Program Overview of the FSLI Experience

The Food Systems Leadership Institute (FSLI) offers leadership development to upper-level leaders in higher education, government, and industry. FSLI provides our Fellows with strategies to handle the leadership challenges and opportunities for the future. The FSLI experience develops or reinforces a series of core leadership competencies identified by a team of top-level leaders including university presidents and chancellors and leaders from industry and the non-profit sector who understand the requirements of food systems leadership. These professionals offer a wealth of understanding about leadership and the food system to help the Fellows gain a better understanding of their leadership potential.

The two-year FSLI experience includes three week-long residential sessions, personal leadership coaching, mentoring, individual leadership projects, a personal development plan, and distance learning activities.

FSLI is driven by three objectives:

  Enhance individual leadership performance

  Develop skills and knowledge required to lead organizational change

  Broaden food systems perspectives

FSLI Overarching Goals

Upon completion of the FSLI program, Fellows will be able to:

  Consistently articulate a broad, integrated food systems perspective focused on health, humans, environments, communities, and economies.

  Be skilled at bringing together multiple constituencies to focus on major food system challenges, issues, & opportunities.

  Influence and commit to their organization’s values, goals, and strategic directions.

  Advocate for change within their organization consistent with the food system vision.

  Serve broader and more diverse constituencies.

  Create positive changes to impact the health of citizens, the environment, the economy, and local communities within their respective states/areas.

“I am more aware of my strengths and limitations as a leader and therefore I am a better leader.”

—FSLI Fellow

Who Should Attend

The FSLI is designed for experienced leaders. Each cohort is made up of leaders from various sectors, including education, industry, and government. Participant’s titles include program or division directors, provosts/vice presidents, experienced department heads/chairs, deans and associate deans, and others working in leadership of administrative capacities


Mentoring is a vital part of leadership development. Each FSLI fellow will work with one or more mentors who can assist with the development of particular leadership goals, objectives, and skills. The mentoring portion of the FSLI provides fellows with ongoing expert guidance in the development of specific skills, the opportunity to gain exposure to higher level administrative responsibilities or strategic functions, and the chance to build a relationship with another dynamic professional.

The mentor is engaged in the experience of the Fellow in order to provide context and personal insights on the leadership development process. They may also participate in the design and implementation of the Fellow’s personal leadership project.

Personal Leadership Coaching Sessions

All FSLI Fellows have regular access to an experienced executive coach who is certified in all the leadership instruments they complete and discuss during the residential sessions. Coaching provides Fellows with individualized, one-on-one attention and the opportunity to discuss their strengths, weaknesses, or leadership challenges with a trained, confidential advisor.

Personal Development Plans (PDP)

During the first residential session each Fellow will begin the creation of a PDP which identifies personal goals and activities they wish to pursue. The PDP is a dynamic document that Fellows may change and update as ideas and skills are discussed and practiced over the course of the FSLI experience.

Distance Learning

Between residential sessions webinars are scheduled for a variety of speakers and topics dedicated to leadership, organizations, and food systems. Fellows are asked to participate on two calls per session, however it is expected that the topics and speakers will lead to Fellows participating in more than the minimum required calls.

Optional Activities

FSLI Fellows will be invited to meetings or conferences, including the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Annual Meeting. Additional opportunities may be identified during the course of the FSLI experience.

Residential Sessions

The FSLI hosts three week-long residential sessions that weave together the program objectives using case studies, simulations, conversations with leaders and subject-matter experts, and other executive-education styled learning. The residential sessions are intensive, maximize the valuable time of the participants, but they also include opportunities for networking and team-building among the Fellows. Sessions are hosted by FSLI partner institutions: North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

A series of leadership assessment instruments are incorporated into the sessions, including a “360 assessment” and other research-based instruments that enhance the leader’s self understanding and performance. A personal development plan is developed with input from the Fellow’s mentor and personal leadership coach.

Leadership Projects

Each Fellow will undertake an individual leadership project that has direct relevance to their professional careers and ambitions. Projects may incorporate personal leadership, organizational change, and food systems components, based upon the interests of the Fellow. FSLI staff encourages Fellows to work with their mentors, leadership coach, other Fellows, and others to make their project a robust learning experience and an opportunity to demonstrate professional growth.