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For Working Professionals who want to Accelerate their Careers

The IFSL program is designed to help professionals interested in the food system build a deeper understanding of all components, while developing critical leadership skills.

As future leaders, you will:

  • Gain knowledge and understanding of interdependencies across the food system
  • Consider broader impact of decisions, policies, and unforeseen circumstances 
  • Engage, collaborate, and work closely together with Cohort, Faculty, and Advisors

Participants build the skills and leadership mindset needed to address real-world food system challenges. They learn to think more broadly and become more effective problem solvers within their organization and across disciplines — locally, regionally, and globally.

Format and Courses

The IFSL program takes place over the span of 14 months in a learning cohort model that blends online courses with collaborative coursework. All students start the program together and progress through the same curriculum. This format delivers robust knowledge and practical insights on production, policy, and business aspects of the global food supply chain.

Interactive Format

The goal of the IFSL program format is to make it as interactive as possible, providing program participants the opportunity to meet, connect, and engage with their fellow cohort cohort class, program faculty, and advisors.

  • Online, collaborative coursework and class discussions
  • Manageable weekly schedules with breaks between semesters
  • Mentorship opportunities with program advisors and faculty
IFSL Courses

Courses are approximately seven to ten weeks in length and include: 

  • Keys to Effective Leadership
  • Food Production, Processing, and Supply Chains
  • Food Governance, Policy, and Regulation
  • Food Security, Safety, and Defense
  • Food Business, Marketing, and Product Development
  • Leading Across Integrated Food Systems
  • Integrated Food Systems Capstone
  • Food Systems in Action Project
  • Communications and Critical Thinking
Schedule and Fees

The IFSL program takes place over the course of 14-months with fees paid on a semester basis.

  • New cohorts begin each September with applications accepted on rolling basis
  • There are breaks in between semesters per University schedule
  • Fees are $1,825 per course credit with a total of 13 credits
  • Partial scholarships may be available, contact IFSL team to learn more


IFSL Program FAQs by Category:

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Program Overview

How is the IFSL program different from other certificate programs?

The IFSL program bridges the gap between traditional food system education and professional leadership programs. It focuses on competency and understanding of the interdependencies across the food system while developing the critical leadership skills needed to work more effectively across organizations, disciplines, geographies, and more. In addition, course credits earned in the program can be applied to a future graduate degree should participants decide to further their education.

Why is an integrated food system important?

Every food we eat is a combination and compilation of every factor and driver across the food system, yet food system professionals are often trained to focus on a single aspect in the entire farm-to-fork network. They rarely have the opportunity to step back to see the system as a whole, and to assess the interrelationships and interdependencies that actually allow the food system to work. 

By intentionally focusing on an integrated food systems approach, food system professionals and emerging leaders can begin to anticipate and proactively address interrelationships and interdependencies of the entire food system, to help move their aspect of the food system forward more quickly and effectively with less waste and environmental impact. 

The world needs you and your leadership to help us meet the food needs of the future! This integrated systems approach will help us solve the biggest food challenges and make an impact on food security and global stewardship as we grow to meet the challenge of feeding almost 10 billion people by 2050. Learn more about the importance of breaking boundaries in the food system.

How long does it take to complete the program?

The IFSL program duration is 14 months, with a total of 13 graduate level credits earned across nine fully online courses. 

Can I complete the IFSL program and still work full time?

Yes. The IFSL program is designed for professionals, and is delivered in a cohort model to ensure optimal support and engagement. Online courses and coursework take approximately eight to ten hours a week. 

What University of Minnesota colleges founded the IFSL program?

The IFSL program is a unique, collaborative effort harnessing the breadth of expertise available through three University of Minnesota colleges –  CFANS: College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource SciencesCVM: College of Veterinary Medicine and SPH: School of Public Health. In addition, the University of Minnesota Graduate School serves as the college that grants the degree.

Where can I get more information on the courses?

Course summaries are available in our program brochure. Request a brochure.

Program Benefits

What are the key benefits of the IFSL program for students?

There are enormous professional and personal benefits associated with participating in the IFSL program. We encourage you to read our cohort stories to hear why they chose IFSL and their perspectives about the program.  

For professionals in the food system who are aspiring leaders, or looking to take the next step in their careers, the IFSL program provides the opportunity to:

  • Broaden knowledge and understanding of food system interdependencies
  • Be challenged and evolve critical thinking and problem-solving skills across disciplines
  • Engage, collaborate, and network with faculty, peers, and industry advisors
  • Apply course credits towards a future master's degree at the University of Minnesota
  • Help make a difference in our food system!

How are IFSL students benefiting from the program?

We continue to hear from our program participants about the positive impact the IFSL Program is having on both their personal and professional growth. Within our inaugural graduating class, 100%  achieved the objectives they set for themselves and accelerated their career with this investment. Here are their stories.

Can the IFSL certificate be applied towards a graduate program?

University of Minnesota graduate level course credits are earned for every IFSL program course, and may be applied to future graduate degrees.

The Master of Professional Studies in Applied Sciences Leadership program offered through the University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing and Professional Education accepts all IFSL course credits.  This Masters level program can also be pursued from the onset.

As another option, IFSL students have utilized the program as their concentration area in Masters such as the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs program. Prospective IFSL applicants who are currently applying or pursuing a Masters degree are advised to speak to their advisors of their respective programs to see how the IFSL program might fit with those degrees.

What are the key benefits of the IFSL program for companies?

For organizations throughout the food system, the IFSL program provides a more effective way to support business continuity, succession planning, and training and retention initiatives. Visit our Why IFSL page to learn more.

