Olivia Pena, AMP 2018
Olivia currently works as a Food Security Specialist for Hunger Free Vermont. In this role, she conducts trainings and outreach to advocate for the 3SquaresVT program (SNAP in Vermont). She interacts with a wide range of food systems stakeholders and community partners, such as service providers, other nonprofit organizations, and state and federal representatives. Given that food insecurity is a complex issue, she feels the MS program equipped her with the skills to consider how changes and policies at multiple scales impact lower-income Vermonters, and how she can advocate for the best, most dignified 3SquaresVT program that meets community members' needs in collaboration with other stakeholders.
Meghan Brooks, MS 2017
Meghan currently works as the Production Manager at The Hub on the Hill, a food hub in Essex, New York. The Hub on the Hill works to promote and support local farmers and food producers in the Adirondacks. The main avenue for this is through the Hub’s commercial kitchen, where Meghan manages the processing of fruits, vegetables, and grains from the local farms. The most enjoyable parts of her work are curbing local food waste and providing a new market to support small farms in the area. The Food Systems program provided the opportunity to analyze the complex food system in the United States and gain experience across a spectrum of topics. This has been an exceptional asset when working at The Hub on the Hill because each day brings up new food issues. Thanks to the MS program, Meghan is prepared to take on all of these challenges. In addition to her work at The Hub on the Hill, Meghan recently started her own pie business called Honey Pie!
Shannon Esrich, AMP 2016
Since graduation, Shannon’s career has shifted in focus but remains rooted in her passions for systems thinking and community service. After completing her degree, Shannon moved to Senegal, West Africa where she served in the Peace Corps as a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist focusing on organic gardening and agroforestry projects. Upon her return to the US, Shannon was offered a position with Vermont Works for Women, coordinating camps for middle school girls and non-binary youth to learn self-empowerment through carpentry and welding. She is now serving the state as a Committee Assistant to the House of Representatives Committee on Education within the General Assembly, a non-partisan position in the Operations department of the Legislative Council. Shannon credits her current position to the MS program’s wide variety of classes, which sparked her interest in food policy and regulations and lead to her desire to work for the state and learn more about local politics. Regardless of position, Shannon finds her skills from the MS program invaluable, such as being able to consider both a system and its many parts, nonjudmentally understanding opposing perspectives, and never being afraid to dig deeper into the “why’s, how’s and what-if’s” of our world.
Hailey Grohman, MS 2016
Hailey is the Community Manager for Fork Food Lab, a shared kitchen and tasting room in Portland, Maine. She handles events, manages the catering program and oversees their 35 member companies. Hailey enjoys the fast pace and the opportunity to learn so many aspects of food entrepreneurship. "It's an awesome job and I feel very lucky to have found something so relevant to what I studied." In reflecting back on her experience in the Food Systems program, Hailey says, "I had a lot of freedom to customize my MS experience, so I focused on food media and food systems communication. I wrote for publications of all types - blogs, academic journals, etc., and gained experience in creating marketing copy for the UVM Food Systems Summit as we ll as for a small food and agricultural book publisher."
Jennifer Porter, MS 2015
Jennifer is the Community Food Security Coordinator for the Northeast Organic Farming Association, in Vermont (NOFA-VT). Previously, she served as Institution Coordinator at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM), where she assisted in the coordination of the Vermont Farm to School Grant Program. In thinking about how her current work relates to her graduate studies, Jennifer says, "My studies in the Food Systems program were very diverse and comprehensive, which equipped me with a well-rounded perspective on the food system. This perspective has been critical to my work by allowing me to understand the issues I deal with in a holistic way. My thesis work during the program focused on farm to college initiatives, was directly applicable to my farm to institution work at VAAFM. The program also gave me a pretty in-depth understanding of the history and current state of Vermont’s food system, in particular. I knew I wanted to stay in Vermont after graduating, and this place-specific knowledge has informed my work on a daily basis."
Bert Richards, MS 2015
Bert manages a mushroom production at Sharondale Mushroom Farm, a small scale mushroom farm in central Virginia, where a variety of gourmet mushrooms are grown and sold through direct to consumer and retail market avenues. "Studying Food Systems at UVM gave me insights into the cultural, political, and economic landscape that small scale farmers operate in. My studies have equipped me help plan a future for the farm that is sustainable in every sense of the word."
Gemelle Brion, MS 2015
Gemelle is a Soil Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, in Central California. She credits the UVM Food Systems Graduate Program with rounding out her professional skillset: “I wanted to continue my education in the field of agriculture and found the Food Systems program to be a good fit because I could continue to take technical classes in production agriculture, I could perform my thesis project focused on organic farm production, and I could learn more about the social and political forces that influence agricultural production."
Maria Carabello, MS 2015
After graduating, Maria worked as an Assistant Chef Instructor at Vermont Works for Women's FRESH Food Program in Winooski. In this role, she trained un- and under-employed women for jobs in the culinary field. Maria is now pursuing a joint PhD in Health Services Organization & Policy and Sociology at the University of Michigan. Her experience in the Food Systems program at UVM showed her the value of systems thinking and taking an interdisciplinary approach to issues at the intersection of food and public health. Some of her current research interests include food choices and behaviors, social determinants of health, immigrant and minority health disparities, obesity and diet-related disease, and population health trends.
Katrina Light, MS 2014
After graduating, Katrina took a position as Director of Food Sustainability for Chartwells Dining Services, at Bard College. In her role as Director, Katrina handles sustainable procurement, education, and carbon footprint analysis. Katrina is also a visiting instructor in the Environment and Urban Studies Department, at Bard College, where she teaches a practicum and tutorial on the farm-to-institution movement. In addition to her work at Bard, Katrina also teaches in the summer for the Farm & Culinary Workshops at the Putney School. She works with highschoolers on a dariy farm and in the kitchen to increase food agency and awareness. In all of these endeavors, Katrina is glad her time at UVM gave her a foundation in critical thinking and innovation. As a self-described interdisciplinary thinker, she enjoys taking on these different roles in the food system. “Graduate school reawakened my various passions, and that helped me patchwork together a series of jobs that work for me. They match my various interests and how I make sense of the world.” Read more about Katrina's work.
Rachel DiStefano, MS 2014
After graduating, Rachel became a Health Policy Research Fellow at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. She currently serves as Quality Management Specialist at Gifford Medical Center, in Randolph, Vermont. “Before entering the Food Systems Graduate program, I had been accustomed to professors staying within their respective departments and areas of expertise. In this program, the boundaries between disciplines are fluid, with research projects often crossing over into other subject areas.”
Kristyn Achilich, MS 2014
Kristyn is the Academic Program Coordinator of the Organic Garden and Permaculture Site at Saint Michael's College. In this role, Kristyn supports students, faculty, and community members who use the Organic Garden and Permaculture Site for education and research. She also provides resources for faculty as they plan lessons in the outdoor classroom. Additionally, she manages and designs the facility to maximize its research, teaching and community-engaged learning potential, while modeling best ecological farming practices for students. Read more about the work Kristyn is doing.