Kentucky State University will offer a new program that prepares students for work in distillation and fermentation industries this fall.
The undergraduate certificate in Fermentation and Distillation Sciences will fall under KSU's College of Agriculture, Communities and the Environment. Students will not only learn about alcohol distillation and fermentation but also about fermented foods like kimchi, a Korean side dish of salted and fermented vegetables, and kombucha, a sweetened fermented black or green tea drink.
Dean of the College of Agriculture, Communities and the Environment Kirk Pomper said the certification is open to college students attending KSU or workers who are already in the distillation and fermentation industries and want to expand their skills. The certificate can be finished in a year, as students can take four courses across two semesters.
“This will serve the needs of Frankfort and Kentucky as well as the needs of our students,” Pomper said.
He added that the program could benefit a variety of students, such as those in agribusiness, business, biology, chemistry or another agriculture-related field, and area farmers and distillers.
Kentucky's bourbon industry is worth $8.6 billion, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association. More than 20,100 Kentuckians are employed by distilleries, holding more than one-third of all U.S. distilling jobs.
KSU worked hard to make sure that the certificate is "unique" compared to similar programs at other Kentucky universities such as the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University and Eastern Kentucky University, Pomper said. A focus on fermented foods is one key difference, as the trend is growing around the world, he said. KSU is the first historically black university in the state to offer such a program.
“This really supports our tradition of working with small and minority farmers,” Pomper said.
Michael Adams, vice president of the Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild, said KSU's Fermentation and Distillation Sciences certificate could bring more diversity to the industry, both in terms of workers and consumers. The Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild aims to bring awareness to minority involvement in the bourbon history and support the future of the industry through inclusivity, education and community-building.
Adams said the Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild is working on implementing a scholarship for students pursuing KSU's Fermentation and Distillation Sciences certificate.
"What KSU is doing is going to open the door for other universities to follow suit," Adams said.
KSU's program will give minority students the skills they need to get high-paying jobs in the distilling industry, which will be crucial as America becomes more diverse, Adams added. As the country becomes more racially diverse, through immigration and interracial marriage, consumers of bourbon will also be more diverse, he said. Whiskey that's aging now in barrels across Kentucky will have a different consumer group when eventually bottled.
"KSU is creating an avenue for students to get into the industry and move the culture forward," Adams said.
The program will also give Frankfort an economic boost. Adams predicts that the certificate will connect KSU with local distilleries and new breweries moving into the area through internships, diversifying the workplace and more. The changes for Frankfort and the industry as a whole are already happening, he said.