Clemson students earn top honors in national competition
CLEMSON –A group of Clemson University food science students and a recent graduate just returned from a national competition where they earned top honors for their wealth of dairy knowledge.
Food science and human nutrition majors Kay Senn, from Lakeland, Florida who graduated this past May; Jonathan Dillard, a senior from Conway; Madeline Waskiewicz, a senior from Fredonia, Wisconsin and Matthew Baxley, a senior Greer competed in the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest. Students from 16 universities in the United States and Seoul, Korea vied to bring home awards. Clemson placed second place overall.
“This contest may be compared to professional wine tasting in that students are required to evaluate the quality of samples against industry standards,” said Johnny McGregor, team coach and faculty member of the Clemson Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences Department. “It takes a trained palate to distinguish subtle differences in taste, aroma, appearance and texture.”
This was the third consecutive year a Clemson team finished second overall in the contest taking first place in the milk category and placing no lower than third place in five of the six product categories.
In the individual competition, Senn placed second overall, narrowly missing first place in a tiebreaker. She also took first place in the ice cream and yogurt categories, while placing second in the milk category.
Dillard finished seventh overall with a win in the milk category. Waskiewicz had a top-10 finish in the ice cream category.
Two weeks prior to the national competition, the team competed in the Midwest Regional Contest where Dillard finished first and Senn placed third overall, leading the team to a second place finish overall. In the 2017 Midwest contest, Waskiewicz was declared the top cheddar cheese judge.
The Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest is in its 96th year and is sponsored by the dairy and food industry with additional support from the United States Department of Agriculture. Each year this academic competition brings together students from around the world to determine their ability to evaluate the quality of six different dairy products — milk, vanilla ice cream, cheddar cheese, strawberry yogurt, cottage cheese and butter.
Skills demonstrated in the contest are important to companies looking to hire food science graduates to work on the development of new food products and their quality, said Sara Cothran, also a team coach and faculty member of the Food, Nutrition and Packaging Science Department. Cash and scholarship awards are presented based on each student’s evaluation of samples as compared to those of an expert panel of industry judges.
“We are very proud of our students,” Cothran said. “They exemplify the high caliber character of all students in this department.”
The Clemson team is supported financially by the South Carolina Dairy Association and the ’55 Exchange, Clemson’s student-managed entrepreneurial center that makes and serves Clemson’s famous ice cream.