Alumni spotlight: Jeffrey Stamp

1983, B.S. Food Science and Technology; 1990, Ph.D. Food Science

Theodore Labuza

Current organization/ employer: Bold Thinking, LLC

Favorite memory of campus:
I have two. There were five graduate students in our research group. Each from a different country: France, Morocco, Taiwan, Greece and myself. This was such an amazing learning environment to not only learn to collaborate scientifically, but also to understand how to thrive and learn from each other's culture and viewpoints. I know at the time this was special at a personal level, but its value to me during my career was priceless because it showed me how diverse and interesting the world truly is. The second memory was of the Minnesota weather - the crisp sunny fall days, the silent idyllic snowflakes, the turn of spring, and the lazy summer days. To me the complete four seasons made life on campus an interesting and always changing backdrop to my research.

Why did you choose CFANS as a college?
I grew up on a farm in west central Minnesota near the South Dakota border. My grandfather always impressed upon me that we didn't just raise crops and livestock we produced the ingredients that became food for others. For instance a bushel of wheat produces 70 loaves of bread, an acre of corn feeds a dairy cow for 3 months, 1.5 gallons of milk produces a gallon of ice cream and that our small farm had meaning to other people. I knew then I wanted to explore the science of how these ingredients became valuable to others. As I looked at ag-based colleges I was so impressed with the Land Grant mission of the U of M and how the research at the college has great reach throughout the world. When I visited campus and learned how Norman Borlaug grew up on a farm in Iowa, came to the U and then travelled the world solving ag challenges that led to the Nobel Prize, I was hooked.

Why do you think the University of Minnesota is great?
The world-class research rankings, the world-class professors, and world-class facilities speak for themselves. But what I've found that all adds up to are connections. Being a graduate of the University of Minnesota opens so many doors throughout the world. I've been blessed to have spoken on food science and entrepreneurship in 38 countries and I have met a U of M graduate everywhere in the world I've gone. When I get introduced to a group and someone mentions the U, afterwards someone comes up to me and the ice breaker is always some connection to the University of Minnesota. These connections have produced friendships as well as business connections that have lasted many years.

Career information/ professional achievements:
I've had the opportunity to explore many intriquing questions during my life after the U. I started by working at General Mills as a research scientist exploring the functionality of food ingredients in various food applications. Then I went to Frito-Lay to become the research section manager for the team that created and commercialized the Baked Lays Potato Crisps. After the launch of that product into the market, I had the opportunity to join a think-tank called the Eureka! Ranch as the VP of Innovation and Technology where we created new product concepts for dozens of Fortune 100 companies worldwide. Our team was awarded the George Land World-Class Innovator Award from the Innovation Network and Fast Company magazine.

Then in 2005, I was asked to help create a new Department of Entrepreneurship at the University of North Dakota and spent five years as the endowed chair and assistant professor of entrepreneurship in the College of Business. Our task was to help open the field of entrepreneurship to students all across the campus in all majors. We started with only a handful of students and grew to over 300 students taking entrepreneurship classes during that time. I was awarded the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Award from the Acton Foundation in 2009.

Today I lead a company called Bold Thinking that creates and develops skill-based education for entrepreneurs and technical professionals. Our programs are placed in universities and companies worldwide. Locally, our program has helped create 146 new companies in the North Dakota region over the past 6 years. Just this May, I published a chapter on Organizing Creativity in the Oxford Handbook of Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship that chronicles our research on how creativity is used by entrepreneurs to great big ideas.

What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field?
I've always been driven by compelling questions. If someone says something is impossible, then I want to figure out if that is true or not. I've always been fascinated how people frame the world they live in and how they think about the questions they are faced with. To me science is this wonderful tool to explore and discover the world that is one of the best framing techniques ever invented. No matter where I go in the world, science has helped me not only solve technical challenges but also a way to learn about people, culture and mindsets. One of my favorite memories was when I got an opportunity to volunteer in India to solve a problem for a nonprofit that was attempting to find a solution to a shortage of milk for children in rural areas. Everyone was focused on milk technology to find an answer, but the hurdles were too great and everyone was frustrated because there simply wasn't an economical way to find or use milk to solve the problem. Only when we looked within to the alternative resources we could find did we create a homogenized milk replacement product made from peanuts that filled a need in these isolated rural communities until more traditional milk production could be restored. The world will always need food, whether people or animals, food science is a field of ever-changing challenges.

How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today?
To say the U of M changed my life is a complete understatement. I wouldn't trade my growing up years on the farm for anything, but I truly grew up during my 10 years at the U. The U helped me to discover who I was and what I was capable of doing with my life after the U.

My doctoral advisor, Prof. Labuza, has been and continues to be one of the most influential people in my life. He is amazing at getting the best out of his students and allowing them to discover their path. Some of the best learning at the U doesn't always happen in the classroom. Each week Prof. Labuza held a team meeting that was a little part meeting and big part of learning how to be in a meeting and work collaboratively with others. Each week a different grad student had to make a formal presentation of their research progress. These weren't just updates, they were in-depth discussions that taught us how to receive feedback and answer tough questions. We would be up all night preparing for our turn but we learned to support each other so that we all succeeded. At the time these seemed like hard lessons but as it turns out it prepared me for the even tougher questions I faced in corporate life.

The U may seem full of demands on us as students, but learning accountability and developing your own personal standards of excellence are some of the best experiences you should seek out during your college career. Every project I work on still to this day, I reflect on the lessons I learned from my advisor to help guide me. The secret bonus is that I can, and do, still call him up for insight on current issues in our field.

What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?
There are no problems, only challenges in need of an opportunity. When you apply a mindset of purposeful possibility when dealing with any challenge you are faced with, it's easier to see the right opportunity that solves the challenge. In college - seek out opportunities to test yourself - volunteer, join a student group that is making a difference in the community, meet people that have had different experiences than you and learn from all these additional resources along with your degree requirements. The U is more than a collection of courses; it's a boundless resource pool of experiences.