Experience of a Lifetime with IFTSA

By Matt Cael

It is the time of year for IFTSA Nominations and Elections. To be honest, for some reason, it is always a challenge to get people excited about getting involved in IFTSA leadership. However, once you take the leap the possibilities are endless. I thought I would take a few moments to share my story, and talk about how IFTSA has driven my education and career. I hope that it will encourage you to think about the opportunities that IFTSA has to offer you.

I started my IFTSA adventure 6 years ago, as a rising junior at Texas Tech University. At our area meeting the previous year it was announced that we were having trouble finding a new Area Representative for the South Central area. At that time, I had relatively little experience with my local chapter. I had competed in College Bowl, and attended meetings and events, but I didn’t have any idea of what IFTSA could do for me, or where it would take me.  So, I jumped in and ran for the position of South Central Area Representative.

That summer I made my first trip to the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo in New Orleans, for my introduction in to IFTSA leadership. Two friends and I arrived in New Orleans late on Friday afternoon, crammed in to the Hotel Monteleone, and hit Bourbon Street almost immediately. It was a trip I will never forget. If you aren’t planning on attending this year’s meeting, find a way to make it. It is an amazing opportunity to get together with 20,000 food scientists from academia, industry, and government from around the world.  For a food science student, it is a life changing experience.

I spent the rest of that year working with the IFTSA Board to guide the direction of IFTSA, and with my local chapters to host our area meeting. As a junior, I was quite intimidated by this board. Many of them were older graduate students with years of experience in IFTSA and food science in general. What could I actually contribute? I look back on this now and laugh, because without their influence, friendship, and guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am today. After that year, I was hooked.

Since that accidental beginning in IFTSA, I have had the chance to connect with students and leaders across the globe. I have served as the IFT VP of IFT Relations, Inaugural Heart Healthy Competition Chair, and for the past 2.5 years, in the IFTSA Office of the President, on IFT Board of Directors, and on the Feeding Tomorrow Foundation’s Board. IFTSA also influenced me to pursue my graduate education at LSU, which allowed me to move to a new place, experience new people, and grow as a future professional.  I even interviewed for my job through the IFT Career Center. As a food scientist, IFT is my professional home.

I think that if you talk with anyone who is a past officer in IFTSA, they will share similar experiences about how IFTSA impacted their growth as a future professional in food science. It is an opportunity to work with, and learn from, the leaders in our industry from today and tomorrow.  More importantly, it is an opportunity to impact the future of our profession.  I highly encourage you to nominate yourself or encourage someone else to run for a position on the IFTSA board.

IFTSA nominations and supporting documents are due on Saturday, February 1, 2014 to Anna Ylijoki at aylijoki@ift.org. Elections run from February 12, 2014 through March 13, 2014. For further information, including new position description videos, and to nominate yourself for a position, please visit http://www.ift.org/community/students/about-iftsa/nominations-and-elections.aspx.

Photo Credit:IFTSA

Science Meets Food

The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) is a forward-looking, student-governed community of IFT members. Through competitions, scholarships, networking, and leadership opportunities, you’ll set yourself apart from your classmates (unless they’re members too).

1 Comment

  1. Great comments, Matt! IFTSA changed my life, too! I served two years as Fun Run Chair and one year as VP of Competitions. Both positions helped me meet outstanding peers who became great friends and motivators. I also met many key “adults” within IFT who helped me focus my goals and provided excellent mentorship and networking (i.e. jobs and careers!) connections. Furthermore, these positions taught me a number of leadership and organizational skills that have increased my personal confidence and professional worth. IFTSA is such a great place to learn these skills because you have so many friends that help you along the way and never let you fall!

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