Food Systems Certificate FAQ

Q: What unique knowledge and skills does the certificate offer over other courses at UMN?

A: The certificate provides a breadth of understanding of food systems combined with a set of skills to work more effectively in agriculture and food businesses and related government agencies.

Q:How did the idea for this certificate come about?

A: The certificate was created to help UMN graduates be more competitive for agriculture and food related industry and government careers. Employers shared that UMN grads lacked critical thinking, communication and teamwork skills and didn’t understand food systems even though their technical knowledge in their discipline was strong.

Q: Who are the target participants for the program and why?

A: The certificate targets graduate and professional students (DVM, MPH, MPA) as well as upper level undergrads in agriculture and food related fields, and early career professionals looking to broaden their knowledge of food systems. Early and pre-career students have the most to gain from the program and can be developed into the types of professionals that employers are looking for.

Q: How is the certificate program set up and why?

The program is designed as a set of three intensive one-week sessions focused on food production, food policy and food protection.
The sessions are scheduled outside the normal semesters so as not to interfere with other coursework. Ideally a significant number of the participants complete the entire series of sessions in one academic year as an interdisciplinary cohort. The learning that goes on among participants from different disciplinary backgrounds is one of the unique benefits of this certificate, e.g. veterinarians interacting with plant pathologists, public affairs specialists, food scientists and environmental health experts.

Q: What does each of the week-long sessions entail?

A: Each week involves two interwoven 1 credit courses targeting the food systems core competencies identified by our external stakeholders.  Week 1 (Focus on Food Production) covers the food system from farm to table and the business and science of food systems. Week 2 (Focus on Food Policy) covers food system policy in the US at both the local and national levels and the global food system in terms of trade and international standards
Week 3 (Focus on Food Protection) focuses on three aspects of food protection (food safety, food security and food defense) and includes a capstone experience where participants work with government and industry representatives to tackle food systems issues together.  

Q: How will online resources be used as supplemental educational materials?

 A: The food systems certificate provides a broad overview, while the on-line materials offer participants the opportunity to dig deeper depending on their particular interests. Online materials include video briefs (less than 5 minutes each), e-studies (for example reviewing the entire pork food system, and e-cases looking as specific issues like the regulatory confusion around cottage foods (foods prepared at home to be sold at farmers markets and fairs).

Q: What are the requirements if the courses are taken for credit?

 A: The most important requirement is active participation.  These courses are heavily geared for experiential learning so participation every day of the week is mandatory. Requirements also include group activities as well as some individual preparation before and during class combined with reflections after the week. 

Q: What are the requirements if the courses are taken for professional development?

A. Participants will get the most out of the course by actively participating, and attending all days of each week-long program. 

Q: How will students be graded if taking the courses for credit?

A: All the courses will be graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Full participation is critical for satisfactory performance. 

Q: Will the courses be evaluated?

A: Participants will evaluate their experience. External partners will evaluate the entire certificate program, largely based on their interactions during the field exercises and the final week capstone activities.