2021 cohort of graduate students at orientation

Integrated Curriculum

The Food Systems Graduate program offers a transdisciplinary, cohort educational model. A student’s course of study in either the MS or PhD program will integrate a comprehensive understanding of food systems with focused disciplinary inquiry. Students draw from each other’s skills and experiences to foster a more rich and diversified learning environment. The program curriculum integrates humanities, social and natural science approaches to understanding complex and interdependent food systems of varying scope and scale.

The student handbook is available here

Certificates and Course Samplings

MS and PhD students have the option to combine their degrees with any one of the following Graduate Certificate programs.  Contact Allison Spain for more information.


Education for Sustainability

Public Health

Ecological Economics

Complex Systems

Community Resilience and Planning

Food Systems & Society (FS 6400) - This course examines key questions being asked about our contemporary food system  through the lens of scholarship in the social sciences. After close consideration of how these questions are framed, researched and analyzed by social scientists (as well as some consideration of humanities scholarship), the class will go on to understand the implications for developing public policy that seeks to develop answers. The course will also involve a systematic investigation of the form and content of transdisciplinary research.  

Food Systems & Science (FS 6450) - This is a systems course that will focus on understanding the science and policy interface of food systems.  Students will learn through a variety of experiential and hands-on methods and approaches including self-reflection, group work, scientific assessments, policy analysis, direct policy engagement, and case studies.  The course is designed so that students will have a clear understanding of both the scientific method and approach to problems as well as the policy process and implementation.  

Economics of Sustainable Food Systems (FS 6210) - This course will present and use common economic tools, ideas and applications to analyze issues concerning the sustainability of food systems, using a combination of readings, lectures and discussions. Particular focus will be placed upon private (individual and collective) and public policy strategies and their impacts on sustainability across the production, consumption and distribution of food, and tradeoffs or ambiguities across goals and outcomes.  

Ethics and the Food System (FS 6550) - This course introduces some leading literature on ethics, sustainability, and nutrition that is relevant to evaluating food systems. Unusual emphasis will be placed on thinking like a philosopher, thinking like an economist, ethical worries about research and publications, and leading literature on global food systems that is underrepresented in local discussions. Students will also gain experience running a leading global climate-energy-economy integrated assessment model, DICE.  

Food Systems Degrees and Requirements

Master's Degree

Students pursuing an MS in Food Systems will apply knowledge of the interconnected and interdependent global food system and develop skills in mixed method research approaches in order to critically analyze and propose solutions to problems. The goal is always to combine knowledge with action. The program is flexible so that students may take courses full or part-time, however it was designed to be completed in 18 months.  MS degree requirements

Funding for the Masters Program

We have two partial fellowships that are offered to our top two Masters candidates each year. If you would like to be considered for a Food Systems Innovation Fellowship, please indicate this on the online application in the appropriate section.  Contact the Food Systems Administrator for more information about the fellowships.

When resources allow, we also provide temporary research and instructional assistant positions.  Students are notified about these opportunities when they are announced.

Current Traditional Graduate Student Program tuition rates and fees. 

PhD Degree

The PhD in Food Systems combines a comprehensive investigation of food systems and a commitment to developing methods for solving the current problems of the food system through a cohort intensive experience. Every year, the food systems cohort will work together to address problems and devise potential solutions through an oral competency examination. Students then move towards disciplinary depth and mastery by designing a course of study with a dissertation committee and developing a research proposal as part of a qualifying exam. PhD degree requirements >>

Funding for the PhD Program

At this time, our program does not provide funding for all students in the same manner. Rather funding decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. All accepted students will be offered tuition and stipend for a minimum of three years.

Accelerated Entry to Master's (AMP)

Current UVM students may be eligible to pursue an Accelerated Masters in Food Systems. This program is ideal for students who wish to obtain an MS degree directly after completing their Bachelor of Arts or Science. AMP students may take up to 9 credits in their final semester of their undergraduate studies that can be counted toward both their undergraduate and graduate degrees. If you would like to learn more about this program, please contact Allison Spain.

AMP degree requirements >>

Students learn about processing cider

Studying Food Systems at UVM

An advanced degree in Food Systems allows students to bring different academic disciplines and research methodologies to the common study of a food system by:

  • integrating knowledge of food production, distribution, marketing and consumption
  • examining policy development at federal, state, and local levels
  • exploring the interplay of food and health
  • seeking environmental, social, and economic sustainability
  • ensuring access to adequate food for all citizens, and
  • understanding the complex dynamics of a global food marketplace.