AFE Career Discovery Session Recap: Cross-Disciplinary and Beyond

We had an AFE (Agriculture, Food and Environment) Career Discovery event at the beginning of February. Here are some highlights from the talk.

Professor Tim Griffin (TG) from the AFE program was at this event and provided us with a nice overview of the program and AFE students’ future career outlook. Block Career Center (BCC) staff also asked some questions at this event.

What is the design of the AFE program?

TG: AFE has always been an interdisciplinary program. For solving complex problems in the food system, we need people who can connect different dots and cross-disciplinary boundaries. Our students have content expertise and quantitative skill sets. They can connect across different domains and get the big picture. We do not want to narrow our program. People come in with different interests.  We hope students can customize their career tracks through the program. Students don’t become just one type of student, but all students can go out and address complex problems afterward.

Where do our AFE alumni go?

TG: At one point, we had around 70% of alumni working in non-profits. This program has since shifted. We see more people working in the private sector now. And even if you choose one sector to begin, transferring among different sectors (non-profit, government agencies, and private sectors) is common. Our students play consistent roles in various sectors. They think about challenges and solutions from different perspectives. There are many problems that need to be solved, everywhere, and not just in the private sector.

How can internships serve students?

TG: Internships help students build networking skills and figure out what they want to do. It’s important to reflect on the specific things that you can bring to your internship.

BCC: What are the hot topics in the world of AFE?

TG:

  • Equality and inclusion in the food system, processing, manufacturing, and retail.
  • Cellular agriculture
  • Agriculture X Technology, such as low-cost sensors for food safety and environmental contaminants
  • Agriculture X Engineering, including connections with local companies such as Indigo. Also, around 8-10% our alumni work in plant-based food industry.

BCC: Could you tell us more about pros and cons of working in different sectors (Non-profit, government agencies, private sectors, and academia)?

TG: More money goes into the private sector. The level of freedom and creativity differs in different sectors. In a private company, you might need to move away from a project after two years. Government agencies could be similar; you could be more creative depending on the level (e.g., municipal) you are at. In academia, you can pick your own path within your limit. It’s not a big deal to move from one sector to another one!

By Ingrid Zhou
Ingrid Zhou Student Ambassador