cohort put their learnings into action.

"The IFSL program has given me a greater understanding and appreciation for the many roles within our global food system and has expanded my thinking to account for differing points of view on the issues I'm challenged with as a communications leader," said Lauren Knight, Communications Manager, fairlife. "Thanks to my IFSL experience, I now have a network of other food systems’ professionals to tap into their expertise as I grow in my career."

“The IFSL program created opportunities for me to dive deeper into my passion and understanding of how food systems work. I learned so much from my classmates and instructors, who brought their perspective and experiences to our conversations and assignments,” said Sook Jin Ong, Director, Future Services Institute, University of Minnesota. “With what I learned from the IFSL program, I look forward to a career of building a more equitable and just food system, where everyone has access to food that nourishes them physically, mentally, and culturally.”

As the 2020 IFSL cohort graduates, the 2021 cohort began with ten new emerging food system leaders. This new cohort is eager to embrace the program’s mission of growing leaders to feed the future as they combine leadership training with holistic food system education. The 2021 cohort will engage through the new fully online 14-month program as the program improves through incorporation of feedback from the inaugural cohort. The flexibility of the IFSL curriculum and inclusion of experiential learning allows working professionals and international students to integrate peer-to-peer study and on-the-job learning experiences to capitalize their leadership potential. Meet the 2021 cohort here.

For those interested in obtaining a Master’s Degree, IFSL graduate-certificate program credits may be applied to the newly offered Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Applied Sciences Leadership. At completion of the MPS in Applied Sciences Leadership program, students will receive a master’s degree and the IFSL graduate certificate.

Applications for 2022 IFSL cohort launching in September 2021 will be accepted through July 15, 2021.

About the University of Minnesota’s Integrated Food Systems Leadership Program

The University of Minnesota’s Integrated Food Systems Leadership (IFSL) Program broadens students’ knowledge and understanding of the global food supply chain and interdependencies across the food system, while promoting critical thinking and problem solving across disciplines. IFSL is a Post-Baccalaureate Regents Certificate program designed for working professionals; it bridges the gap between traditional food system education and a professional leadership program; IFSL delivers a comprehensive educational experience.
For more information, visit https://ifsl.umn.edu/.

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