Published: Sept. 12, 2022 By

The Natural and Organic Pathway program is a unique opportunity for some of the best and most passionate students to engage with the Naturally Boulder community. CU is preparing these students to go out into the world and become change agents for the better. -Bill Capsalis, Executive Director, Naturally Boulder 

Expo West 1Pathway Background

CESR launched the Natural and Organic Pathway in Fall 2019 through a collaborative effort involving natural products industry leaders, Leeds faculty member Heather Kennedy and the Graduate Programs office at Leeds. The Pathway is unique to Leeds and rooted in relationships within Boulder and the surrounding area, which played a pivotal role in the development of the natural and organic product sector and remains a hub for experienced professionals as well as entrepreneurs. The Pathway brings together a collection of recommended courses and co-curricular activities offered by CESR and our partners and  connects Leeds students with this network for mentors, internship opportunities, and careers.

Program Highlights

The Natural and Organic Pathway attracts students passionate about sustainability as well as those already committed to this industry. 19% of MBAs participated in 2022. To be counted, students must participate in at least two Natural and Organic Pathway events and meet with CESR staff.

In 2021-2922 the Pathway included the Natural and Organic Bootcamp, a Trek to Expo West, small group lunches with executives in the industry, career counseling, and networking events.  

In addition, Leeds launched a half semester course, taught by Heather Kennedy, called Marketing Strategy that covers the CPG industry and draws extensively on Heather’s background as the former Marketing Director for Whole Foods.

This summer, Natural and Organic Pathway students interned at Clorox, Danone, jack & annie’s, and Johnson & Johnson among others. Alumni were recruited into jobs at Frontier Co-op, LT Foods Americas and Meati, among others. 

Community Partners

Expo West 2The Pathway was developed in partnership with the industry. Many individuals, companies and affiliated organizations have made the Pathway possible including New Hope Network and Naturally Boulder who have both served as strategic advisors and on-going supporters of the Pathway, co-creating programming and offering crucial insights. 

New Hope has made it possible for Leeds students to take part in Expo West, which is the largest gathering of natural and organic companies in the world. Last year, students at Expo West had the opportunity to tour the floor with Bill Capsalis, Mark Retzloff, Andy Witman and Trevor Drinkwater.

Naturally Boulder offers Pathway students opportunities to volunteer for education and networking events, and then to attend future events for free, and every year the organization gifts a number of memberships to Pathway students. Each year, Naturally Boulder also hosts a number of educational programs at the Center for Academic Success and Engagment (CASE) on campus.

Upcoming Plans

Beginning in Fall 2022, we are excited to refine and strengthen the Natural and Organic Pathway based on recommendations and insights offered by our stakeholders.

This year we are expanding the Pathway to undergraduate as well as graduate students. The Natural and Organic Bootcamp, Expo West Trek and other offerings will all be open to qualified Leeds students. We have seen how impactful the Pathway is for MBAs and are looking forward to the opportunity to enhance the undergraduate experience as well.

In addition, look for the following programs in AY23, and click on the links to learn more and sign up:

  • Trek to MannaTree Partners: Learn about functional foods, financial models for the natural and organic industry, and the importance of product development, innovation and emerging brands to the region.
  • Farm to Market Trek: A local trek to a series of natural and organic companies focused on production, safety, and supply chain.
  • Industry Insights Series: Each event features a single company with food tastings to explore nontraditional foodways, market segmentation, small/start-up and scale-up issues, and product/ingredient sourcing. Participating companies include Oso Adventure Meals and City Express Fulfillment.
  • How I Did It: A workshop on how to prepare for an internship timed to coincide with Expo West.
  • Data Management Workshop: Learn how data is collected, and hear from someone in brand management about how they use this data in their day-to-day role.

Get Involved

Megan BentStudents interested in purpose-driven careers can learn more about the Natural and Organic Pathway, as well as CESR’s other areas of concentration, including the Clean Energy Pathway and the SRE Certificate. Registration for events can be found on our events page.

Companies and professionals who are interested in getting involved, we are always interested in connecting with potential guest speakers, trek hosts, Expo West connections and mentors. Please reach out to us if you would like to talk further..