Food for thought MSU international students work to improve the food industry abroad

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Admit it — you want to know what the food science major is about, mostly because it has the word “food” in it. It turns out that this major, as well as agribusiness management, goes beyond the surface of simply researching food. These programs cover topics like the physical and chemical properties of food, the effect of different foods on the body and how to effectively combine modern technology with large-scale farming.

Many students from the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at MSU have unique takes on their food-related majors. The program grants full-tuition scholarships to students from sub-Saharan Africa who demonstrate academic talent and a commitment to serve their countries of origin. Because these students have experienced food insecurity and struggles in Africa, their purpose for studying at the college level extends beyond just securing a decent job.

Josine Mutuyimana, a junior Scholar majoring in food science with a concentration in food business and minor in food business industry, found a way to combine her passion for food science with a sustainable future for herself and others.

“I thought my interest in food [was] just a hobby, not something I [could] choose as a career,” Mutuyimana said. “Later in grade 12, I met a food scientist and started getting more interested in food science.”

Growing up in a resource-poor setting in Rwanda, Mutuyimana developed a passion for giving back to her community, in which she volunteered for various initiatives. After she graduates, Mutuyimana intends to return to Rwanda and work to eradicate malnutrition-related diseases by ensuring food quality.

“I would like to work in any food industry as a sales person or in the marketing field or in any nutrition-related field. I hope that sometime in the future, I will be able to start my own food processing company,” Mutuyimana said. “I want to educate people about food [and] healthy lifestyles to fight against malnutrition in Africa. [I believe that] improving food industry in Rwanda is the key to improving Rwandans’ life expectancies and general health.”

Similar to Mutuyimana, Hepsiba Chepng’eno, a senior Scholar studying agribusiness management with a minor in sustainable agriculture and food systems, was also drawn to her major because of what she experienced in her home country.

“Growing up in rural Kenya, I had seen the very people who toil hard in the farms to grow food go hungry before the next growing season,” Chepng’eno said. “Farmers would harvest their crop mid-August; however, by January of the next year, they would be experiencing the hunger season like the rest of the country. I wanted to learn more about ways that we could break this cycle.”

Preparing to graduate from the program in a few semesters, Chepng’eno is looking forward to effecting change in her communities back home.

“I plan on working with a non-governmental organization in Kenya that makes an impact among the lives of smallholder farmers,” Chepng’eno said. “I had a chance to intern at One Acre Fund the past two summers and I fell in love with their mission and their continued strive to put ‘farmers first.’ The stories from farmers have inspired me to continue working with the organization and learn more about issues that smallholder farmers face.”

Dedicated students like Mutuyimana and Chepng’eno understand that the demanding work does not end at graduation, and they plan to give back to their countries of origin while pursuing graduate degrees in their respective fields. To learn more about the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program and how the Scholars are impacting their communities, visit mcfscholars.isp.msu.edu.