While working in a food safety laboratory in Ohio, Jared Parko discovered the Online Master of Science in Food Safety program at Michigan State University. That was just a few years ago. Today Parko is employed as the Deputy Director for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Upon graduating the program in 2014, Parko was honored with the Edward and Mary Mather Food Safety Student Recognition Award for his applied project, “Cooked Beef Food Matrix Validation Study using Real Time PCR BAX Method for Testing E. coli O157:H7.” He continued to share his research project by presenting the data at the International Association of Food Protection conference in Portland, Oregon this past summer.
“The Online Master of Science in Food Safety program was much more in depth than I expected,” said Parko. “By having more than one professor for each course, I felt that I received a well-rounded education as we learned from professors and industry leaders with differing backgrounds and experience. Not only did the program value professors with academic research backgrounds but also teachers who had hands on experience working in and around the food safety industry.”
Peer-to-peer learning played an important role is Parko’s educational journey. “Every course that I took related in some way to my position working in a food safety laboratory at the time. The practical application to what we were learning also gave me the chance to learn from my peers through our posts and shared, although distant, experiences. It was an unexpected benefit to the program. The opportunity to engage in industry conversation with peers and mentors has been so impactful in my continuing education.”
In his current state government leadership role Parko is focusing on laboratory operations, animal health, food safety, dairy, and meat inspection. “I understand multiple facets of the industry, and the global food supply, as a result of my education and experience allowing me to properly advise on and help interpret food safety policy. The leadership courses offered taught me to be a strong leader who can facilitate understanding, while my course work allowed me to speak confidently about the food industry.”
When reflecting back on his time in graduate school Parko concluded, “In the most general sense, my master’s degree has allowed me to have a greater in-depth knowledge of and speak credibly about an industry I’m very passionate about.”