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Lakeland University has received a $500,000 gift from Johnsonville to fund the nation's first food safety and quality bachelor's degree program.

It's the latest move as Lakeland continues to expand its new Cooperative Education Program, which will see students earn academic credit and money working in full-time jobs at local companies, giving them professional work experience and the ability to reduce or eliminate student debt.

Lakeland's food safety and quality program blends the science of biology and chemistry with best business practices to prepare students for careers in food processing. Graduates will be well-rounded manufacturing professionals equipped to advance in the production of food, while also possessing finance, management philosophy and other skills needed to lead people to their potential.

According to FoodManufacturing.com, the food industry was valued at $2.45 trillion in 2015.

"We are so thankful to Johnsonville for being a corporate partner in this program and making this generous investment in our shared vision," said Lakeland President David Black. "Johnsonville's investment is an example of the partnership we are developing with local companies who are dedicated to developing the curriculum needed in this major to create a premier and sought-after degree in the food industry.

"More employers are joining us to grow our Cooperative Education Program as we re-invent the way we deliver a college education."

The gift from Johnsonville will fund:

  • creation of a state-of-the-art, on-campus lab allowing hands-on experience and real work replication;
  • student transport to Johnsonville facilities for real work experiences;
  • educational trips to food companies, and other programs costs.

"Johnsonville is excited to partner with Lakeland to create a unique degree in the food industry combining science, technology and business acumen to enhance food safety and production throughout the entire industry," said Michael Stayer-Suprick, president, Johnsonville Sausage – International. "This will be a great opportunity for many in the years to come as they look for exciting and rewarding careers."

Unlike a food science degree, which prepares students for food research and development, Lakeland's food safety and quality program, which is pending approval by the Higher Learning Commission, focuses on the safe production of food.

Students in the program will learn from food industry leaders by working and earning credit both in Lakeland's classrooms and at local employers.

Coursework has been developed in partnership with local food companies who are in need of graduates in this area, ensuring content is relevant to the needs of today's marketplace.

Students can enroll as either full- or part-time students, and most courses will be available online and through Lakeland's BlendEd delivery model.

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