One of my professional passions in life is assisting those studying for the ACS CCP™ Exam. In 2014, I started the Cheese Study Group on Facebook to post study documents to assist Cheese Professionals in pursuit of this prestigious certification. As of July 2017 there are almost 900 Cheese Pros who have successfully passed the exam. This year the Cheese Study Group created crowd-funding via GoFundMe to raise scholarship money to assist in taking the exam and also for existing ACS CCPs to attend the annual ACS Conference. Through the generosity of our cheese community we were able to 100% fund four scholarships: 2 applicants for the exam and 2 CCPs to attend the conference. (It has always bothered me that once becoming CCPs, ongoing educational opportunities are not available because of monetary restrictions. It also annoys me that the large retailers don’t/won’t pony up the cash for at least a few of their CCPs to attend the conference. The conference is educational and an important networking venue to expand opportunities.)
I recently posted an essay by Matt Bellingham, ACS CCP® and one of our Cheese Study Group Scholarship winners. Today I am pleased to introduce you to another of our Scholarship winners, Tyler Frankenberg. Tyler successfully sat for the ACS CCP Exam™ in Denver this past July. Tyler is the Customer Experience Lead at Murray’s Cheese. Tyler graciously agreed to write an essay about his experiences as a CSG Scholarship Winner:
When I first set my sights on the Certified Cheese Professional’s Exam as a career goal, I had in mind a future point in time at which I’d have no choice but to measure up against my peers on how well I’d mastered all the areas of knowledge that a good cheesemonger ought to be acquainted with. I didn’t apply because I knew I was ready – I applied because I knew I needed a deadline hanging over my head, I needed externally-imposed pressure to do the hard studying that a lifelong passion for learning doesn’t ever quite get around to of its own volition. If I didn’t go ahead and register to take the CCP, did I ever really see myself taking the time to get the precise relationship of pH during cheesemaking on final product, or the finer distinctions between Oberhaslis and Toggenburgs?
I saw the value of the CCP in a familiar adage – in the journey as much as in the destination. Having a professional licensure is nothing to sneeze at, but what I wanted was to master and apply all of the rules and regulations, breeds and microbial cultures, merchandising, plating, and tasting principles…I knew that if I committed to the test prep, I’d become a better cheese professional, no matter the outcome of the exam itself.
At first, I saw applying for a scholarship in mostly straightforward, practical terms: it costs money to get professional licensing, let alone travel to a conference city, and I needed help with that. But as I began the long process of actually studying, and of constructing essays for the Cheese Study Group Scholarship, I realized that I was doing more for myself than simply acquiring the funds to attain professional licensure – I was entering into a supportive community of people who shared my passion for cheese. It became quickly and abundantly clear that I needed this community more than I first suspected.
The 9 domains of the ACS Body of Knowledge that the CCP exam measures competency in are not only expansive, but are ever evolving to include the latest perspectives and research paradigms. I realized early on that my work experiences and rote memorization were going to get me only so far. The CCP exam measures not just knowledge, but judgment; it presents questions with multiple correct answers, the most correct of which can only be revealed by appropriately discerning the context in which the question makes the most sense. In order to properly pick up on context, I was going to need help from those who had a more extensive combination of experience and knowledge within the 9 Domains.
I found this in the Cheese Study Group: a motivating, encouraging, supportive, and enthusiastic group of individuals from all over the cheese world, willing not only to share their knowledge regularly in presentations on various need-to-know topics, but to jump in and help with questions from all kinds of first-time CCP test takers. As a test taker from a small business, without access to the test prep materials offered by larger employers, I found the Cheese Study Group a crucial resource for finding the niche information covered within the 9 domains that wasn’t sourced from any one widely available book or website.
This group brings together dedicated professionals from every corner of the cheese community – from small and large businesses, serving markets as small as small towns and as big as the entire country, and representing makers, mongers, distributors, and the cheese media. Because of my involvement with them before and during the conference, I have a much more informed appreciation for the breadth and depth of expertise in our industry, and came away from the experience better able to articulate my professional passion, and construct my professional goals.
Finally, I found in this group a fun and familial support group, and a warm and welcoming group of friends when I arrived to the conference as a first time attendee. We met together right away to get to know one another over drinks, and came back together at lunches daily to talk through last minute test-taking questions and concerns before the CCP exam, and to share experiences we’d had in the conference presentations and break-out sessions we attended. I’ve stayed in touch with the other scholarship recipients, as well as scholarship administrators, members of the selection committee, and contributors to the Study Group presentations, and I’ll count them as valuable resources as I pursue a lifelong career in the cheese industry. I’m grateful for their financial support, their encouragement, their friendship, and their dedication to advancing our industry to its furthest frontier, and I’m honored and humbled to have been welcomed into their community!
Of course, in addition to sharing Tyler’s experience with you, I have ulterior motives: it is time to start Fund-Raising for 2018 Scholarships. Our Cheese Study Group needs you to help us again, this time to fund 10 Scholarship Winners. The exam and the ACS Conference will take place in Pittsburgh in July 2018. We want to split the scholarships like we did last year: 5 to take the exam and 5 CCPs to attend the conference. It’s a huge investment in the future of our Cheese Community. We are in the process of making the Scholarship Fund an IRS sanctioned charity and hope to begin accepting donations by January 1. However, we will be contacting you to pledge your donations for 2018. If you wish to pledge a donation, you can email me via 2017csgscholarship (@) gmail.com. Thanks to all who supported us in 2017 and thanks for future donations for our 2018 campaign.