Mars Chocolate NA
I first became involved with PMCA when I was an undergraduate student studying Food Science at Penn State. While researching graduate programs, I came across the Ralph Lee Graduate Confectionery Fellowship, a scholarship offered by PMCA through the Department of Food Science at Penn State. My passion for confections — coupled with my research interest in Sensory Science — made the Fellowship a perfect fit, and I was named the PMCA Ralph Lee Fellow in 2013. It was an incredible experience that not only provided me with a foundation of knowledge surrounding many types of confections, but allowed me to build relationships with industry contacts.
Participating in the Student Outreach Program was a great way for me to experience my first Annual Production Conference. The structure of the SOP really takes students’ needs into account, as it can be daunting to attend a conference for the first time – especially if you don’t know anyone. As a SOP participant, I was paired with an industry mentor who made sure I was getting the most out of the conference content and networking activities. Additionally, there were many SOP-specific events, including smaller group Q&A’s and meals so that I could connect with colleagues on a more personal level.
After completing my graduate work, I entered the confectionery industry as a sensory scientist at Mars Chocolate North America. The vast and varied experiences that I had been afforded throughout my involvement with PMCA undoubtedly aided me in gaining employment within the confectionery industry. Not soon after beginning my career at Mars, I was also invited to present my research at the PMCA Annual Production Conference in 2015. It was an incredible honor to share my research, re-connect with colleagues, and to see that my research had an impact. Since then, I have been involved in chairing the PMCA Social Media committee with the goal to harmonize the social media presence of the organization as a whole across all social media channels. This leadership experience has given me an even greater appreciation for the tremendous amount of work that the board and other committee members and chairs invest into giving back to the organization.
As I reflect on my time with the PMCA, I am both humbled by and grateful for the opportunities I have been given, as it is obvious that this Association has shaped both my academic and professional career. With this in mind, my hope is that I am able to provide the next generation of student members the same opportunities I was given, so that they may succeed in the confectionery industry.