FSCN alumna Becky Wahlund '82 was recently elected secretary of the CFANS Alumni Board. In addition to her role on the board, Wahlund is active in the CFANS mentor program and also as a guest speaker for student organizations. Professionally, she is the Director of Test Kitchens and Consumer Affairs at Land O'Lakes, Inc.
We caught up with her to disuss her new role, career and time spent with the Department.
Name: Becky Wahlund
Degree: BS Consumer Food Science
Grad year: 1982
Reflect back on your time at the U and in the Department:
I have always enjoyed learning so I think of my time at the U very fondly. When I looked at colleges and universities to attend it was evident very quickly that the U of M was the school for me. I wanted to major in Food Science and knew the U had one of the top programs. I also loved the atmosphere of the St. Paul Campus. I felt at home there. I had professors who challenged me but also cared about me and wanted me to be successful.
What was your favorite class/professor while you were here?
Dr. Elaine Asp and the classes she taught were my favorites. She focused on practical information around food ingredients and preparation. I knew I wanted a career in the test kitchens in a large food company and her classes were the ones that really prepared me for that role.
How did you become interested in food science?
I loved to cook and bake from the time I was a small child. Both my grandmother and mom cooked and baked from scratch using only fresh ingredients. My grandparents loved to travel and would bring back cookbooks and ingredients to share. I was exposed to many unusual foods from a young age and loved them all. My grandfather was one of the original chemists that worked in R&D at General Mills so I learned about their test kitchens through him and knew that was what I wanted to do for a career. A food science degree was required to work in the test kitchens so that’s the degree I pursued.
How have you applied your degree during your career?
I had an internship during my last trimester (yes the U was on a trimester system while I was there) in the Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens. Once I graduated, I just kept going to work and was officially hired. I worked in the Test Kitchens in various roles, applying much of what I learned in my degree program for 13 years. I used the knowledge I had learned in recipe development, product development, product testing and evaluation, and much more. I then went back to school and earned my MBA, and moved to marketing at Land O’Lakes. After a number of roles in marketing I moved into the leadership role of Director Test Kitchens & Consumer Affairs and have been here ever since. I still use my food science knowledge on a daily basis as I work with my team and provide insights and support for many projects.
You are involved in the CFANS Mentor program. How exciting has it been for you to work with students in the department in this capacity?
I have thoroughly enjoyed being a mentor. It is exciting to watch a student figure out what they are really passionate about and how to turn that passion into a career. I especially have enjoyed partnering my mentees with others in the industry that are in roles they are interested in learning more about. There are so many careers that can stem from a food science degree, and students don’t always know what they may have as possibilities. Sharing my industry knowledge and helping them discover ways to apply what they are learning is very rewarding.
You were recently elected secretary for the alumni board. Talk about your involvement with the college as an alum, and what you are most looking forward to in your elected position this upcoming year.
My involvement as an alum prior to serving on the alumni board was mostly centered around mentoring and speaking in various classes or to the food science club. As a board member it has been really interesting to be more aware of all the wonderful things that are happening in CFANS. I am looking forward to serving as secretary and assisting with the many activities the alumni board supports. My passion is around helping students so I plan to continue to me a mentor as well.
Any other thoughts or comments you would like to share with fellow alumni and those in the department.
I would like to encourage others to consider serving on the alumni board. It’s a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people, develop skills, support students and give back.