In 2014, the Slow Food–founded University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) turns the ripe old age of ten. It may seem young, but in one decade the school has grown up, experienced many significant relationships, created a close-knit and loving family, and produced generations of offspring of which it can be truly proud.
One of the most significant changes is the evolution of the master program. Launched in early 2005 in the small town of Colorno, just north of Parma, the UNISG master initially consisted of one English-language group and one Italian. Since then the program has moved to the Pollenzo campus and, in response to an increasingly international audience, focused on the broad theme of Food Culture and Communications. Today, there are four master streams, with start dates spread across the calendar year, and each intake comprising about 25 students. The streams all share a common core of coursework, but also include a significant component of specialized programing, focusing on: Food, Place and Identity; Human Ecology and Sustainability; High-Quality Products; and Representation, Meaning and Media. The result is a deepening of sector-specific knowledge while still maintaining the generalist, 360-degree approach that gastronomy entails. These changes mean that 100 new master graduates emerge annually, joining the almost 500 who are already acting to bring about positive change in the professional food world. These “children” of the UNISG have grown up quickly, and many have created their own food-focused “families”.
One of the most reproductive (so to speak) is Taylor Cocalis, founder of the job search engine goodfoodjobs.com. Among the first graduates, Taylor is based in the northeast of the United States, but her network of relationships spreads far and wide. Taylor shepherds both businesses and job seekers through the process of professional matchmaking, and she is fast becoming the grandma of hundreds of new gastronomic families – a true symbol of what UNISG can engender.
But Taylor’s story is not alone. Alumni like Philipp Boecker, Dwight Stanford, and Raffaele Paolini have created tourism enterprises that spread the UNISG education via the pleasures of travel and culture, while Kunal Chandra, Sabrina Chavez, and Libby Clow do the same through restauration. And many more are working in consulting, advocacy and non-profit organizations, like Anke Klitzing (Slow Food Berlin) and Min Young No (Food for Change in Seoul). Equally exciting are the UNISG masters who are now teaching, like Dan Winans at the University of New Hampshire’s dual-major in EcoGastronomy.
Back on the home front, UNISG continues to renew itself from within. The move to Pollenzo brought the masters into closer contact with their cousins in the three-year undergraduate and two-year graduate programs. Today they freely mix cultures and experience— from frisbee in the Agenzia courtyard to sharing reading lists in the library. In 2013, the inauguration of the new meal service, Le Tavole Accademiche, brought student exchange to the lunch hour: Since January 2013, 25 chefs from nine countries have served the students economical dishes that respect the principles of good, clean and fair. A new energy also infects extracurricular life in Bra, where most students live. A regular Food Film Night has popped up along with weekend brunch parties and Sunday dinners, as well as larger convivial events at the Gastronomic Society.
Numerous food scholars have written about the important role that eating together serves in communicating culture between parents and children. For almost 10 years, the classrooms in Pollenzo have been serving up both food and food knowledge, bringing students together to partake, and turning the family lore of the University of Gastronomic Sciences into a history that will continue to be carried forward.
A week-long party!
From June 13 to 19 UNISG will celebrate its 10th birthday in style, with a lineup of events on the Pollenzo campus including international conferences, a pop-up farmers' market, a giant Eat-in, concerts, films, children's activities and appearances from the some of the big names in Italian culture and gastronomy. Find the whole program at www.unisg.it and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for live updates.