There were full houses across the partner institutions as postgraduate students with diverse skills but a shared enthusiasm for food system change attended the 2018/19 IFSTAL launch on 18 October. Aiming to create a new cohort of changemakers in the food system through innovative teaching, the IFSTAL programme is now in its fourth year. Launch events took place simultaneously – in Oxford, Warwick, Reading and London – and were livestreamed across the sites.
In a welcome speech at the Oxford Martin School, the University of Oxford’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Martin Williams, said the programme had built a fantastic reputation, and is an exemplar of how education is evolving. “IFSTAL’s features coincide with my strategy for education at Oxford: enabling students to build contacts and skills for employability, and promoting tech-enhanced learning and an interdisciplinary approach.” He urged students to engage with the programme, calling the benefits “culmulative.”
The livestream between partner institutions gave the audience a chance to get a sense of IFSTAL’s sweeping network, meet (via the live link) some of the key team members and learn more about how IFTSAL can enhance their ability to bring about positive food system change.
OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD SKILLS
John Ingram, IFSTAL Programme Leader, welcomed the new students, underlining the opportunities IFSTAL offers those who truly engage. “It’s the old adage: the more you put in, the more you get out,” he said. “We want to bring a systemic change for the better by creating a set of food system changemakers. We do this by helping you build your capability to work actively and enthusiastically in the food system.”
At each site, students also had the opportunity to network and get a taste of the IFSTAL experience. In Oxford, Education Co-ordinator Bex White led a session to encourage the students to reflect on the usefulness of food labelling. Opinions were wide ranging, with some stating labels are effective for providing specific types of information, such as nutritional balance or the presence of unsustainable products. Others took a more sceptical view, saying that ingredient lists and nutritional information can easily be manipulated or shifts the burden to make ‘good’ choices to the consumer.
One of IFSTAL’s strengths is its ability to attract students from a wide range of disciplines – more than 45 to date. The student cohort for the fourth year promises to be equally diverse. Education Co-ordinator Lauren Blake spoke at the London launch and was pleased how the event went. “Over 50 students attended here in London, with backgrounds ranging from Food Policy, Public Health, Law and Nutrition, to Anthropology, Health, Globalisation and Development, and Environment, Politics and Development,” she said. “One of our alumni came along and shared her IFSTAL experience. It was really nice to catch up with her and feel the sense of the continual IFSTAL community.” The Reading event also attracted students from diverse disciplines and interests, with Alex Arnall, IFSTAL’s Lead Academic at Reading, calling the event “the most successful launch to date.”
MAKING VALUABLE CONTACTS
Speaking from Warwick, where more than 40 students attended the launch, Rosina Borrelli, IFSTAL’s Workplace Engagement Lead, encouraged the students to take advantage of everything IFSTAL can offer, from the chance to make valuable contacts in a wide range of organisations and disciplines to the work experience opportunities provided by the programme. At Warwick the audience largely consisted PhD or Masters students and represented a wide range of departments/courses, including Life Sciences (which offers Masters courses in Food Security, Crop Production and Environmental Bioscience), Engineering, Economics, English, Public Health, Business and Law.
The 2018/2019 programme is underway, with the first module, Exploration of food systems, online at the IFSTAL portal. For more on IFSTAL’s 2018/19 programme, including the 2018 Public Lecture, click here.