Meet Dr. Leonard Marquart, Department of Food Science and Nutrition

Dr. Leonard Marquart is an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition. His main area of focus is whole grains and health, specifically the factors that influence barriers, motivators, and consumption of whole grain foods and the supply chain related to incorporating whole grain foods into our diets. His research directly influenced regulations for establishing whole grain ingredient content in whole grain foods served in the USDA school meals program. He was kind enough to answer some questions about himself and his new role as director of graduate studies for the Applied Sciences Leadership master's.

Dr. Leonard Marquart sits outside at a table with a pen and paper

1. When did you come to the University of Minnesota, and what drew you here?

I arrived at the U of M in the summer of 2002. I was attracted to the University’s Land Grant mission, which integrates research, education, and extension through mutual participation and collaboration with Minnesota residents and beyond. The Land Grant mission has allowed me to take a holistic approach to our work, by gradually introducing whole grain foods into school meals, by facilitating open student dialogue about whole grain access, availability, and consumption through community food systems, while simultaneously working with students, faculty, and Minnesota residents as a collective whole through food systems approaches.

2. What are you looking forward to as director of graduate studies for the Master of Applied Sciences Leadership (ASCL)?

Higher education is at a crossroads, which necessitates that we train and nurture our students (learners) through a process that allows them to live, work, and play in our communities, businesses, and society to better manage our "wicked problems" that ravage our world. We are living in a world of complex systems in an era of imagination, creativity, and innovation. Yet, in higher education, we are in dire need of participation from all sectors, disciplines, cultures, and socioeconomic and political perspectives to develop students who have the will and capacity to take on our systemic problems and issues.

“I’m looking forward to playing an advising/instructional role on equal ground with our students.”

I’m looking forward to playing an advising/instructional role on equal ground with our students. Twenty years ago, as I entered the University, Larry McKay, a world-renowned microbiologist in our Food Science and Nutrition department, told me: "When the student–instructor relationship is right, you will learn more from your students than the students will learn from you." This concept crystallized in my being, as I never forgot about Larry’s invaluable advice and stick to it to this very day.

I’m looking forward to one-on-one dialogue with our students. Open dialogue allows students to express their diverse views in a constructive, respectful, and productive manner. In addition, nurturing a safe environment through student community and cohesiveness encourages students to function as a collective whole rather than to compete.

Two female students chat during class

Deemphasizing competition through experiential learning opportunities allows development of the whole person in body, mind, heart, and soul. Our world certainly needs more well-rounded people in our communities and workforce who can effectively communicate, network, and take action across sectors, disciplines, cultures, and socioeconomic strata. Learning how to work together, while solving real-world "wicked problems" related to food, water, and environmental issues, is exciting and challenging.

Individualized education allows students to focus and prioritize their educational efforts, while simultaneously developing and leveraging their innate interests and natural talents. Identifying the nature of the student allows them to pursue classes, experiences, and projects that allow them to naturally grow based more on who they are and less on the program, curriculum, faculty, or administration. This process requires strategic guardrails built into the program, a nurturing process of mentoring, and repeated exposure to real-world problems. As our students take charge of their education while finding their way in the world, it builds character, confidence, and competence.

3. What do you see as the main benefits of a degree like this?

Individualization: The Master of Applied Sciences Leadership is designed to allow students the freedom, flexibility, and wonderment to identify, develop, and leverage their own passion and unique qualities so they can best develop their personal, professional, and civic skills.

Adaptability: Opportunity requires that we travel through the unknown. Knowing how to operate in a world of the unknown as problems present themselves requires knowledge of systems, policy, and regulatory and business issues, while simultaneously managing personal and professional relationships, which often escalate when we encounter the unknown. Students learn how to deal with the unknown and take the next step forward.

Resilience: One way of dealing with the unknown is for students to learn about the importance of process as they manage and solve problems through real-world experiences. Students learn how to fail forward—the only way to transcend the unknown—and when they fail, climb back up on the horse again for the next logical jump. Students ultimately develop a growth mindset.

“As our students take charge of their education while finding their way in the world, it builds character, confidence, and competence. ”

Ultimately, we are developing and nurturing dynamic thinking and doing through reflective action: Reflect, plan, apply, evaluate. Through this cyclical and iterative process, students experience, learn, apply, and execute on their knowledge. Learning how to allow things to happen through collective efforts, rather than forcing solutions, might be one of the most beneficial learning experiences through the Applied Sciences Leadership program.