Get schooled

In 2003, with the help of the Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna and Piedmonte, Slow Food embarked on an unusual project: founding a school. The University of Gastronomic Sciences (Universita degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche) extends the mission of Slow Food by teaching a new generation of students to become leaders in the production, distribution and protection of important foods. The school’s innovative approach merges rigorous study of traditional food production with coursework in business, marketing, nutrition, science and aesthetics. Students graduate with a strong grounding in food culture and history, along with the tools to help promote it.

The university (UNISG) offers four options for study: a three-year undergraduate degree in Gastronomic Sciences, a two-year graduate degree in Gastronomy & Food Communications, and two one-year masters programs in Italian Gastronomy & Tourism and Food Culture & Communications. Each program is broadly interdisciplinary in approach, stressing firsthand experience and travel. An essential component of the education at UNISG are the thematic fieldwork “Stages,” in which students have the opportunity to shadow food producers in the creation of beer, breads, wine, cheese, pasta, gelato, and other regionally-specific (both within and outside of Italy) foodstuffs.

Given the emphasis on field study, UNISG is no stranger to lessons that push beyond the typical classroom confines. In 2007, 153 students set out on a bicycle tour to explore the food and culture of the Po River Valley. “Alla Ricerca del Grande Fiume” brought students into contact with the region’s radicchio farmers, rice growers, fisherman and chefs, all the while promoting the university’s work (see this article from The Atlantic for some great photos of the trip). The journey embodies the university’s unique educational approach; a delicious strategy that acknowledges the importance of immersive learning when it comes to studying food.

At this point, if you aren’t salivating at the thought of “class,” then you’re likely already looking into plane tickets to Italy to enroll. While it may be difficult to arrange a campus visit to check out the UNISG programs, a special information session on the university will be held March 10 right here in town. Staff and alumni will be on hand to explain the educational philosophy of the university, present the undergraduate and graduate degrees, discuss internships and work opportunities post-graduation, and answer all other questions. The session is open to all students, professionals, and members of the public and is a great chance to learn more about the school’s programs and application procedures.

Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: 3rd Avenue Stumptown Coffee, 128 SW 3rd Ave. Portland, OR

To RSVP for the free session, email your name and phone number to David Szanto.

For more information about the University of Gastronomic Sciences programs visit

And, for those of us who won’t be able to enroll in courses, UNSIG publishes an excellent scholarly journal entitled, Gastronomic Sciences, which posts all of its content online (free registration required for some articles). Take a look at the website for recent articles on sustainability, the food crisis, and our sense of smell.

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