February 19, 2021

Chloe Creager Spotlight Cover Image

How IFSL Reignited a Passion for Learning

Chloe Creager knew that she wanted to expand her knowledge and skills by pursuing a master's degree. After enrolling in a program that was not the right fit, Chloe took the time to pause, reflect, and reconsider her focus. Chloe then discovered the Integrated Food Systems Leadership (IFSL) program - the 14-month graduate certificate program focused on growing the next generation of food leaders. She was thrilled to discover that IFSL courses and curriculum are included in the Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Applied Sciences Leadership being offered through the University of Minnesota's College of Continuing and Professional Studies. We chatted with Chloe to hear about how the IFSL program is broadening her perspectives by giving her the confidence and vision to be a food system leader and helping her to go beyond what she thought possible before beginning the program.

How did you discover the IFSL program, and what prompted you to enroll?

My undergraduate degree was in animal sciences and nutrition which sparked my interest in animal research. I enjoy learning, so my curiosity to understand our global food system beyond animal research is what prompted me to enroll in IFSL. Being knowledgeable in research is a definite goal of mine, but I also want to broaden my knowledge of the food system so I am aware of where I can build upon and grow in my career. When I was researching the IFSL program, I really liked that the curriculum can apply to all areas of the food system. The program is not super specific to science, research, or one area of the food system. The program is created to allow professionals to tailor the assignments and learnings to their interests.

Additionally, the IFSL Director, Dr. van de Ligt, was a former Cargill employee, which is where I work as an animal research technician. I was inspired by her career journey and excited to learn from her and the program advisors who have a broad range of knowledge and experience across the food system.

Have you been able to apply learnings from the program to the work you are doing now?

An important component of the IFSL program is the leadership focus. I have been able to put those skills into practice in my job, such as leading from the middle, practicing active listening, and providing and receiving constructive feedback. Developing and practicing these types of transferable skills is so valuable, no matter what field or career path.   Because of IFSL, I now have a greater foundational understanding of how the food system and supply chains work. I am looking at my role at Cargill in a new way because I am seeing the important role we play as a company in serving many customers.

What are you hoping to learn and take away from the program?  

I want to diversify my knowledge of the food system beyond my specific role in animal research. When I have knowledge and understanding of where other people are coming from and what their goals are, I think I will be able to more effectively drive change.

The IFSL program allows cohort members to learn from each other - as well as from the faculty and advisors - since we are each in differing roles and industries. The program is also structured for professionals at any stage in their career. Everyone has different viewpoints on the course content, so through our discussion boards and group projects, we are learning from each other. It is a bit of a crash course on the food system without having to spend years in the industry learning on-the-job.

Do you have any favorite learnings from the program so far?

I did not expect that my intellectual interest and passion for learning would be completely reset. The program has provided me a new way of looking at things, and as a cohort, we have a lot of in-depth dialogue on relevant topics each of us are facing in our careers. Since starting the program, my interest and passion for learning has reignited. Also, I have gained more confidence that I am capable of going beyond a career in research, if I so choose. I might not have experience in other fields yet, but the IFSL program has shown me that my awareness is the first step to make change, both for the specific roles I pursue in the food system and the change I can impact.

Integrated Food Systems Leadership (IFSL) Program

Designed for professionals interested in accelerating their careers, the IFSL program is a unique graduate certificate program that fosters leadership, collaboration, and innovation across the food system.

Applications are being accepted through July 15, 2021 for the September cohort. Download a program brochure or schedule a consultation call