The University of Minnesota Twin Cities has launched the Integrated Food Systems Leadership program (IFSL) designed for working professionals to help bridge the gap between traditional food system education and professional leadership programs. The IFSL program is a graduate-level certification that provides a broader knowledge of how the food system is interconnected—from farm to fork—while promoting critical thinking and problem solving across disciplines.

Developed through a partnership between the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, the School of Public Health and the College of Veterinary Medicine, the IFSL program aims to develop leaders with the skills needed to solve growing challenges, such as rising food safety incidents, food waste, and feeding a fast-growing population. The United Nations estimates that the number of undernourished people in the world totals 821 million. It is a number that’s only expected to grow as the world population could reach almost 10 billion people by 2050.

“Our global food system needs real change if we are going to feed the growing population while preserving the planet’s ecosystems,” says Jennifer van de Ligt, Ph.D., director of IFSL and associate director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute. “We need people who can think broadly and are empowered to impact and improve the food system. This is the mission and vision of the IFSL program, which is to help build our next generation of leaders to help build a better future.”

“While the agri-food industry boasts a proud tradition of education, skills development, and leadership training, many current programs are either too narrow or too general in focus to tackle the complexities of the entire food system,” says Tamara A. Nelsen, executive director of Minnesota AgriGrowth and an advisor to the program. “By focusing on building knowledge and understanding of linkages within the food chain, the IFSL program uniquely qualifies participants to actively apply that knowledge across the food system, thereby improving their ability to provide strategic leadership on issues.”

The IFSL graduate certificate program is designed to support the personal and professional growth of its participants. Delivered in an interactive, cohort model, meaning that classes are primarily online over the course of 13 months with two onsite four-day leadership courses at the beginning and end of the program. The IFSL program’s graduate-level course credits can also be applied to a future graduate degree. Applications are now being accepted for September 2019 admissions.

University of Minnesota |