Faces of Research: Meet Wendy White
Mar 16, 2023 —
The Enterprise Innovation Institute is Georgia Tech’s chief economic development arm. With more than a dozen programs, it serves all of Georgia and beyond through a variety of services and offerings that build and scale startups, grow business enterprises, and energize ecosystem builders.
This installment of the Faces of Research Series Q&A series is with Wendy White, industry manager for food and beverage at the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), which serves manufacturers across the state and is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute.
What is your field of expertise and why did you choose it?
I definitely didn’t start out targeting food microbiology as a field of expertise, but as an undergraduate, I wanted to do something in the arena of public health and wasn’t interested in going the traditional medical route. I had an epiphany while sitting in a microbiology class when the professor spent a few classes discussing food safety. This field focuses on avoiding illness/injury, not treating if after the fact. This preventive approach deeply resonated with me, and I learned the food science and technology department was just two buildings over. That’s where I concentrated my graduate studies, and I’ve worked in the food manufacturing industry (and now in academia) ever since, striving to protect public health by contributing to a safe food supply chain.
What makes the GaMEP unique?
The extension consulting services and continuous education training give the faculty at the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership an opportunity to serve our community, aiding manufacturers to improve and expand their business by developing new products and customers, expanding and diversifying markets, adopting new technology, and enhancing value within supply chains. The special value that GaMEP faculty adds is our extensive industry experience. My trainings are full of real case studies and stories from my 17 years in the food manufacturing industry. This adds a tremendous amount of value to our clients because we can share our experiences, both good and bad, to build on the fundamentals and technical skills that go into our outreach services.
What couldn't have happened without GaMEP outreach efforts?
The faculty at GaMEP has a significant impact on the economic development of manufacturers throughout the state. Our services and trainings allow our clients to expand their market share, make improvements to their facilities, create new products, identify operational and energy efficiencies, and sustainably grow their business.
What impact is Georgia Tech's research having on the clients with whom you work?
As the second largest manufacturing sector in the state, the food and beverage category was added a few years ago, and I was hired in 2019 to further expand these efforts and create new services and training curriculum to better serve these clients. We began with a large National Institute to Standards and Technology grant to conduct free food safety trainings to small and medium food and beverage manufacturers across the state. We were able to train over a hundred individuals from 65 different companies, helping them produce safe products and aid in their compliance efforts towards governmental food safety regulations. We’ve built upon this foundation by adding many onsite, virtual, and on-demand food safety trainings and expanding our targeted food and beverage services to encompass vital industry needs, such as creating food safety/HACCP plans, complying with FDA and USDA regulations, and preparing for third-party audits. I’m honored to share my industry experience to aid these clients and have found significant job satisfaction on the positive impact that I can make on a daily basis here at Georgia Tech.
What is the most profound advice you ever received?
Before moving from a regional to executive position in my previous company, my boss advised me to always listen first. I’ve taken that advice to heart, and it’s served me very well in recent years.
What is the most challenging aspect of your research?
I’ve come to academia late in my career and had never written a grant proposal before. Learning this tough new skill has been extremely humbling!
What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not working for GaMEP?
As a true Southerner, I greatly enjoy entertaining, attending college football games (go Jackets!) and am a certified barbecue judge. My husband and I are also avid travelers and working towards our goal to visit as many countries as possible!
Péralte C. Paul