Students at Chatham University have the unique opportunity to combine their interests in the Master of Arts in Food Studies and Master of Business Administration (MAFS/MBA) dual degree program. Experiential learning and critical analyses allow students to better understand how to operate in the food system and pursue their goals. Sometimes those goals might involve a career in the beverage industry, but what does that look like exactly?
While most commonly associated with alcoholic beverages, there is a wide spectrum of sectors included in the beverage industry such as coffee, carbonated beverages, and dairy. What these drinks all have in common, besides their obvious liquid state, is that they are experiential goods. As a result, the industry offers a wide variety of career paths. Depending on the type of beverage, these jobs can range from producers to sommelier to corporate, etc.
Pittsburgh is no exception. In recent years, Pittsburgh has blossomed into a hub for the craft beverage industry. Wigle Whiskey led the way when they fought for the passage of Act 113 in 2011, which allowed distilleries to sell directly to the public. Since then, the city has transformed and continues to foster a growing environment for craft distilleries, breweries, and wineries.
Chatham students have been able to access connections with local businesses such as Wigle Whiskey through various projects and field trips. For instance, Michael Foglia who graduated from Chatham University’s MAFS program in 2016, is now the Manager of Product Development and Innovation for Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare Cider. Similarly, Elise Miranda 16’ serves as the Pastry Chef at their Threadbare Cider and Meadery location. These alumni are just two examples of how the unique courses at Chatham prepare MAFS/MBA students for their desired careers.
Current students also have the opportunity to learn more about alcoholic beverage production and distribution in Wine, Cider, Meads with Sally Frey, MA, PhD. An Assistant Professor in the Falk School of Sustainability at the Eden Hall campus in sustainable gastronomy courses, Frey offers a wealth of information to students. Her pedagogy includes a PhD in English from the Goldsmiths, University of London and a Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu.
“When the Food Studies MA program started at Chatham, ten years ago this fall, one of the first courses that I taught was in Sustainable Fermentation. We later added a course entitled Wine, Cider and Mead mostly due to the popularity of fermentation and the deep interest in the subject. The curiosity over the years in fermented beverages – wines, mead, craft beers and ciders as well as drinks such as Kombucha – both hard and non-alcoholic hasn’t slowed down. There is always something new to be explored and discovered as experimenting with different varietals of fruits, production methods and learning about their history and culture is a life-long pursuit.” -Sally Frey, MA, PhD
Frey is also a Sommelier and Master Chocolatier, with her own chocolate company, S.K. Frey Chocolates and Confections. It should be no surprise that experiential learning is a core component of her Wine, Cider, Meads course which allows students to participate in every step of the production process so that they may better understand the beverage industry.
The B&E department was also joined by a beverage industry professional, Sandra Taylor, JD, MBA, who currently serves as the Falk School Professor of Socially Responsible Business. While serving as a diplomat in Geneva, Taylor developed a passion for wine which carried over to her work at Starbucks where she was the former Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility. Ultimately, she decided to pursue a MBA with an emphasis on Wine Management and Marketing in Bordeaux, France. Since then, Taylor has published a book, The Business of Sustainable Wine: How to Build Brand Equity in a 21st Century Wine Industry, and is President of a successful consulting company, Sustainable Business International.
“Customers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and pay greater attention to whether it is produced in a responsible way, but often without a clear understanding of how best to determine the provenance of the foods and beverages they consume. Today, wine is taking on a new, unique attribute as industry participants throughout the winemaking world are working voluntarily and cooperatively to establish broad sustainability certification programs. My ultimate goal is to make sustainability an attribute for purchase decisions and a key element of customer loyalty, to support the efforts of growers and winemakers who are committed to sustainable production.” -Sandra Taylor, JD, MBA
Whatever their interests in the beverage industry, Chatham students have a wealth of knowledge to draw on from their professors and the local Pittsburgh community. With their guidance and expertise, students can pursue their interests in a variety of ways. Chatham University offers students the opportunity to prepare themselves for exciting and enjoyable careers.
Christina Solazzo is in her second year of the MAFS/MBA dual degree program at Chatham University. Originally from Clearwater, Florida, Christina graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Sociology at the College of Wooster in 2017. She has continued to pursue her interests in wine and entrepreneurship since coming to Chatham.