Advanced degree in food science to grow opportunities for careers, research

In response to the needs of the region’s robust food and beverage industry, Mount Mary University has created a new MS in Food Science program specifically for industry professionals, resulting in greater career opportunities and local research initiatives.

The MS in Food Science, which begins in fall, is open to working professionals and anyone with an undergraduate major, particularly in chemistry or biology. It is open to both women and men. Learn more at

Mount Mary University's Master of Science in Food Science consists of three professional development certificates. Students can complete them individually or combine them to complete the entire MS in Food Science.

Certifications include:

  • Food Processing Chemistry
  • Food Safety and Toxicology
  • Food Science Research
Strong partnerships with 30 local food companies in the Milwaukee area prompted Mount Mary to create a program responsive to the needs of the industry, said Anne Vravick, assistant professor of Food Science at Mount Mary.

“Southeastern Wisconsin has operational plants for some of the largest food companies in the world, including Cargill, Kraft, Nestle, and Chr. Hansen,” said Vravick. ”Milwaukee ranks in the top 10 metropolitan areas in the U.S. for food science employment; half of the top-10 metropolitan areas in the nation are clustered in the Midwest.”

In addition to the new MS in Food Science, Mount Mary has an undergraduate degree in food science and using the newly designed 3+2 program, undergraduate students can earn their master’s degree in five years.

“Mount Mary’s Food Science degrees are unique and flexible. They work well for both the typical undergraduate as well as the working professional due to the versatile offerings,” said Mount Mary President Christine Pharr, Ph.D. “The master’s program offers online, blended and on-campus weekend classes to enable professionals to continue working while earning their graduate degree,” she said. “Students also have the option to conduct thesis research on campus or at the site of their current employer.”

Local manufacturers say the responsiveness of this program will have a direct impact on their business, from talent retention to new product development.

 “As a local ingredients supplier, the availability of bright, local talent at a master’s level is difficult to find. Currently we hire many employees who must move to the area, often far from family and friends. That can make retaining talent difficult,” said Lori Napier, director of Applications and Product Development, Natural Colors Division at Chr. Hansen. “With this master’s level program, the local talent pool will be larger, more connected to the Milwaukee area, and more relevant to our business.

“Having talent right at our fingertips means we can work with food scientists even before they’ve graduated through internship programs. The graduate Food Science program also will provide growth opportunities for current employees looking to advance their careers while remaining in the workplace."
Growing the pool of highly educated food scientists is a critical step in maintaining food safety – a need that affects everyone – said Jeremy Hilgendorf, operations manager at Campbell Soup Supply Co.

“The food manufacturing industry is always looking for people who have the skills and confidence offered from obtaining a degree in food science,” Hilgendorf said. “It can be a critical foundation to the understanding of functional properties of ingredients chosen during product development and for designing food safety systems necessary to produce safe, quality food.”