Monday, Dec. 7, 2009
K-STATE FOOD SCIENCE DISTANCE PROGRAMS HELPING STUDENTS REACH CAREER GOALS IN FOOD INDUSTRY
MANHATTAN -- Kansas State University's distance education bachelor's, master's and certificate programs in food science fields are paving the way for working professionals to excel in the industry.
In 2008, Sarah Dixon, Kansas City, Mo., was inspired to pursue a second bachelor's degree in food science through K-State distance education because of her dog -- her Pomeranian, Bonnie.
"Many years ago, Bonnie was overweight and had some associated health problems. I spent a few years researching the pet food industry to help Bonnie be healthier, which led me to open my own small business selling healthful pet foods," Dixon said. "The personal growth I developed over the four years I owned my business influenced me to sell my business so I could pursue a formal education in food science. So, thanks to Bonnie, I am currently enjoying my education at K-State."
Dixon chose K-State because of the university's reputation and the flexibility the program allowed her. She was already juggling a full-time job at a family-owned health food market and teaching courses in pet first aid/CPR and animal nutrition.
"I'm particularly impressed with K-State's distance classroom technology," Dixon said. "I can listen to recorded classroom lectures and view presentation materials. I can also interact with faculty and classmates via chat rooms and discussion boards."
Dixon, who plans to complete K-State's food science bachelor's degree completion program in summer 2010, is looking forward to the opportunities that await her in the food science industry.
"There is a lot of growth for employment opportunities in this area," Dixon said. "Given my work experience in statistical process control and my current educational goals, I hope to obtain employment where my experience and education can support the goals of a company, particularly in the area of food safety."
For Jon Fisher, Monticello, Minn., food science was a career path he'd stumbled upon while filling out an undergraduate scholarship application at the University of Minnesota.
"I had never heard of it before, but the description intrigued me so I checked into it," Fisher said. "It looked like a nice mix of nutrition, science, math and equipment/processing. I really liked the real-world application of science that I enjoyed so much in high school."
After graduating from Minnesota, Fisher began his career as an hourly technician for General Mills in the Progresso Research and Development Division. But after four years on the job, he began to consider the impact a master's degree could have on his career. His supervisor encouraged him to look at K-State.
"I had expressed interest in returning to graduate school, and she thought this would be a great way to continue working and complete my degree," Fisher said. "She had a lot of confidence in the program and passed that along to me. My goal was to get a promotion at work and jump career tracks."
A new father, Fisher found that his ability to be autonomous in many classes made it possible for him to balance work, home and school. Sometimes he took advantage of this autonomy to work ahead, making room in his busy schedule to spend time with his family.
"Some classes were pretty structured, but you could decide when during the week to get your course work done. For me, most of my time was in the evening or late at night," Fisher said. "This flexibility helped just after my son was born so I could spend more time with him."
Fisher graduated with his master's degree in May 2009 and is now a salaried professional at General Mills with greater responsibility and influence than before completing his master's degree.
For more information about the bachelor's completion, master's or certificate programs in food science, or for other programs available through K-State distance education, contact the K-State Division of Continuing Education at 1-800-622-2578 or visit http://www.distance.k-state.edu