October 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 5 // Feature Articles // 5FEA1

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Kellogg Foundation Initiative Seeks to Catalyze Change at Land-Grant Institutions

Preparing Food System Professionals for the 21st Century is a partnership between te W.K. Kellogg Foundation and land-grant universities. The initiative seeks to create innovative approaches to university-based food system education with implications for university-wide change. This article explains the initiative and gives examples of programs started under the initiative.

Sandra Fugate
W. K. Kellogg Foundaion
l Michigan Avenue
Battle Creek, Michigan 49017-3398

"If you want to build change, you have to start everywhere at once." -Margaret Mead

Guided at least in spirit by the words of Margaret Mead, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation's Food Systems Professions Education (FSPE) Initiative is seeking to catalyze positive change in the way land-grant universities operate.

The Initiative, which entered Phase II last year after an initial "visioning" process, involves 12 clusters of higher education institutions around the country - literally from coast- to-coast. Early results show that the Initiative not only is prompting change, it's making more headway, and faster, than anyone could have predicted.

"It's working. It's breaking down the walls that have existed for so long," said Rick Foster, Vice President for Programs at the Foundation.

Among the changes seen in the short time since Phase II began are new educational programs, new working relationships among departments within institutions, and new collaborations among universities and a variety of partners, such as community colleges, agri-businesses, and even neighboring universities that previously had only been competitors.

The scope of change has been so promising that Foster says he's optimistic the Initiative will achieve its goal of helping educational institutions prepare for the food system demands of the 21st century. Because that goal requires sweeping change, and because colleges and universities have been traditionally conservative and resistant to change, the Foundation knew before the Initiative began that an infrastructure of support would be necessary if the 12 individual FSPE projects were to make significant and lasting progress, Foster explained.

To that end, the Foundation funded supporting grants to help create an environment for change, including a group of college and university presidents to form the Kellogg Presidents' Commission, which will meet regularly for the next four to five years. Also, the Foundation is working with 47 professional societies to address the reward system and single discipline approaches that motivates individual professors, administrators, and agriculturalists.

"They (the individual projects and institutions) really need a network of outside support for validation," Foster said.

Foundation personnel are keenly aware that the FSPE Initiative is seeking changes that are enormous. Nonetheless, those goals are not out of line with the scope of change that is about to sweep through the world's food systems, Foster said. World population will grow to a projected 10 billion people by the year 2030 and 14 billion by the year 2060; the planet, he added, is believed to be able to comfortably feed about eight billion people. Food will be a volatile global issue in the next century. Higher education, in general, and land-grant universities, in particular, offer one of the best avenues for dealing with future stresses on a fragile food system, Foster stressed.

"If we are going to put our future in anyone's hands, it's probably the land-grant universities that have the best structure," he said. Land-grant institutions already have proven their ability to address food systems issues, he said, pointing to the past and current success of the nation's food system and our abundant food supply.

However, the nation's and world's food systems have changed and will continue to change drastically in the future, and land- grant institutions haven't kept up, Foster noted. Consequently, land-grant institutions, which were established with the unique mission of public service, have somewhat lost touch with their stakeholders and have lost public support, financially and otherwise, he said. Nonetheless, "We have a sense that the universities know they have a need to change, and are looking for ways to make change."

Such was the philosophy that propelled the FSPE Initiative into existence. The project got off the ground in 1994 when the Foundation asked interested institutions to participate in an 18- month-long visioning process that essentially required participants to define where they wanted their educational system to be in the year 2020. The only specific requirements the Kellogg Foundation attached, Foster explained, was that the participants had to involve a diverse group of people, such as minority groups and other stakeholders who have either never been included or who have been relegated to the background, and the vision itself needed to hinge on collaboration and partnerships. Although collaboration isn't necessarily easy, it is viewed as essential, Foster added.

The 12 projects that received funding from the Foundation for the visioning process and, ultimately, for the Phase II implementation process are:

  • Washington and Idaho. Collaborators: Washington State University, the University of Idaho, the Washington state system of community colleges, and Evergreen State College.

  • Oregon. Collaborators: Oregon State University and the Oregon community college system.

  • Minnesota. Collaborators: the University of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota-Crookston, South Dakota State University, North Dakota State University.

  • Wisconsin. Collaborators: the University of Wisconsin- Madison, UW-Extension, and other campuses of the UW system.

  • Nebraska. Collaborators: the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, the Nebraska state college system and community college system.

  • Iowa. Collaborators: Iowa State University and the Iowa community college system.

  • Texas. Collaborators: Texas A&M University, seven Texas A&M system campuses, Texas Tech University, and the Houston community college system.

  • Southern Food Systems Education Consortium (SOFSEC). Collaborators: Tuskegee University (Alabama), Alabama A&M University, Alcorn State University (Mississippi), Fort Valley State College (Georgia), North Carolina A&T State University, Southern University (Louisiana).

  • South Carolina. Collaborators: Clemson University, South Carolina State University, and the South Carolina technical college system.

