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Jennifer Welchel

About Jennifer

  • Field of study: Food Science and Technology
  • Hometown: Grapevine, TX              
  • Fun fact: I’m a certified barbeque judge and have won blue ribbons at the county fair for my Parker House rolls.
  • View Jennifer's LinkedIn profile

What were you doing prior to your degree program?

I was teaching cooking classes in Dallas. I had worked for a restaurant group in New York City before moving back to Texas. I knew I wanted to have a career working with food, but was trying to figure out what area interested me the most in order to capitalize on my skills.

What were the biggest obstacles you overcame in order to participate in the MPS program?

I didn’t want to go to graduate school! I had done really well in undergrad, but had left with the opinion that I couldn’t see myself going back for another degree. It was only after applying for product development jobs for a couple of years without getting any response that I realized I should really look into what it would take to get a degree in food science and if it was realistic in terms of time-commitment and cost for me.

Why did you choose to pursue the MPS degree?        

The program was approachable because it is designed to be accessible to someone without a science-based undergraduate degree. Because I had 10 years of job experience before starting the degree, I was very focused on acquiring the knowledge, skills and connections I needed to get out of the program in order to set up my new career for success.

What were the strengths of your program, in your opinion? 

I think that there were a lot of professors and staff who wanted to make the program a success, so they were always open to feedback. Feeling like your voice could be heard and others respected your opinions was helpful in creating supportive atmosphere.

What were some of the most rewarding moments while in your MPS program?

I met some great people from all over the world when I was at Cornell. Getting to work in a group setting was really rewarding, along with meeting others outside of the food science program that brought different perspectives on farming and agriculture.

What did you do after earning your MPS degree?       

I moved to Idaho and started making yogurt.

How did your degree program impact your career path?

I was able to find the job I took at the end of the program through my advisor's industry connections. I’ve also met a lot of other Cornell alums through my work, and it’s a great network to be a part of.

What courses stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals?

Product development was probably the most helpful for my particular job because it meshes with what I do on a daily basis, but sensory evaluation is also extremely important for ongoing evaluations of your work. Unit operations & dairy processing provided great resources for understating plants when you’re getting familiar with new layouts and process troubleshooting.

What advice would you give to your younger self embarking on the journey of graduate school?

I think that you can’t be afraid to ask questions. Professors are approachable and can potentially unlock a lot of information about the program and industry for you and are happy to do it. You can get basics about the program online or from brochures, but it doesn’t really give you full context for all of the extra opportunities you’ll have or for potential career guidance.