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UVM: Food Systems Cross-College Master in Science Becomes Reality

Kristin Smith

On Feb. 3, the University of Vermont Board of Trustees approved a cross-college, master of science degree program in food systems, after more than three years of extensive planning and discussion. The effort, begun in 2009 when UVM received a USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant for the creation of the program, gained steam in 2010 when Food Systems was chosen as one of UVM’s Transdisciplinary Research Initiatives (TRI). Along with complex systems and neuroscience, behavior and health, food systems has been identified as a key area of research investment across the disciplines.

“I am heartened by the success and send kudos to those who developed it and stuck with it,” Naomi Fukagawa, co-chair of the Food Systems Steering Committee, said. “And I praise the trustees and administration for understanding the importance of this to UVM, its land grant status, and the TRI process.”

“This is a vehicle in which numerous partners … can really engage, and put UVM and the state of Vermont in the forefront of how we actually create a change in the local and regional food system,” John Bramley, interim president, said at the board meeting.

The program has already begun the work of connecting with partners external to the university. Nutrition and food sciences professors Jane Kolodinksy and Amy Trubek, co-authors of the program’s proposal, consulted with more than 400 organizations outside of UVM during the writing process.

Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition and food sciences and a member of the program’s steering committee, believes that its approval will help UVM gain ground in the academic food systems community. “The approval of this masters program is very exciting and puts UVM at the leading edge of the emerging field of food systems,” she said.

Now that the program has been approved, next steps include accepting students’ applications for the fall 2012 semester and furthering the research. “Now, the real work begins,” Kolodinsky said.

Article by Haylley Johnson. This article may also be found on UVM Today. Edited by Amanda Waite and Jeff Wakefield.