Climate change, water scarcity, pesticides, food insecurity, animal welfare concerns … it’s not hard to uncover the problems associated with the way we raise, process, distribute, and consume food, but it takes experts and hands-on experience to get at the solutions.
Green Mountain College's undergraduate and graduate programs in sustainable agriculture and food systems connect students with the soil and the kitchen and everything in between. Our programs also connect students with food systems change agents who show students how to engage successfully in the Good Food Revolution — a movement that is transforming farming, food, and communities around the world.
The GMC Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems (MSFS) is a degree designed to help promote meaningful solutions for a cleaner and healthier planet, one food system at a time.
The nation’s first online graduate program in food systems, the MSFS program is the food solutions laboratory for students from across North America and the Caribbean. Students bring the wisdom, traditions, and challenges of their individual regions into the online classroom, where they are able to collectively dissect the challenges they are facing in developing and maintaining sustainable food systems.
Looking Into the Sustainable Food Systems Degree
Guided by expert faculty seasoned in finding sustainable food solutions in the U.S. and abroad, MSFS students — most of whom are working professionals — apply their newfound skills and knowledge to enhance the sustainability of their communities, farms, NGOs, and companies. Once students complete the program, they use the extensive MSFS alumni network to build their careers and support their solutions-oriented initiatives. By the year 2024, all Registered Dieticians will be required to hold a master’s degree — our MSFS program is already a leading choice for this requirement.
Robin Currey, the Program Director for the MSFS, sums up the heart of the degree:
The MSFS is offered entirely online and most of our course sections range from 10-18 students, with no more than 20 students in a section. We have been offering this degree online longer than any other comparable program. With years of experience, we have developed an online course that creates an ideal learning environment, through meaningful interaction with fellow students and individualized attention from your instructor.
The degree is intentionally offered online for two reasons. First, we know that most of our students are working professionals, some with families. The online degree format allows for you to complete your degree on your own time and without the added expense of travel or relocation.
Second, because students remain in their own communities, they are able to tap into local food systems and study through a bioregional approach. You could learn about environmental studies solely through examples in a textbook, but with this hands-on approach, students are encouraged to use their local ecosystems as laboratories in which to experiment with new concepts and skills.
Additionally, our MSFS graduate degree is unique, because of our expert faculty and student diversity. The nature of the online program brings together students from all around the nation and globe, not limited by geography. This brings a vast and unique breadth of perspectives to classroom discussion.
Many of our faculty are nationally recognized as experts in their field, with years of first-hand experience, research, and in-depth experiential training. Additionally, at the beginning of each year, students are invited to come to our campus in Poultney, VT for a residency.
On our campus, they have the opportunity to interact with instructors, fellow classmates, and the Scholar in Residence. The Scholar in Residence is invited each year, as a renowned expert and thought leader in their field, to share with our students their personal and professional knowledge.
How are GMC’s Students or Alum Using the MSFS Degree?
Whether you want to be a food chef, farmer, food blogger, or dietitian — the MSFS can help you understand the history of food systems and the best way to engage in your chosen profession, through a holistic, mindful, and responsible approach.
Take for example, Jeannine Guttman’s story. Jeannine’s early life as the daughter of a U.S. Air Force engineer living in Okinawa, Japan in the 1970s, led her to a successful career in journalism. She was inspired to use her passion for writing and sharing the truth, to “educate voters and communities through objective information, create positive change, and give a voice to those who did not have one.”
Upon moving to Vermont to reassess her life and career, she was exposed to the “slow food” movement, as Vermont was at the forefront of food systems thinking. Jeannine had struggled with Celiac disease for many years and her investigations led her to learn about the history of food systems, food security and affordability.
Jeannine realized she needed a graduate degree and began researching colleges in the area. She spoke with GMC’s Philip Ackerman‐Leist, the MSFS program founder, and expressed her concerns about returning to the classroom as a non-traditional student, after 40 years.
Philip’s response?: “All our students are non-traditional.”
After speaking to some of those students, she decided to enroll and upon arriving for her first residency was welcomed by fellow classmates with open arms. “People were so awesome —they treated me the same as everyone else. The spirit was ‘everyone has a different background but we’re all here to learn from each other.’ It’s a real culture of ‘building up’ and not ‘tearing down.’” Jeannine is not yet settled on what she will do with her M.S., but she is interested in forming a farm collective with her spouse and their neighbors on land they own in Rutland Town. She would also like to write about her new interests, perhaps as an educator or policy analyst.
Or take Luke Sniewski, who is using his MSFS degree to move from a career as a gym owner and lifestyle coach, to his new venture as a international documentary creator. Through this project, he is highlighting the healthy lifestyles of individuals in more 30 countries. Originally, Luke had enrolled in culinary school, but he realized that “people need to make connections with their food that are deeper than their health.”
The MSFS at GMC has allowed him to deepen his knowledge about health and nutrition, while helping
him provide people with a more holistic approach to their food. The online degree at GMC had the flexibility Luke needed with a family and as a full-time working
and traveling business owner.
Whatever profession you aspire to, a traditional job as a chef or a nontraditional job as a food blogger, the master's in Sustainable Food Systems will give you the flexibility and foundation to launch your vision. With its strong reputation as a leader in the field of food systems and diverse student population, we aim to provide you with the skills needed to reduce the impact of our food systems on the environment and to ultimately create the foundation for a thriving and healthy agriculture.
Attending graduate school for an education in sustainability is one way to deepen your knowledge, hone in on your skills, and discover your strengths. Whether this is groundwork for your first or third career — we can’t wait to see what you will bring to the table!