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WSU and UI join forces in food science

PULLMAN – An academic merger will draw together Washington State University and the University of Idaho food science departments.

The new School of Food Science at the University of Idaho and Washington State University formalizes historic ties that have reached across the seven miles between them for decades.

The partnership, which has been approved by both universities’ governing bodies, will benefit the Northwest’s $17-billion food processing industry, students and consumers through expanded cooperation.

“This merger will combine the strengths of both institutions, increasing the capabilities of both land-grant institutions in food science and related technologies,” said John Hammel, Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean at Moscow.

WSU’s Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Pullman, agreed.

“A combined School of Food Science broadens the opportunities available to students, expands the research possibilities and offers a wider range of professional expertise to better serve both states,” he said. “It is a smart move at the right time.”

The Northwest Food Processors Association said the region’s food industry generates $17 billion a year and employs an estimated 100,000 workers.

The two universities are searching for a new director for the School of Food Science who will work for both.

The school’s combined faculty will number about 25 and will have an enrollment of about 75 undergraduate and 35 graduate students. Students will take required food science courses at each institution. Their diplomas will be awarded by their home universities.

Faculty members will work together on issues important to both states and the nation. The faculty’s strengths include food safety, processing and chemistry, with a focus on dairy.

Washington State University’s facilities include a commercial-scale creamery, which includes Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe and produces its signature Cougar Gold cheese.

University of Idaho facilities include the Caldwell-based Food Technology Center, which offers a certified commercial kitchen for those who want to develop their own specialty foods. A pilot plant also assists established companies with research and development.

The universities formally agreed to work together to educate students in 1996. Since then, cooperation between the schools has grown steadily.

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