MINNEAPOLIS — Is it possible to create positive change without having a complete view of the issues and challenges you face? This is the question that Kris Collett, Bakery Director at Stone Creek Coffee Roasters and cohort member of the University of Minnesota’s Integrated Food Systems Leadership (IFSL) program, asked as she was deciding what path to take for her career and education journey.
Q: Tell us how you discovered the University of Minnesota IFSL program, and what prompted you to enroll?
A: I’ve been working in the retail sector of the food industry for a while as the Bakery Director at Stone Creek Coffee Roasters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For the past couple of years, I’ve been contemplating a career pivot to potentially transition to another part of the food system.
An area that I’m really passionate about is food justice – access to healthy food for all and addressing the structural barriers to that right – through treating the root cause of these issues. It occurred to me that you can’t create meaningful, lasting change if you don’t have a holistic view of a system. If I really want to make a difference as a leader for food justice, or any role within the food system, I’d need an understanding of the entire system. As I was researching food system programs, I came across IFSL which lays the foundation for the food system and also teaches the leadership skills that I’m passionate about to break down silos to create change.
I’m a very curious person as well, so I knew that this program might help me discover and learn about other areas of the food system that I might not even know about. Additionally, one of the former cohort members – Carly Hegarty – who is a Heath Supervisor for the City of Milwaukee Health Department, had a great experience in the program, so I was inspired to embark on this journey after hearing the positive experience she had.
Q: Have you been able to apply the learnings from IFSL assignments to the work you’re currently doing?
A: Shortly after I was promoted to Bakery Director, I was asked to take on developing our company’s food safety program because Stone Creek Coffee is an FDA-registered facility. In IFSL, we have FDA safety modules as part of the coursework, so I’ve been able to apply those learnings directly to the food safety plans I’m developing at work – the learnings from the coursework and guidance I’ve received from the instructors has been really valuable and tangible to the plans I’m implementing. If I weren’t in the program, I know I’d have a difficult time developing these plans.
The assignments and the challenging projects I’m taking on at work have shown me that there’s always an opportunity for growth. I’m currently taking PCQI (Preventive Controls Qualified Individual) training, so I definitely don’t feel stagnant because I’m playing a role in paving the path forward within my company.
Q: What are you hoping to gain from the IFSL Program?
A: My overall career goal is to make a difference that benefits my community, whether that continues in the retail food sector or within quality assurance and food safety.
As I’ve learned more about food safety, I could see myself pivoting to that field. I used to look at food safety as just rules and paperwork, but the more I’ve learned about it, I see the essentiality of food protection and safety. Creating quality and safe food saves people’s lives, and if that isn’t making the difference, then what is?
Q: What are some of your favorite things about the IFSL Program so far?
A: As a full-time working professional, the schedule for the IFSL program is great. The instructors are amazing and provide challenging assignments and discussion topics that stretch our thinking.
It’s also been really nice to learn from other professionals. As an undergraduate, you don’t typically learn as much from your fellow students because at that stage, you haven’t had the career experience and learnings yet. The quality of discussions that we have as an IFSL cohort are exciting and pushes me to grow. I’m expanding and growing my network by tapping into the expertise of my cohort members; we lean on each other for our best thinking and I know I’ll have this network to tap into after I complete the program.
Integrated Food Systems Leadership (IFSL) Program
Designed for professionals interested in accelerating their careers, the IFSL program is a unique, online, graduate certificate program that fosters leadership, collaboration, and innovation across the food system.
Applications are being accepted through July 15, 2021 for the September cohort. Download a program brochure or schedule a consultation call for more information.
–Integrated Food Systems Leadership Program
University of Minnesota