Future of Food fellowship open for application

Fellowship program members take part in a team-building exercise at the Vines Center in Little Rock. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo)
Fellowship program members take part in a team-building exercise at the Vines Center in Little Rock. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo)


FAYETTEVILLE -- The 2024 Future of Food: Opportunities and Careers for Undergraduate Students session is open for application through Feb. 2, according to a news release from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

Dubbed F2OCUS for short, the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture program offers undergraduates opportunities to develop scientific research experience, team building, leadership and communications skills over 10 weeks in the summer.

Interested students can apply at the program website:

https://future-food-reeu.uada.edu

Room and board are provided on the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville campus, along with a $5,150 stipend and travel support. Eight undergraduate students will be chosen by Feb. 16, and the program begins in June.

The program is directed by Kristen Gibson, professor of food safety and microbiology and director of the Center for Food Safety for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture.

"Each year, we are getting more applicants," Gibson said in a news release. "We're bringing in people from other areas of the country and universities that are really high performers and exposing them to food science and the food industry in Arkansas."

The program is supported by a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Gibson said a goal of the program is to provide underserved students and institutions the opportunity to experience various aspects of food science and the food industry, including minority-serving institutions.

In addition to scientific research with Division of Agriculture faculty, its fellows also receive leadership development and communications coaching with support from the Cooperative Extension Service, the outreach arm of the Division of Agriculture.

The fellow experiences include the ExCEL course at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center near Little Rock, which features a high-ropes course and zip line, as well as visits to the Tyson Discovery Center and the annual Blackberry Field Day in June at the experiment station's Fruit Research Station near Clarksville.

The co-directors include Jennifer Acuff, assistant professor of food microbiology and safety; Jamie Baum, associate professor of nutrition for the experiment station; and Jill Rucker, associate professor of agricultural education, communications and technology for the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas.

The program partners with 12 collaborating mentors who have extensive experience in food science. Industry professionals, many of whom are University of Arkansas graduates and serve as adjunct faculty, also participate in the fellowship program.

Gibson, who also serves as a mentor, matches students with a research mentor based on the students' interests, such as food chemistry, food engineering or food safety. Available projects set for 2024 can be found on the website's Research Projects page:

https://future-food-reeu.uada.edu/projects/

Fellowship testimonial

Nick Stall, a 2023 fellow from Louisiana State University, said the program offered professional and personal development and guidance on his career path. Networking with food industry professionals, he said, helped him change his focus in a way that he thinks will help him reach his dream job someday.

"Some of the most important experiences I had were meeting individuals in the food industry, discussing with them what they do daily and building networking skills," Stall said in the release. "I was not considering a master's degree before I started the program. However, I have changed my mind after talking and working alongside other graduate students and mentors. I am working to find the exact master's program that matches what I want to do for a career."

Stall said the fellowship's research component was challenging but improved the experience. He also found it helpful to see firsthand all the different majors working in the food industry.

"This industry, like every other one, is growing and realizing the amount of value and innovation other majors can bring to the table," Stall said. "I know from personal experience. I started out in engineering, but I have always had a passion and love for food, and I know I can find a home in the industry that combines both of my passions."

  photo  A fellowship program member takes part in a team-building exercise at the Vines Center in Little Rock. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo)
 
 


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