Alumni update on teaching, research and outreach from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
October 31, 2016
In 2014, the department used “Backward Design” to establish program goals and learning objectives for the food science major that align with university learning goals while serving as the benchmark against which individual course learning objectives are established. A similar process was planned for the nutritional sciences and dietetics majors. We can report great progress in these areas. All three majors have been modified using the Backward Design process, and we have received positive reviews of the resulting curricular changes from external agencies such as the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Institute of Food Technologists.
The development of the nutritional sciences curriculum has been most exciting. Nutritional sciences faculty members have been engaged in curricular redesign, and an exciting state-of-the-art new curriculum with three new tracks -- biochemical nutrition, global nutrition and nutritional epidemiology -- has been approved by the university. This curriculum is being implemented now (in fall 2016).
The teaching faculty in all three majors has also been rejuvenated. We were able to hire seven new enthusiastic fixed-term faculty members to teach in the redesigned and highly teaching-intensive majors. These faculty members will ensure the continued growth and excellence of our teaching programs. These positions were funded by aggressively pursuing increased online course offerings, enabling us to achieve a fourfold increase in online teaching revenues since fiscal year 2008.
We have three research foci: food safety, international nutrition, and nutrition and health.
In 2014, we reported that extramural funding increased from $1,309,394 in 2007-2008 to $3,837,993 in 2012-2013. We are pleased to report that this further increased to $5,177,658 in 2014-2015. To build on this success, we are eager to implement two cluster hires approved by MSU in the areas of lipids and health, and international nutrition. A critical mass of FSHN faculty members focused on federal funding, working closely together with faculty members in CNS and the Food Security Group in the CANR, should result in further increased grant funding.
The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is extremely fortunate to have a large number of endowments to provide undergraduate scholarships to students enrolled in our three majors: dietetics, food science and nutritional sciences. These endowments were created by alumni, faculty members and friends of the department, who have contributed generously over the years to establish and enrich these funds. Currently, approximately 30 scholarship funds support undergraduate students. Some of these endowments produce enough money to fund one student per year; others support as many as 15 to 20 students per year. The endowment agreements reflect the interests of the donors in supporting the students. Some of the donor interests are relatively specific -- e.g., awards to be made to students who intend to work in the dairy industry or to students with an interest in pediatric nutrition. Others are written very broadly -- e.g., an FSHN junior or senior with at least a 3.0 GPA.
The scholarship program is administered by the FSHN Scholarship Committee, which consists of the advisers for the three majors: Dr. Jeff Swada (food science), Dr. Jennifer Ekstrom (nutritional sciences) and Linda Summers (dietetics), plus Gale Strasburg, the director of undergraduate programs. The scholarship committee works diligently to evaluate scholarship applications and to align the scholarship awards with donor intent.
This past spring, 79 applicants from the three majors received scholarships for the 2016-17 academic year. Scholarships ranged in size from $1400 to $5000, with the top student in each major receiving a $5000 scholarship. Twenty-two food science students received scholarships totaling $56,500, with an average award of $2570. Twenty-four nutritional sciences majors received a total of $50,900, with an average award of $2120. Thirty-three scholarships were awarded to dietetics majors; the average award size was $1986. Differences in average awards reflect differences in the number of student applicants from each major as well as the availability of funding from each endowment.
In addition to the general scholarships, three endowments support mentored undergraduate research projects. Requests for applications are sent to students in September, and awards of approximately $3000 per student are made in October. An additional $500 to $1000 is provided to the adviser to purchase supplies, chemicals or other needed material for the project. Six students received these awards in the 2015-16 academic year.