After four years at University of Wisconsin-Stout and two professional internships, one word best describes Cameron Volbrecht: Ready.
He's ready to leave the classroom behind and ready to use his Bachelor of Science degree in food science and technology.
That's exactly what he'll be doing Monday, Jan. 6, when he begins work full time as a food technologist for Kerry Ingredients in Beloit. Just three weeks after graduating, he will start his career.
"I couldn't be happier about choosing UW-Stout, and the investment in college has paid off right away," said Volbrecht, who also had a second full-time job offer well before he graduated.
At Kerry Ingredients, Volbrecht will work in research and development. His duties will include testing ingredients and optimizing recipes and formulations to develop new products, said Naveen Chikthimmah, an assistant professor and director of the UW-Stout undergraduate program.
Kerry Ingredients is part of Kerry Group, an Irish-based company that makes food ingredients and flavorings for the food and beverage industry and makes customer-branded foods. Kerry makes 15,000 products and employs 24,000 people worldwide.
"It's an opportunity to learn and grow within the food industry and develop superior food products," Volbrecht said.
Volbrecht worked as a quality control analyst last summer in a lab at Kerry Ingredients, calling the job "very fast-paced."
In the summer of 2012 he worked in research and development at Advanced Food Products in Clear Lake, in northwestern Wisconsin.
Both jobs were coordinated through UW-Stout's Cooperative Education Program, which helps more than 900 students a year gain work experience in their majors. Students earn a wage, receive a grade and get academic credit for their efforts.
Volbrecht is from Genoa City and went to Lake Geneva Badger High School in southeastern Wisconsin. He chose UW-Stout over a college in Colorado. He's happy with his major and his choice of schools.
"I love food and science. It was a no-brainer. I've been really happy with the program. I like how hands-on it is," Volbrecht said, citing a high number of lab-based courses within his degree program at UW-Stout.
"The professors are approachable and the class sizes are small," he added. "Professor Chikthimmah has a passion for his students, the food industry and this university."
Volbrecht cited one particularly memorable class, Experimental Foods, in which he and other students created and tested a new product. They used chia and flax seed oils in place of vegetable oil in brownies and studied how the experimental oils interacted with other ingredients in the recipe.
Chikthimmah called Volbrecht a "very engaged and conscientious student" and cited his undergraduate research efforts. Volbrecht worked as an assistant in one of Chikthimmah's lab courses.
Volbrecht's success story is the norm at UW-Stout, where historically 97 percent of graduates either are employed full time or are continuing their education within a year of graduating.
The majority of UW-Stout undergraduate programs typically report 100 percent placement, including food science and technology. In the most recent report last spring, graduates in the program earned an average starting salary of $42,000.
One of the reasons for UW-Stout's 97 percent placement rate is a focus on programs designed to meet the needs of society, business and industry. Food science and technology graduates are prepared to work in the robust agricultural, food and pharmaceutical industries.
"The convergence of the physical, biological and engineering sciences, in the context of food manufacturing, positions students to develop careers that are in high demand," Chikthimmah said.
To learn more about the food science and technology program, go to the website. UW-Stout also offers a Master of Science in food and nutritional sciences; learn more here.