Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Health and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Elizabeth Droke

Second Advisor

Sanjeev Anand


Currently market forces identify a growing need for professionals in food safety related careers. The investigation studied influential factors guiding students to choose career paths. Careers connected to the safety of the food supply require professionals with undergraduate and graduate degrees related to science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). Preparing and attracting students to post-secondary institutions needs greater attention to meet the demands of the food and agriculture industry. The investigation focused on college students and high school teachers. Students in three colleges (Arts and Sciences, Agriculture and Biological Sciences, and Education and Human Sciences) offering STEM and non-STEM majors as well as food safety related majors were studied for the predictability of influential factors regarding the choice of a major. Additional insight of factors influencing students in a food safety related major and career path were gained through an online focus group discussion. The teacher focused investigation targeted high school teachers in Science and Math, Family Consumer Sciences, and Agriculture in middle school through introductory college courses. Information regarding use of technology by these teachers provided insight for curriculum development and interactive educational tools when incorporating food safety and STEM concepts. The predictability of students choosing a STEM major was identified through logistic regression analysis. Several influential factors (predictor variables) had significant odds ratios predicting students will choose a STEM related career path in the colleges that were studied. The correlations of self-perceived proficiency for using different technologies in the classroom were associated with subject taught, size of school, and computer accessibility in schools across South Dakota. Through an online focus group study incorporating Social Cognitive Career Theory, students majoring in a food safety related field identified job satisfaction, agriculture classes, FFA, high school science classes, and job experience as most influential in their career path decision. This same group identified their potential role in monitoring and maintaining the safety of the food supply. Career Technical Education programs such as FFA provide insight to the issues addressed by professionals in career paths related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Incorporating inquiry based STEM concepts with a real world food and agriculture issue into educational interactive technology tools that include a virtual experience potentially enhances the awareness of fields of study and careers related to the safety of the food supply.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Food industry and trade -- Vocational guidance.
Food adulteration and inspection -- Vocational guidance.
Science -- Study and teaching (Higher)
Technology -- Study and teaching (Higher)
Engineering -- Study and teaching (Higher)
Mathematics -- Study and teaching (Higher)


Includes bibliographical references.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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