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Erika Gustafson is a 2019 IFMA Education Foundation scholarship recipient. She attends the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana 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.


Erika Gustafson, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Erika Gustafson, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


What is your major & what made you decide on it?
I am a Food Science major with a minor in Chemistry. I was aware of Food Science as a career path from a young age due to family connections in the industry. I always knew I was a science person so I started as a biology major, but after taking several chemistry classes and learning about how chemistry can be applicable to food, I landed on food science. It is so cool to be able to work with new and exciting products as part of a job and understand why food behaves the way it does, as well as why consumers choose certain products over others!

How has your scholarship enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
My scholarship has provided me with a financial gift that will inspire me to remain dedicated to my studies, as well as motivate me to pursue a higher degree down the road.

What was your first job in foodservice?
Ironically, all of my jobs have had some relation to food or foodservice. My first job was in high school, where I worked at a beach concession stand preparing burgers and other fast food items. I then continued into food service working as a waitress at a local country club, and eventually transitioned into internship positions with food!

What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
My dream job is to work in product development because I think it provides new and exciting challenges on a regular basis. You have the flexibility of working in the lab as well as more of the face to face side of the business.

What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
I have learned a lot about the chemistry behind food that I will take with me as I begin to work in the industry. Not only is it important to understand why you might get a certain result in processing, but also to be able to problem-solve and provide solutions!

What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
Personally, the biggest challenge I face is staying relevant with all of the options food service has to offer. Younger generations have had a huge influence on the way people think about food and have diversified what people are consuming by providing more culturally influenced options.

Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you?
I think I have had several mentors along the way. Both my advisors and professors have always taken a personal approach to working with students and want to see them succeed in the best way possible. They consistently push us to jump at opportunities and make connections in the industry, which will help us be successful in the long run.

What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is my grandma's baked casserole because I associate it with the family time we spent together at her home.

About The IFMA Education Foundation

The IFMA Education Foundation promotes the next generation of foodservice leaders. The Foundation is committed to giving 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.

About People Future 2025 

The IFMA Education Foundations new industry initiative, focused on attracting the best and brightest talent into the foodservice industry. Click here to learn more.

How to help the next generation of foodservice!

  • Support the IFMA Education Foundation by making a donation
  • Get involved in the People Future 2025 initiative

Contact us at IFMA@IFMAworld.com.