  • Ohio. Collaborators: The Ohio State University, including the extended campuses of The Ohio State University.

  • Pennsylvania. Collaborators: The Pennsylvania State University, 19 Commonwealth campuses, Cheyney University, and Rodale Institute.

  • Mid-Atlantic Consortium. Collaborators: Rutgers-the State University of New Jersey, Cornell University (New York), Delaware State University, the University of Delaware, the University of Maryland College Park, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Cumberland County College (New Jersey), Sussex County Community College (New Jersey), Mercer County Community College (New Jersey), and Delaware Valley State College (Pennsylvania).

Each project received a total of about $100,000 from the Foundation for the visioning process. For Phase II, which runs 1995 through the year 2000, the 12 projects have been granted varying amounts from the Foundation, ranging from $1.5 million to $3 million over five years, depending on the scope of the project.

Although all of the projects are somewhat different in terms of the specific issues they're addressing, they're also somewhat the same in terms of the larger issue: stimulating long-term visions, innovative planning, and collaborations in a way that will better prepare food systems professionals to respond to food systems issues in the next century.

By way of example, here's a glimpse of five of the 12 FSPE projects.


After going through more than 10 years of budget cuts and numerous strategic planning activities, faculty, staff, and administrators in Oregon's system of higher education were understandably cynical about planning activities, said Gwil Evans, of Oregon State University. To counteract the pessimism, FSPE project leaders there used two key words to generate support: "authenticity" and "sustainability."

"Authenticity, so that whatever we engaged in had to come across to people as real to them. It wasn't something artificial. It wasn't something being imposed on them.," Evans explained, adding, "Sustainability, because people seemed to feel that past planning activities came and went like the tides or the moon and didn't leave much trace."

For the visioning process, eight small groups were formed, with half of each group consisting of representatives from the colleges and university, and half from customers of those institutions. Each group was charged with the task of creating a vision for the year 2020 that will lead to system change in food systems, post-secondary education in Oregon, or both. The only stipulations were that the vision had to be part of a collaborative, creative process that involved the whole group, so that no one particular person could press an agenda; also, the vision had to be one that the members of the group were willing to work toward themselves, Evans stressed.

Last spring, the groups gathered for a "common ground" conference to consolidate their ideas into five areas of goals and action plans. Those areas include such topics as restructuring agricultural education and expanding the curriculum to better educate students about the food system and the challenges it faces. This fall, the groups will begin developing more specific action plans.

"How do you integrate a change initiative into the fabric of the institution? We're discovering right now the importance of a steering committee, not just of university representatives, but with the customers. We think it's the body through which these community action teams will work. Because the changes they are talking about making will require policy changes at the various levels of government, so we will, for example, have to make allies in the legislature and governor's office," Evans commented.


Among the goals of the Iowa FSPE project was to develop better working relationships between Iowa State University and the state's 15 community colleges, and ISU's College of Agriculture and the university's other academic colleges.

The visioning process involved 40 to 50 "listening sessions" that included up to 900 people across the state, said Gerald Klonglan, associate dean in the College of Agriculture at ISU. Among the stakeholders whose opinions were sought: Native American groups, Hispanic groups, specialized farm organizations, agri-businesses, dietitians, food banks, and representatives from the fast food industry. Many of those same stakeholders also are represented on the project's steering committee, which is broken into smaller committees that focus on specific issues such as academics, partnerships, and projects.

The projects committee, Klonglan said, reviews funding requests that are being submitted by those who participated in the listening sessions. The committee is trying hard not to simply accept or reject a request, but instead to work with those who proposed the idea to help refine it and to help locate other possible funding sources.

Among the new projects already being funded within the Iowa FSPE project is one that seeks to build ties between higher education and the public school system in Des Moines, particularly at the elementary level. Also, in Des Moines, FSPE representatives are working with a group of business and industry representatives who are concerned that the school system hasn't developed a modern food system curriculum, one that focuses on such subjects as technology, economics, environmental concerns. The Des Moines school board, Klonglan noted, has since hired a new staff person to help design a new program.

Overall, Klonglan is optimistic that the FSPE will produce significant, lasting institutional change.

"Probably there will be changes occurring serendipitously that we in the project are not even going to know about. But we have gotten people working together and thinking, and already some dialogues are happening that weren't happening before."

Southern Food Systems Education Consortium (SOFSEC)

Every year for the past 50 years, Tuskegee University has hosted the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference, which draws participants from both 1862 and 1890 land-grant universities, as well as different organizations, agencies, and occupations. Over time, Walter Hill said, the conference resulted in a network of people who were discussing the same issues as the Kellogg Foundation: the changing world food systems and the need for educational institutions to change, too.

"There was a state of readiness," Hill explained. "When the opportunity came (for the KSPE Initiative), it became clear to me right away that we could identify several southern states and work together as we never had before and use this as a catalyst."

