Alina Kim is a 2016 IFMA Education Foundation scholarship recipient. She attends Cornell University and is majoring in Food Science. Find out what she had to say when we asked her a few questions about her foodservice scholarship and future career.
What is your major & what made you decide on it?
I am currently majoring in Food Science. I was always between chemistry and food science when applying to colleges and ended up starting off as a Chemistry major when I first enrolled at Cornell because I had more experience with the subject during high school. However, after my first semester of freshman year, I realized that I was more interested in the application of chemistry rather than the theory of chemistry. Furthermore, my interest in the growing potential of the food industry, especially within the bounds of safety and sustainability, continued to intensify. As a result, I began the internal transfer process soon after and have enjoyed all the academic and applicable knowledge that has come with being a Food Science major.
How has your scholarship enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
This scholarship has enabled me to pursue a career in foodservice by opening up opportunities that would have otherwise been closed due to financial restrictions. I have been able to fill out applications and apply for positions that I would not have been able to logistically do before, which I am grateful beyond words for. My aspirations are to make significant contributions in the foodservice and food industries starting from internships and going up from there.
What was your first job in foodservice?
My first official job in foodservice was at a food import company located in New Jersey. My primary responsibilities included conducting product evaluations, handling consumer complaints, and working on the company's central database.
What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
My "dream job" would amalgamate quality assurance and product development. I am primarily interested in safety and quality because food as we know it is constantly evolving, which requires more surveillance and guidance that constantly need to be revised. However, I am also interested in the prospect of new food items that transform raw materials into innovative products. Essentially, this "dream job" would allow me to participate in the supply chain process as well as to overlook the food industry in the larger scheme of things.
What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
I have acquired a great amount of technical knowledge necessary to communicate with industry professionals through coursework, but I have also gained applicable skills such as how to analyze official documents (such as HACCPs, SOPs, etc.) and perform product evaluations. Not only have I gained knowledge on information directly pertinent to food, but I have also taken other coursework that has taught me to think through different perspectives as well as how to interact with humans/human behavior.
What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
The most prominent challenges students face in today's world of foodservice are competition for a job and integrity. The foodservice industry is interdisciplinary, meaning that students with all kinds of backgrounds can be great candidates for foodservice jobs. At the same time, this puts Food Science students at risk because most spend their college years preparing for the food and foodservice careers specifically, but sometimes just having an academic background in the subject matter is not good enough. However, competition for jobs resonates with all college students who are soon to enter the workforce.
In addition, students also face the challenge of maintaining integrity. With the prominence of GMOs, processed foods in the current market, and an increasing volume of imported raw materials, integrity can often be overlooked by profit. As mentioned before, I have great interest in quality and safety because I want to work towards maintaining the integrity of food items that consumers are exposed to, but I know that despite my personal aspirations, there are conflicting pressures present in the industry.
Do you have mentor? How have they helped you?
My mentor is the Director of the Undergraduate Program of the Food Science Department at Cornell and my faculty advisor, Dr. Alicia Orta-Ramirez. From the beginning, she has offered me academic guidance as well as mental guidance throughout my college experience. Whenever I had any uncertainty or doubt about the decisions I was making in terms of coursework or career-wise, she would always offer her opinion given the context as well as objectively consider all possible options. She always wishes the best for all her advisees and I feel very fortunate to be able to have her as my mentor.
What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is brunch. Not only do I love the food options that come with brunch (especially a good avocado toast) but I also love the atmosphere and vibe that are associated with brunch. Since brunch is not technically considered as "standard" meal as in breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it has a very unique connotation. To me, brunch is an experience as much as it is a meal.
What companies have you worked at for internships?
Camerican International, Inc.
About the IFMA Education Foundation:
The IFMA Education Foundation promotes the next generation of foodservice leaders. The Foundation is committed to give qualified culinary, marketing or food science students support toward completion of education requirements. Over the years, we've accomplished our goal by providing scholarships, publications, educational programs, internships and stipends to accredited institutions and individuals enrolled in accredited institutions.
Do you want to support the next generation of foodservice by making a donation to IFMA's Education Foundation?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.