The core courses will be based on primary sources, relevant academic literature and actual policy documents on particular topics. They will be conducted through classroom lectures with student engagement, discussions with professional guest speakers, visits to the Rome-based UN and CGIAR Agencies, on-site classes in Rome and in rural areas of Italy.
The elective course selection includes the possibility of completing an Independent Study of three credits, in exceptional cases, following consultation and approval by the Academic Advisor.
Students are required to complete all course work before they can submit their thesis.
Food, Environment and Society (3 credits)
How do we affect the Earth’s resources with our food choices? This course covers the interrelationship of food and the environment: it reviews the global agri-food system, its structure and evolution with particular reference to global food security. Through an interdisciplinary perspective, it will discuss the existing knowledge on the major global challenges for food production, including climate change, depletion of natural resources and changes in diets. The social, economic, cultural and psychological determinants of food consumption habits and patterns will be analyzed with the view to exploring the linkages between sustainable production and sustainable diets. The governance of the agro-food system will be examined: the mandates of the UN agencies, the main regulatory frameworks, the intergovernmental processes, the transnational and national civil society and social movements. The course includes one or more field trips to a UN Agency.
The Global Food Economy (3 credits)
This course introduces students to key economic concepts in macroeconomics as applied to the agro-food sector, finance and accounting. During the first part of the course students learn key economic concepts such as opportunity costs, trade-off, elasticity, production frontiers, public goods and externalities. The relations between GDP, inflation and unemployment will be critically analyzed in the context of the classical and Keynesian models, with a particular focus on the role of government and central banks. International trade policies are examined with reference to food, agribusiness and development issues. Different market structures ranging from monopolistic competition, oligopolies and monopolies will be reviewed to gain a better understanding of how markets work in practice and to identify the key actors in today global food system. In the second part, the course provides a survey of accounting and finance methodologies. Case studies, lecture and in class exercises provide for a practical and active learning approach. The course assumes no prior knowledge of economics and business techniques or terminology.
Research Methods for Social Sciences (3 credits)
This course enables students to appraise the main aspects, potential and limits of theoretical and applied social research methods, and to use them appropriately according to their specific research needs. The course covers the epistemology of social science and the logic of research design. It reviews the steps in the research process from the research idea to the research questions, formulation of hypotheses and deciding on method. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods will be described and practiced. The main methodological problems of quantitative and qualitative analysis, data gathering, data quality and interpretation of evidence will be discussed. Presentation skills for researchers will be explained and practiced.
Sustainable Food Systems (3 credits)
The aim of the course is to review the conceptual and analytical frameworks for the ‘sustainability’ of the food system and to analyze how sustainability is pursued in practice by different actors. The food system refers to all processes involved in the production, processing, consumption and disposal of food; it implies the involvement of different sectors, disciplines and stakeholders and the intersection with aspects of public health, environment as well as social and economic development. The course will review and analyze the co-existence of multiple contemporary food systems and their sustainability, from the global to the community level, from primary production to agribusiness, including the role of institutional actors and social movements in imagining and practicing alternatives to the current industrial food system. The course includes transferable skills related to management of projects dealing with sustainability. One or more field trips to regional and local food systems in Italy will also be included.
Nutrition Policies and Programs (3 credits)
The course covers nutrition from a public health and environmental policy perspective, as debated and applied at both international and national levels. The main definitions and concepts are provided related to macro and micronutrient requirements, human metabolism and diet-related diseases, such as under-nutrition, malnutrition and over-nutrition. Special emphasis will be given to food safety and food safety policies, including foodborne pathogens and surveillance, antibiotic resistance, food labeling, food additives and allergens, chemical use in food production, genetic modification of food and the new genome editing techniques applied to agriculture. The course analyzes critically current nutrition problems and challenges and reviews the regulatory frameworks and policy options towards healthy, balanced and environmentally sustainable diets.