After studying statistics pertaining to African-Americans and their social-economic status, Tuskegee located the areas where stakeholders' need appeared greatest. Next, the university approached educational institutions in those states to see if they would be interested in forming an FSPE consortium. They were.

For the visioning process, the SOFSEC project brought together representatives from all of the participating institutions, as well as a broad range of stakeholders, such as legislators, community-based leaders, farmers, scientists, K-12 teachers, small business owners, and federal agency representatives.

In a sense, the FSPE group worked through the visioning process backwards, Hill said. Participants started by envisioning what type of educational system would be needed in 2020, then backed up in five-year increments to determine what groundwork needed to be done to reach that end.

During Phase II, the project is focusing on three strategic areas: the development of one or two new research and outreach programs at each institution; the development of K-12 partnerships; and the development of inter-institutional partnerships to build capacity and change.

To achieve that end, the Consortium is funding eight projects that will begin tackling a variety of issues this fall, including community development, food systems curriculum, and the faculty reward system.

For one of the projects, the six SOFSEC institutions will work with one local school district per semester to develop curricula that will better prepare secondary students for studies in food and environmental systems.

"It cuts across five states, so we'll be able to share what we learn with everyone. What we will be looking for are good examples that work. We just think it's going to generate a lot of excitement in these school systems," Hill emphasized.


Ohio's FSPE project steering committee is a testament to the changing face of the nation's food system. Half of the committee's members are from the university, half are from outside the university and include such traditional and non- traditional agricultural segments as farmers, food processors, agri-business, turf grass companies, rural communities, the Humane Society, the Nature Conservancy, and a Catholic Diocese.

"We tried to bring in a real cross-section so we could hear really different view points. We did not want this to be the viewpoint of a really narrow sector," said Marilyn Trefz, director of Project Reinvent, the FSPE project housed at the OSU.

Because the steering committee worked so hard to gain genuine and direct input from stakeholders across the board, the visioning process was as challenging as it was rewarding. At one point, when focus groups met to compile their ideas and come up with six areas of emphasis for the college to focus on, one group was about to quit and leave until facilitators intervened.

Actually, the discord probably reflects well on the project's strengths. Participants feel strongly about the issues precisely because they are serious about accomplishing something, Trefz said. "People weren't just going through the motions. It meant a lot to them. It was a really great experience."

Currently, the project has moved into Phase II, which includes task forces that are working to come up with specific actions in four areas. A "focus" task force is looking for ways to prioritize and focus the university's efforts and resources on issues and subjects that align with the FSPE vision. A "communication and marketing" task force is developing communication plans and is looking for ways to expand and update the technologies used. A "reward system" task force is looking for ways to develop alternative faculty and staff reward systems, possibly on a pilot basis. The "organizational structure" task force is looking for ways to lower barriers and make it easier for people to work across disciplinary lines.

The Ohio project also plans to launch six "new direction initiatives" that will focus on building future structures and addressing future needs, while the task forces deal with rebuilding existing structures, Trefz said. Those new directions initiatives will touch on several areas, including student- centered learning, interactive communication technologies, curriculum reform, and international programming.

Mid-Atlantic Consortium

In the Mid-Atlantic Consortium, all institutions are created equal-that is, consortium members can't earn extra votes by having a larger student population, or bigger budget, or snazzier reputation.

"Each institution in this consortium is viewed as an equal partner, and I do think each institution believes this," pointed out Ian L. Maw, dean of academic and student affairs at Rutgers- the State University of New Jersey.

The mutual respect in the working relationship between consortium members is largely responsible for the growing number of collaborative agreements that have been worked out so far, Maw believes.

Collaborations currently on the table in the consortium involve distance learning, shared coursework, and shared programs. Although the institutions have worked together to some extent in the past, those efforts did not have the true interdependence and more sweeping nature of collaboration, Maw said.

Under the consortium, "We are going to be sharing resources, not only human, but capital resources as well. We'll be developing clear articulation agreements. In many cases, we will, I suspect, be talking about joint degrees, joint faculty appointments-all of those kinds of things, it seems to me, are possible." Maw thinks the consortium will help change the current reward system for faculty and staff.

"That's the toughest nut to crack, but I think it will happen. There will be within our institutions what I call a modification of the faculty culture that will recognize, reward, and laud faculty for interdisciplinary efforts, on the one hand, and inter-institutional collaborative efforts on the other," he added.

During Phase II, the consortium's steering committee is reviewing funding proposals from institutions that want to plan collaborative agreements, and institutions that already have planned and now want to implement collaboration.

Already, the consortium has led to trial collaboration agreements in the areas of dairy science and equine science, with various institutions agreeing to take the lead and provide educational programming to the others.

Similar discussions also are underway in the area of marine science, Maw said. "It's just every time I turn around somebody has another idea they want to try."

Synergy such as that was precisely the hope and goal of the FSPE Initiative right from the start.

As Foster pointd out, "The mere fact that you get people together who ordinarily never communicate with each other starts the change process.