FSS Curriculum

Two wooden spoons, one full of grain and one nearly empty.

The Food Systems and Society (FSS) Master of Science Program’s curriculum focuses on the societal factors that enable and constrain the development of equitable food systems.

The program’s structure enables busy students located anywhere to participate and includes full-time and part-time degree pathway options.

Program degree requirements include 49 credits of coursework and the completion of a Capstone Research Synthesis. Learn more about the FSS curriculum structure, modality, and courses by reading below.

Curricular Focus

The FSS program focuses on social justice and social change in food systems and society. The FSS curriculum supports students in developing and applying knowledge to address social problems in the food system through critical inquiry. By critical inquiry we mean working to uncover the causes and effects of inequity through scholarship in order to reduce or eliminate it. The program’s learning objectives are to:

  1. Explain concepts, theories, and processes of social justice and social change in food systems and society. 
  2. Analyze theory and evidence to address social problems in food systems and society.  
  3. Apply critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills to address social problems in food systems and society.

The FSS program is delivered through interactive online courses through which students develop a collaborative learning community and close connections with colleagues. FSS courses are based on consistently-delivered instructional materials, carefully selected readings, and engaging assignments that build foundational food-system knowledge, as well as skills in scholarly analysis and communication.

In FSS courses, we all learn from each other’s perspectives, integrating lived experience and academic scholarship to explore foundational food systems concepts and content. We recognize that diverse perspectives and experiences are fundamental to understanding and improving food systems and society. So, while the program is academically rigorous, it is collaborative and not competitive.

Knowledge developed through the FSS curriculum is applicable in a wide range of settings and fields that intersect with food system issues. As such, the program welcomes students from any disciplinary background.

Curricular Structure and Modality

FSS is a cohort-based program that combines online courses with two synchronous online intensives each year, one in each fall term and one in the spring. This hybrid model enables students to maintain their professional and personal commitments while engaging with the program and their FSS peers who are situated in diverse arenas and locations.

The cohort-based approach builds an active and engaged learning community. Students typically take the same courses at the same time, learning from and supporting each other, though part-time options are available to those who need a modified course schedule.

The FSS Curriculum is cumulative, sequential, and consistent in its design and delivery. Consistent course structure, design, assignment types, and expectations enable students to better focus on learning. Most coursework is completed asynchronously, allowing students to complete weekly work on a schedule convenient to them.

Knowledge developed in each FSS course is foundational to each subsequent course. With the exception of practicum courses, which can be repeated for credit in part-time degree pathways as needed, courses are taken in the order indicated in the program degree pathways.

The FSS program requires 49 credits of coursework and the successful completion of a Capstone Research Synthesis, which is developed and completed in Capstone courses. Courses in the FSS program are taught in Fall, Winter, and Spring terms; no FSS courses are required or offered in Summer terms. Per OHSU policy, a full-time course load is nine credits per quarter and a part-time course load is five credits per quarter. Full-time FSS students enroll in nine credits each term, with the exception of the second Spring term when only five credits are required. Part-time options (five credits per term) are also available (see program degree pathways here).

Course Types

There are three course types in the FSS Program: Foundation, Capstone, and Practicum courses.

  • Foundation courses address subject matter relevant to food systems and society as well as approaches to critical inquiry and scholarship. These courses include Food Systems Inquiry, Food Systems and Society, Food Policy and Politics, Food in Culture, Food Systems Theory, Social Movements in the Food System, Economic Justice in Food Systems & Society, and Scholarship and Social Change.
  • Capstone courses support FSS Capstone research in which students systematically explore a topic of particular interest to them through critical inquiry and analysis. Students apply concepts and skills developed in FSS courses to create a Capstone Research Synthesis report that asks and answers questions relevant to social justice in food systems and society.
  • Practicum courses focus on academic skill development, positionality and perspective, and communication and collaboration in the context of contemporary issues in food systems and society. There are two types of practicum courses, Directed Studies and Intensives; each practicum course is one credit and may be repeated.

    Directed Studies occur in Winter terms and focus on scholarly skill development in research, communication, and application of student research.

    Synchronous online Intensive courses, offered Fall and Spring quarters, focus on cross-curriculum learning, positionality and perspective, and collegial communication and collaboration in exploring contemporary issues in food systems and society.

Read FSS course descriptions and degree pathways here.