Food Policy (3 credits)
This course reviews the rationale, instruments and practice of food policy. It provides an overview of the conceptual background, features and aims of food policies, and the regulatory frameworks in both industrialized and non-industrialized countries. The first part of the course discusses the different approaches followed and the disciplinary contributions to the policy and practice from agriculture, health, trade and the environment perspectives highlighting the conditions that influence the formulation of food policies. The second part covers the evolution of food policies and regulations at the global, regional and national levels and their implications. Specific mechanisms and policy instruments will be highlighted, including the Codex Alimentarius and the international trade agreements.
Food, Rurality and Local Development (3 credits)
The course reviews the role of food in influencing and shaping local development in rural areas. It examines the scope and characteristics of local food systems as well as the range of other products and services delivered by rural areas for rural and urban communities. The course covers the main tenets, practices and processes of rural development, with specific reference to developed countries, but considering also the global food markets and developing countries’ experiences. Rural development paths based on the multiple functions of farms will be analyzed in relation to local food systems as well as to the new roles that rural areas and actors can play to address emerging social needs and demands.
Research Project Design (3 credits)
This course provides research guidance for students to carefully plan and prepare their Master's thesis in Food Studies. This is a course largely based on classroom interactions and practice. Classes make creative use of lectures, discussions, and peer reviewing to help students through the various steps of the planning and writing process. Students will be asked to report on their progress and discuss with other students and their instructor methodological issues and difficulties that they may face during the preliminary work on their social science thesis. The course covers the following: exploring the field and determining the subject and research question(s) of their thesis; achieving mastery of the necessary research methods; data analysis; developing the ability to think scientifically; and proficiency in academic writing. The successful student will develop a solid and methodologically feasible research proposal as basis for her/his Master's thesis.
Social and Cultural Dimensions of Food and Eating (3 credits)
This course aims at enabling students to identify the meaning and significance of food in different societies by exploring the way that culture, gender, socioeconomic status and religion influence food choices and preferences. Eating habits and patterns -namely how we eat, what with eat and with whom we eat- are key elements in determining and communicating social identities. In Social and Cultural Dimensions of Food and Eating we will determine how people use food to define themselves as individuals, groups or whole societies. We will discuss food taboos and beliefs, the historical dynamism of food habits, contemporary food trends, indigenous sovereignty rights over natural resources and contemporary critical issues as food access, malnutrition and food vulnerability as a climate change consequence. Identifying and defining the differences between eating and nutrition, the course will provide a holistic perspective on the study of food, tackling its influence on body perceptions and health issues. Furthermore, the course will provide qualitative research methodological tools for applied research and project work on food and eating in both industrialized and developing countries’ social and cultural contexts.
Internship (3 credits)
An internship with a food-environment organization can be considered part of the M.A. Program up to three credits. A three-credit internship requires up to 150 hours of practical work experience, a journal with the daily activities detailed as well as reflections on the internship as a learning experience and a presentation and written paper at the end of the work experience period.
Food Writing Across Media (3 credits)
This course will examine food writing in relation to food production; its economic, environmental and social sustainability; and the social and cultural dimensions of food consumption. It will cover food writing in its various professional forms, across different media and for different audiences: writing non-fiction essays, analytical papers, personal narratives, blogs, policy briefs, press releases and writing for newspapers, magazines and websites. Examples of such writing will be drawn from a wide range of writers and organizations. Students will also take photographs and video to accompany their work. Italy is our classroom and textbook so students should be prepared to visit locales and institutions where food plays a role.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Food and Agriculture (3 credits)
A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based tool that analyzes, stores, manipulates and visualizes geographic information, usually in a map. With increased awareness of geospatial technologies and their role in society, food studies and agriculture continue to embrace GIS to adapt to changing circumstances. By better understanding how features within the landscape interact, decision makers can optimize operational efficiency and improve social and economic returns. This course will analyze this system through case-studies from different contexts allowing to gain more experience and knowledge on the potential of GIS as a tool to manage programs that support farmers and the environment as well as decision-making for food processing and distribution. This course will cover a general introduction to GIS using a free and open source QGIS software package. Students will also critically asses the contribution of GIS to the theoretical and methodological development of food studies and agriculture worldwide.