Brain Food: The Official Blog of IFT

Connections Build Community

Connection

August 15, 2019

By Nancy Ukpe Gargula

A few years ago when I was travelling overseas, I came across a quote at a local establishment that struck me. The quote was something like, “There are no strangers here, only friends who have yet to meet.” There is something so inspiring about the way the author saw others and the world. It has stuck with me over the years and transformed the way I interact with others. Rather than keeping to myself or staying within the comfort and safety of a group of people I already know, I challenge myself to reach out to people who are alone, or I have yet to meet. It isn’t always easy, and certainly not comfortable, but I am generally pleasantly surprised at the conversations that ensue and the interesting connections I have been fortunate enough to make in the process.

Think back to your first day at your current job. Whether you were fresh out of college or a seasoned professional ready for a new opportunity, most people experience a little bit of anxiety when they start something new. And for many, the nervousness is heightened by the fact that you may not know too many people, if anyone at all. In those early days, it was those “strangers” who took a moment to welcome you, show you around, and take a moment to chat with you that helped you to acclimate to your new surroundings. Through these seemingly simple actions, you built connections that made you feel part of your professional community.

Now think back to the first time you realized you wanted to be part of IFT. What helped you to make that decision? Each of our responses may differ, but I believe a common denominator might be the community of people. Community is not only part of who we are here at IFT; it is one of our core values. Over the last year as director of Diversity and Inclusion, I have seen firsthand how community is brought to life for staff, members, and volunteers at IFT. Time and again, building authentic connections is at our community’s core.

The IFT community provides so many wonderful opportunities for people to build connections. I personally have been fortunate to get to know many of our members better though a variety of avenues, including Section meetings, Division groups, IFTSA chapters, connecting with volunteer leaders, and so much more. Seizing the opportunity to get to know our members on an individual level has allowed me to better understand our members’ needs and how we are collectively working together to advance the science of food. It has also provided me a clearer view of how I can continue to support our members to bring the IFT mission and vision to life.

The value of connections and beauty of this community was evident at IFT19. As I walked the show floor and attended sessions, I couldn’t help but notice it. From our students to our retirees and everyone in between, there was an unmistakable vibe as people made new connections and reunited with old friends. It was wonderful to see. To read more about how the IFT community embodied and celebrated our overarching theme of the power of difference at this year’s annual event, check out the August issue of Food Technology magazine.

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