What you should know about the Food Systems Leadership Institute

Three CFAES faculty members recently completed the national Food Systems Leadership Institute (FSLI), a two-year program that, its website says, prepares “highly qualified leaders to address a range of issues relating to the food system by developing their personal, organizational, and food system leadership abilities.” 

“It absolutely is a fabulous program,” said Sheryl Barringer, professor and chair of the CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology. “I’d recommend it to anyone with any interest in leadership.” 

Barringer was a Fellow in FSLI’s Cohort 14, which wrapped up late last year. 

Also in that cohort from CFAES were Elena Irwin, professor in the Department of Agricultural Environmental, and Development Economics and faculty director of Ohio State’s Sustainability Institute, and Shannon Washburn, professor and chair of the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership.

Each year, a new group, or cohort, of 25 Fellows—food- and agriculture-related faculty and administrators from around the United States and Canada—is selected to start the two-year program.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) runs the institute with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and three partner institutions: North Carolina State University, the primary host institution; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; and our own Ohio State.

The institute starts with a “battery of assessment tests to increase your self-awareness,” Barringer said. “It proceeds to a number of excellent strategies for improving your leadership, and really expands your awareness of the issues facing society and higher education.” 

A key element in the program: residential sessions, featuring case studies, simulations, and conversations with leaders and subject-matter experts. The partner institutions host the sessions, which are currently being held virtually because of the pandemic.

Barringer said FSLI taught her “many, many things,” such as these two examples: 

  • “The program talks about ‘The Powerful Apology.’ It is inevitable that you will make a mistake, or the organization you represent will make a mistake, that causes harm. There are several aspects that are needed in the apology that you should include. These elements include responding quickly, taking responsibility for the problem, explaining what happened, explaining the solution, asking for forgiveness, connecting personally, and acknowledging compassion.” 
  • “For my project, I looked deeply into the topic of inspiring faculty. This includes both supporting the high achiever, and assisting someone who is no longer very productive. These require two different approaches, but both are critical and something I use almost daily. I’ve made a few presentations on this topic, and I’m sure I will continue to learn more throughout my career.”

Currently, CFAES has two Fellows in FSLI’s Cohort 15Steven Neal, associate dean and director of academic programs, and Jacqueline Wilkins, associate dean and director of OSU Extension.

Graham Cochran, associate dean for operations, and Terry Niblack, now emeritus, Department of Plant Pathology, were Fellows in the now-completed Cohort 13.

Ohio State, for its part, recently hosted a virtual session for FSLI’s current Fellows, from Feb. 15–19. The session’s 14 speakers included Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State vice president for agricultural administration and CFAES dean; Gary Pierzynski, CFAES associate dean for research and graduate education; and Ohio State Provost Bruce McPheron.

If you’d like to learn more about the FSLI, you can begin the process by talking to your Tenure Initiating Unit head, and by reading the “Professional Development” page on the CFAES Faculty and Staff Affairs website:


Scroll down at that link for details about the FSLI and other leadership development opportunities for CFAES faculty.