FIM 15-Week Certificate Program

Spring Semester FIM 15-Week Program


Orientation: January 6 and 7, 2022

Program Dates: January 10 – April 27, 2022

Graduation Banquet:  April 27, 2022

WAFC Convention (San Antonio, TEXAS): April 30 - May 4,  2022


The Spring Semester FIM program, along with the Western Association of Food Chains, Inc. brings together faculty, participants and teaching materials in a unique educational environment. In addition to the texts, lectures and discussions, the faculty utilize team projects, role-plays, group presentations, and teaching materials developed specifically for the food industry including special case studies. The curriculum integrates the functional areas of business with cutting-edge theory and practical application to help students understand how all of the pieces of an organization fit together and work dynamically.

FIM emphasizes:

  • An integrated curriculum designed specifically for the food industry emphasizing leadership, a rapidly changing business environment, global competition, strategic planning and analysis, financial management, decision making, managing change, new forms of competition, legal issues, executive communication and technology.
  • An outstanding and experienced faculty that blends traditional business disciplines with cutting-edge theory and practical application.
  • Classroom visits by senior food industry executives which provide top management perspectives on issues facing their executives, their companies and their industry.
  • Classroom visits by other executives at the forefront of developing and implementing technologies, business models and strategies that are shaping the food industry. Frequent luncheon round-tables with guest executives.
  • Field trips to see first-hand state of the art retail, distribution, and manufacturing facilities.
  • Exceptional participants from a diverse array of food industry companies working together in various teams to draw and build upon each other's skills and experience.

After 15 weeks at USC, your managers will return to your company with new ideas and new tools of management which will make them more effective in their positions, make your company more competitive, and help lead your company into the future.

Admissions Requirements

Click here for a full list of the prerequisites for the Spring Program.

Weekly Class Schedule

Classes are held each Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Most afternoons are dedicated to group projects, management tours to food industry companies and lectures by food industry executives who visit the USC campus to discuss new developments, topical subjects, and management strategies.

Preparatory Sessions

During the first two weeks of classes, the program offers a series of afternoon tutorial sessions in basic accounting, Internet research and computer skills (spreadsheet design, presentation graphics, and word processing). These sessions are optional, but strongly recommended because all program courses require a basic level of proficiency in these areas.

Faculty and Industry Experts

1) Decision Making, Strategic Change and Technology's Role

"Developing strategies and tactics, and understanding the processes essential to making quality decisions and successfully implementing strategic change"
        Carl Voigt is a Professor of Clinical Management and Organization. He teaches business policy, competitive strategy, entrepreneurship and venture initiation, and global strategy and international management. Professor Voigt received his PhD from University of California, Los Angeles, MBA from Andrews University, and his BA from Pacific Union College.

2) Planning, Leadership and Management Priorities

"Achieving competitive advantages in a complex and changing business environment through strategic vision and leadership"
        Diane Badame is a Professor of Clinical Marketing. Professor Badame specializes in the fields of marketing management and customer satisfaction. She received her PhD in Physical Education from the University of Wisconsin, and her MBA from the University of Minnesota in Finance. 

3) Communications / Managing Change

"Developing effective and persuasive communication skills, as well as strategies for organizations to not only anticipate and adapt to change, but also to innovate and introduce change"
        Stacy Geck is an Associate Professor of Clinical Management Communication and is an expert in organizational communication effectiveness, intercultural communication, managerial communication (written, oral, and interpersonal), executive presence coaching, effective mentoring techniques, and is a certified facilitator for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Her research has been published in the Journal of Cooperative Education, the Western Speech Communication Association, and the American Society of Trial Consultants. Outside of USC, she frequently works as an independent management consultant specializing in executive effectiveness and organizational change. She holds an MA and BA from Cal State Fullerton.

4) Financial  Management

"Understanding and using financial information to evaluate strategies and tactical alternatives, and assessing the impact of financial decisions on your organization"
Julia Plotts specializes in financial analysis and valuation, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate finance. She is the author of several valuation case studies and contributed to Valuation: The Art and Science of Corporate Investment Decisions. Professor Plotts has been teaching corporate finance and financial analysis and valuation in the EMBA, GEMBA, MBA.PM, IBEAR, and undergraduate programs since 2002.

5) Leadership

“Inspiring confidence through lifelong learning, leaders learn more about themselves, sharpen their skills for effectively growing teams, and understand the role of a leader while growing the business”
      Cynthia McCloud is the Director, Food Industry Programs at USC Marshall.  McCloud studied Organizational Change and Leadership at USC’s Rossier’s School of Education where she completed her Doctorate in Education.  She is an Adjunct Professor and teaches the Leadership course in the FIM program. In the business world, she spent more than 40 years in the food industry where she held leadership roles at The Vons Companies, Catalina Marketing and in international roles with several start-ups as well

Industry Experts

Mike Stigers, Chief Executive Officer of Cub Foods, Minnesota’s largest retail grocery chain, recently joined our faculty team for the USC Food Industry Management Program (FIM). Prior to Cub's acquisition by UNFI, Mr. Stigers served as SUPERVALU’s Executive Vice President of Wholesale and Supply Chain Services since 2016. Mr. Stigers prior experience included serving as President of Shaw’s / Star Markets; Regional Vice President of Sterilox Fresh, a food safety company; and Chief Operating Officer of PW Supermarkets. Mr. Stigers began his grocery career as a part-time courtesy clerk at Safeway and has been active in several trade associations, including the California Grocers Association, past president of Western Association of Food Chains, and current Chair of National Grocers Association.

Carole Christianson, FIM Executive of the Year 2021
USC Marshall presents the FIM Executive of the Year award to a food industry executive who has shown extraordinary leadership and support in the industry. The FIM program has chosen to honor Carole Christianson, Chief Operating Officer of the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) as the 2021 Executive of the Year. 

Christianson is a graduate of the WAFC Retail Management Certificate Program, as well as a USC Food Industry Executive Program alumna.

Christianson began her career in the food industry in 1972 with a small family-owned soft drink bottler, National Drinks. Eventually, National Drinks became a subsidiary of the Dr Pepper Company and later part of the Coca Cola Los Angeles organization where Christianson served in a variety of sales, management, and leadership roles.  She rose through the ranks to Vice President of Retail Development before establishing her own company, Christianson West in 2003.   

In 2007, Christianson joined the Western Association of Food Chains as the Executive Vice President and in 2010 was appointed Chief Operating Officer. 

Christianson has often served as the first woman to be recognized as a leader in organizations such as the National Conference of Christians & Jews, the Combined Food Sales Clubs of Southern California, and the Illuminators. In 2000, Christianson and her late husband, Paul, co-founded “Kids 4 Hope” to benefit Pediatric Cancer research at the City of Hope.

“It is truly an honor for me to work with food industry leaders that share a passion for developing talent within their companies. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the WAFC (Western Association of Food Chains) our greatest legacy is the thousands of lives that been changed as a result of the advanced education initiatives we support. Most notably the 63 year history of the Food Industry Management Program at USC’s Marshall School of Business has produced many of the best and brightest executives in the food industry.” said Carole Christianson, WAFC Chief Operating Officer.