New graduate degree in food systems and society unique to Northwest

Marylhurst University’s new Master of Arts in Food Systems and Society graduate degree program will launch fall term 2013.

The program hopes to prepare a new generation of leaders to tackle food system challenges from a range of perspectives in the nonprofit, corporate and government arenas.

“In our extensive research to prepare for launching this degree, we saw that we had a clear opportunity to build a niche program that inspires systematic change in our food industry. This truly is a unique model we are building,” said David Plotkin, Marylhurst University provost.

“Portland and the Northwest are food meccas, and our region is seen as a pioneer in developing innovative strategies to address many different food challenges, including policies and practices to expand access to healthier foods. This is the time and the place to be engaged in building more knowledge and capacity about how to advance social change on an issue of fundamental importance to our collective health.”

The new chairwoman of the Department of Food Systems and Society is Patricia Allen, Ph.D., who comes to Marylhurst after 28 years at the University of California, Santa Cruz, most recently as director of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. She is an internationally renowned scholar on food justice and sustainable food systems.

“My interest in improving food systems was inspired by my grandmother, who ran a small produce farm on her own,” said Allen. “I witnessed her struggle to survive, as large farms and urbanization overtook the landscape. Working on the farm and in food service and food processing jobs, I became acutely aware of the gender, race and class issues embedded in food work. So the goal of creating healthier, more just and more sustainable food systems isn’t just a professional calling to me — it’s a highly personal goal.”

The new M.A. in Food Systems and Society is a two-year program. Most of the interactive seminar-style classes will take place online, but students will come to the Marylhurst campus twice each year for intensive sessions with program faculty and other food system leaders. While all students will take core courses in food systems, policies and culture, they’ll be able to shape many aspects of their degrees to meet their professional goals by studying a broad range of elective topics, including food security and public health, food writing and analysis, urban agriculture and organizational development.

Applications for the new program are now being accepted. Students can learn more about admission requirements, curriculum and career opportunities at an on-campus information session Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. The first courses in the new degree program will be offered fall term 2013.

For more information about the program, visit

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