A Culture of Support for the World’s Next Generation of professionals in the science of food.
For Arti Arora, IFT has always been a part of her professional life, beginning in her student days when she presented her master’s and PhD research at IFT annual events, participated in College Bowls, and served as student representative to the Great Lakes Section. “What makes IFT so special is all of those things that draw you in when you’re a student,” recalls Arora, VP for Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for Coca-Cola North America. “It feels like family. IFT takes you in when you’re a student, and all these years later you reflect back and realize that it’s [still] such a special organization to you.”
IFT’s foundation, Feeding Tomorrow, also played an important role in shaping the professional path Arora would take when it awarded her its Coca-Cola Foundation Fellowship in 1996, a $12,000 scholarship. For Arora, that award not only helped her make it through the last years of her PhD but also provided a monetary cushion that allowed her to embark on a postdoc at the University of Arizona rather than immediately find a job. When she was ready to look for that professional role, the scholarship served as a way to set her apart from her peers.
“The motivation and the recognition [of receiving the scholarship makes you] feel inspired to continue on in that field, and it’s also something that’s really helped me get started in my career because as we all come out of graduate school, it’s very hard to differentiate ourselves,” she explains. “By having something like that on your young starting résumé, it helps you get that foot in the door.”
Arora uses her solid foundation in food science in her role at The Coca-Cola Company, which she joined in 2005. “Food science helps you go broad,” she explains, noting that she uses her knowledge of subjects such as chemistry and food safety on a daily basis.
Now a seasoned professional herself, Arora still sees value in the scholarship she received. “When I see something like an IFT fellowship on someone’s résumé, whether they’re fresh out of school or have been working for a while, it tells me that these are people that among their peers obviously had something that set them apart,” she says, “and it’s a good indicator that they’ll probably be successful in the new role. It’s those things that I still look for and I think helped me when I was getting into my first job.”
Arora sees immense potential in the next generation of food scientists, and she emphasizes the importance of investing in the talent pool of young scientists. For those reasons, Arora recently became part of Feeding Tomorrow’s Board of Trustees, a role she hopes will allow her to give back to the organization that invested in her 20 years ago.
“IFT has given me so many opportunities to grow and develop as a professional and as a leader, both as a student and young professional and now certainly through the new board appointment as a professional later in my career,” she says. “By investing in a strong pipeline of the next generation of talent, we can ensure strong, good, evidence-based science is happening in our field, and that we’re training people that can communicate effectively about food science and the role of food science in our daily lives.”
She encourages students and professionals alike to remember the importance scholarships can play in their careers. For students, scholarships can provide both financial assistance as well as build confidence. “Obviously the monetary support is important, but it’s also about the recognition. It’s about the validation, and it’s one that you can have on your résumé and feel proud of for the rest of your career.”
And for professionals, Arora urges scholarship recipients to pay it forward. “We owe a lot to this organization, and it is a volunteer-driven organization and a foundation that counts on us for support,” she says. “We’re adding so much value to the field we all love. To be able to give back as much as we can in small amounts to ensure that we have a strong IFT and a strong talent [pool] of food scientists is something we should all remember to do.”