Program Format

What is a cohort model?

A cohort model is where a set group of program participants work together for the duration of the program, encouraging a more dynamic, collaborative, and supportive learning environment.

Is the program entirely online?

The program is fully online in a highly engaging and interactive format.   

When are the kick-off sessions for the 2021 cohort class?

The kick-off sessions for the 2021 cohort are as follows:  

  • Tuesday, September 15
  • Wednesday, September 16
  • Thursday, September 17

Each day participants will be online together from 8:30 am to 11:30 am Central Time. 

What types of assignments will I be asked to complete?

Discussion boards, as well as group and individual assignments, are used throughout each course to improve communication, leadership, and organization skills. A specific highlight of this program is the adopt-a-product group assignment. Students work collaboratively on a series of assignments in each respective online course. Each course has its own associated assignments and evaluation criteria for each adopt-a-product task.

Will I be working with other class members?

As part of team collaboration, IFSL students participate in a number of assignments, including discussion boards, adopt-a-product groups, and whole class projects. These activities are designed to improve skills related to communication, assessment, feedback, analysis, creativity, motivation, and diplomacy. Each collaborative assignment is designed to enhance context-specific teamwork, communication, and leadership skills. 

Program Logistics

When does the IFSL program begin?

The IFSL program begins in early September, and is fully online.

What is the program schedule?

The program runs across four semesters with the following courses:

Fall (Starting in September)
IFSL 7000: Keys to Effective Leadership
IFSL 7011: Food Production, Processing, and Supply Chains
IFSL 7021: Food Governance, Policy, and Regulation

IFSL 7031: Food Security, Safety, and Defense
IFSL 7041: Food Business, Marketing, and Product Development

IFSL 7051: Leading Across Integrated Food Systems
IFSL 7052: Integrated Food Systems Capstone
IFSL 7061: Teamwork: Food Systems in Action Project

Fall  (September)
IFSL 7070: Communications and Critical Thinking

Course Logistics

How long is each course?

Each online course ranges from approximately seven to thirteen weeks. Each week a student can anticipate a manageable schedule of approximately eight to ten hours a week. See schedule under FAQ topic Program Logistics.

How many courses are taken at the same time?

Students typically take two to three credits of courses at any given time. The credits may be composed of a single course or multiple courses with each course building upon the previous course materials and projects.

Are the online courses self-paced?

The IFSL program uses a cohort model to enrich the learning experience for participants. This is a critical piece for the collaboration and leadership skill development goals of the program. As a result, the course is not self-paced, but rather participants progress through the program at the same pace. In addition, several courses contain synchronous events where the cohort meets during a common, pre-scheduled time for group discussions and activities. Weekly assignments may be completed in a self-paced manner in time for these events.

Is there a break in-between courses?

The IFSL program follows the University of Minnesota calendar with breaks for holidays and between semesters. More details may be found at One Stop Student Services - Dates and Deadlines.

Eligible Applicants

Are any academic prerequisites required to apply?

A baccalaureate or higher degree from an accredited college or university is required with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. If you have less than a 3.0 GPA, please contact us for options.

Do I need work experience to apply?

Participants are encouraged to have a minimum of two years experience or a strong interest in any aspect of the food system. Typically candidates will have between two to ten years of public or private sector experience in roles pertaining to:

  • Food production, processing, safety, security
  • Product development and R&D
  • Marketing, business, and procurement 
  • Regulation, policy, and risk management
  • Public health and veterinary medicine
  • Trading, distribution, supply chain, and logistics
  • Agriculture, retail, and more

Are international students eligible?

International students are welcome to apply. As a fully online program, international students are not eligible for visas. For more information, please visit these guidelines for international students

Admission Process

How do I apply to the program?

Visit our Apply page to review the application process and to get started.

What materials are required for the application process?

As part of the application process, you will be asked for your resume or CV, a statement of purpose and objectives, and collegiate transcripts. Visit the Apply page for more information.

When is the deadline for all application materials?

New cohort classes begin each September. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. 

What support does the University of Minnesota provide online students?

University of Minnesota Online offers a variety of online and blended programming and provides information to assist students with transferring credits, financial aid, and student resources. See more at UMN Online General Information.

I have questions about the application. Who do I contact?

The IFSL team would be happy to assist you with any questions you may have. Please contact us at [email protected].

I have applied for the program and would like to know my status. Who do I contact?

Applications are reviewed upon receipt, and take about two to three weeks for a response. If you do not hear back after that time, we apologize for the delay. Feel free to send a reminder to [email protected]


What is the cost of the program? Is tuition due at once?

Tuition costs are $1,825 per credit, with a total of thirteen required credits. The appropriate tuition based on credits is paid by semester, over four semesters.

  • 5 credits in the first fall semester
  • 4 credits in the spring semester
  • 3 credits in the summer semester
  • 1 credit in the second fall semester

Partial scholarships may be available. Contact our program team to learn more. 

Is there a flexible pay plan available?

The University of Minnesota offers payment plans. Please visit One Stop Student Services - Payment Plans to learn more.

Are there options for tuition support?

Many employers across the food system provide tuition support for their employees. If specific information is needed from the IFSL Program to support your inquiry, please contact our program team.

If I don’t reside in Minnesota or am an international student, will the program costs be more?

The cost for this online program is the same for each student regardless of their place of residence.

Are books and learning materials included in the fee?

All learning materials are included in the cost of the IFSL Program tuition. Students do not have to purchase outside materials.