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75 Years of The Culinary Institute of America

Leader spotlight

In its first 75 years, The Culinary Institute of America set the standard for culinary education both in the United States and abroad.

The Institute was born in a time of great change—World War II had ended, and the school was established to help train returning veterans. Since then, the school has evolved into a multi-campus institution of higher education, offering associate, bachelor and master’s degrees.

“Today, our industry finds itself again in a time of great change. We will need innovators to reimagine, recharge and reinvent business models to help lead the industry’s recovery from the pandemic,” says Mark Erickson, CMC, CIA provost. “That’s why a solid culinary education has never been more important.”

Provost Erickson says his main goal is simple: to ensure that the CIA continues to deliver the world’s premier culinary education. “To do that, we need to anticipate the direction of the industry, not just today, but five, 10, and 20 years in the future so that we can continue to develop and adapt our curriculum, ensuring CIA students are ready to tackle whatever comes their way,” he says.

Through the years, the Institute has expanded not only its degree programs, but also its campuses in order to offer a wider breadth of opportunities for students, graduates and communities around the world. In addition to the main campus in Hyde Park, New York, the CIA also has campuses in St. Helena, Calif., San Antonio and Singapore. The School of Graduate and Professional Studies is housed at The CIA at Copia, in downtown Napa, Calif., and through strategic partnerships, the CIA also maintains outposts such as the Torribera Mediterranean Center at the University of Barcelona, Spain, and Castello di Ugento in Puglia, Italy.

To truly succeed in the industry, chefs and other business and hospitality professionals need to be prepared to lead and innovate beyond just what’s trending at a particular moment. Provost Erickson says that a main part of his job is to ensure that students have a broad understanding of the fundamentals, and also stay abreast of what’s happening in the industry at the moment to have an ongoing impact.

“Food touches every aspect of our lives, and there are increasingly more opportunities outside kitchens for CIA graduates,” says Provost Erickson. “Whether that’s working in food policy, redesigning our food system, tackling food insecurity, developing new products, or working in food media, we’re continually looking at new programs and pathways to excellence. And as we continue to develop new courses, concentrations and degree programs, our guiding principles continue to be our core values: leadership, excellence, professionalism, ethics and respect for diversity.”

For Provost Erickson personally, when it comes to daily inspiration, he says that’s easy for him to find at the CIA. “All you have to do is take a peek into one of our classrooms or kitchens to see the ambition and passion put forward by our students and faculty,” he says. “And frankly, that commitment extends beyond the formal academic portion of the campus.”

Provost Erickson points out a recent extra-curricular event in which students were invited, on a voluntary basis, to participate in a Harry Potter-inspired Tri-Wizard Culinary Skills tournament. More than 200 students signed up to take part in this two-day, decathlon-style program. “Not only did [the students] display wonderful technical capability, but the fun-spirited environment they created in which they encouraged each other through the challenging competitive stages was quite amazing,” says Provost Erickson, noting that this group represents what will amount to a positive future for the industry.

Speaking of the future, with an alumni network that’s more than 50,000 strong, deep relationships across a variety of industry sectors, the CIA not only its longstanding legacy of leadership to draw on, but also a multitude of resources that help students and graduates keep a finger on the pulse of the industry.

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