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Lakeland University is launching two new academic programs that meet industry needs.

This fall, Lakeland will add the nation’s first food safety and quality bachelor’s degree program to its undergraduate offering and a master of science in leadership and organizational development to its graduate lineup. Enrollment is open in both programs.

Both programs were approved June 14 by Lakeland’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The food safety degree focuses on the safe production of food, and Lakeland has partnered with some of Wisconsin’s biggest food manufacturers in its development.

The 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.

Lakeland has enlisted several food industry partners in development of the program, including Johnsonville, Sargento, Masters Gallery Foods, Old Wisconsin, Usinger’s, Klement’s Sausage and Miesfeld’s.

“As we talked more with food industry employers, it became clear there was a need for this degree,” said Brian Frink, dean of Lakeland’s School of Science, Technology & Education. “Employers often struggle to find people interested in going into this industry, and many people don’t understand these jobs exist.

“We’ve worked with these employers to create a program that will lead to rewarding, good-paying careers doing important work in a large, growing industry.”

Unlike a food science degree, which prepares students for food research and development, Lakeland’s food safety and quality program 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.

“Producing safe and wholesome products is mission critical for any food manufacturer,” said Kevin Ladwig, vice president at Johnsonville Sausage. “With targeted classroom studies, combined with hands-on experience, students will be well prepared to find challenging and rewarding careers in the food industry.”

Late last year, Lakeland received a $500,000 gift from Johnsonville to fund the food safety and quality program. The gift from Johnsonville will fund creation of a state-of-the-art, on-campus lab allowing hands-on experience that replicates the work students will find on the job.

The new graduate degree will focus on leadership skills and organizational development practices in the workplace, whereas the more traditional MBA focuses on accounting, finance, statistics and economics. Students will be able to take elective courses in those areas or pursue a concentration area.

“Now we offer two distinct choices – a traditional MBA or a master’s with a leadership focus, both offering concentration areas based on your career focus,” said Scott Niederjohn, dean of LU’s J. Garland Schilcutt School of Business & Entrepreneurship.

“As we developed this program, we talked with managers in non-profit, law enforcement and human resources who all said a graduate degree with a leadership focus would benefit their employees. This program is really ideal for any working professionals who aspire to a leadership position in the workplace.”

In addition to the required and elective coursework, Lakeland’s offers a Design Your Own option which allows students to work with their employer and academic advisor to earn academic credit for projects in the workplace.

“That’s been a popular feature of our MBA program, and it will be part of this new leadership program,” Niederjohn said. “As employees learn new skills or take on new projects, learning that ties to their academic studies is happening in the workplace, and we’re working with employers to make sure they get credit toward their degree for that work.”

Tammy Flora, vice president – human resources at Masters Gallery Foods, said employers are always looking for ways to help employees grow into leaders, so Lakeland’s new offering is attractive.

“Lakeland graduates will learn ways to grow and develop skills that are invaluable in today’s fast-changing work environment,” Flora said. “And, Lakeland’s flexible delivery options make it convenient for busy adults to earn a degree.”

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