University of the Pacific is launching the first Food Studies master’s degree program on the West Coast, a course of study designed for working professionals with a career or personal interest in food and the ways that people have grown, prepared, and profited from it through history and across cultures. 

The multidisciplinary program will prepare students for success in food-related professions, from food writing to food advocacy, policymaking, marketing, and management.

Open houses are scheduled throughout the spring to acquaint prospective students with the program, which will begin this fall at Pacific’s new state-of-the-art campus in San Francisco, one of the world’s premier food cities. (See dates below.) Students will be able to earn a Master of Arts degree in Food Studies during the evening, with some online options. A certificate degree and continuing education units also will be offered.

The program will be directed by renowned food historian Ken Albala, professor of history at Pacific and the author or editor of 22 scholarly and popular books on food.

“Our goal is to engage students in the dynamism that is the Bay Area food and farming scene, while making connections with leaders throughout the food system,” Albala says. “This is a great opportunity for people with an interest in food and food-related issues to earn a master’s degree or certificate in something they love.”

Only a few other universities offer degree programs in the discipline, primarily on the East Coast, including New York University, The New School, Boston University, and Chatham University.

“When we at New York University started our Food Studies programs in 1996, we never dreamed we were starting an academic movement,” says Marion Nestle, professor and past chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU. “Congratulations to University of the Pacific and to Ken Albala for creating a master’s program in Food Studies and joining the family of universities lucky enough to have such programs.”

The curriculum will encompass food history, food writing, food production, food scarcity and justice, and food industry management and business. Faculty will offer electives in such subjects as the politics of nutrition and lead field visits to area restaurants, farms and food processing facilities. Guest lecturers will be invited from the food policy, nonprofit, agricultural and cooking arenas, among others. Monthly Saturday seminars will be offered.

“University of the Pacific’s new Master of Arts degree in Food Studies provides a curriculum that allows students to develop the knowledge and critical thinking skills that we look for in hiring the people who fuel our success,” says Kathleen Lagorio Janssen, CEO of the Lagorio Family of Companies, a San Joaquin Valley-based agricultural enterprise that grows and markets specialty foods and other crops worldwide.

The curriculum also will be valuable for those who want to study or write about food, according to Celia Sack, owner of San Francisco’s popular Omnivore Books on Food store.

“As food writing continues to gain popularity and respect, a competitive edge is vital for success,” Sack says. “University of the Pacific’s new Food Studies master’s degree program will teach food historians, journalists and anthropologists the skills they need to rise to the top of their fields.”

Prospective students and others can learn more about the Food Studies program and its distinguished faculty at the following open houses:

  • Saturday, April 4, from 5-6 p.m. (5 p.m.: Doors open. 5:30 p.m.: Program question-and-answer session)
  • Saturday, April 18, from 6-9:30 p.m. (6 p.m.: Doors open. 6:30 p.m.: Program question-and-answer session. 7:30 p.m.: Wild and Scenic Film Festival featuring five short films focusing on food and agriculture)
  • Saturday, May 2, from 5-6:30 p.m. (5 p.m.: Doors open. 5:30 p.m.: “History of Wine” discussion with Professor Ken Albala. 6 p.m.: Program question-and-answer session)
  • Tuesday, May 12, from 6-7 p.m. (6 p.m.: Doors open. 6:30 p.m.: Program question-and-answer session)
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