Olivia Pena, MS candidate
My involvement with agriculture began through riding horses and helping my mother in our backyard gardens. When I began my Animal Science coursework at UVM in 2013, I became more familiar with the environmental, social, economic, and political interconnections of the agrifood system. Throughout my undergraduate career, I explored the foundations that produced the current structure of U.S. and global food systems. I have been fortunate to participate in the Real Food Working Group on campus as a working group member and an intern, with a focus on communications between farmers and the UVM community. I've also served as a research assistant for Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Systems (CCAFS) international research projects through the Gund Institute. I graduated from UVM with a B.S. in Food Systems in the spring of 2017 and I'm looking forward to continuing my education here through the Accelerated Masters Program. This program provides a great opportunity to study the complexities of the US food system through a political lens as the process for the 2018 Farm Bill begins.
Luis Alexis Rodriguez-Cruz, PhD student
I have always been drawn to transdisciplinary research without being aware of it. It wasn’t until I started my Master’s in Food Science and Technology at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) at Mayagüez when I began to comprehend the term and its importance, not just in research, but in teaching as well. Currently, I’m finishing my thesis: “Assessment of Food Safety Practices Among Small-Scale Commercial Fishermen of Western Puerto Rico”, which is one of the steps to take for the future development of educational materials and workshops for that community. I’ve also worked for the UPR-Mayagüez’s Agricultural Extension Service, developing education materials for childhood obesity prevention in Puerto Rico, and as a TA for the Biology Department of UPR-Mayagüez, teaching the Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biological Sciences laboratories. My Bachelor in Biology from the UPR-Ponce, past laboratory experiences in the biomedical and plant sciences fields, gave me a strong hard sciences background. And my experience at UPR-Mayagüez served me to solidify my interest in becoming a researcher, specifically in areas that involve food systems, climate change, public policy, food safety, and food culture, which led me to UVM’s Food Systems PhD program. The generation and dissemination of accessible information to be used for the improvement of our society it’s very important for me. I’m certain that this experience in UVM will allow me to go back to Puerto Rico with the needed skillset to lead research that helps the island’s food system.
Caroline Aubry, MS candidate
Over the past two years, I served as an AmeriCorps member at Green Mountain Farm to School. As a farm-to-school coordinator, I worked closely with teachers, parents, and farmers in the Northeast part of Vermont to connect students to the local food system. Some of my favorite memories were taking kids on field trips to local sugar houses to see how their favorite sweet treat, maple syrup, gets made. Before moving to Vermont, I graduated with a B.A. in International Studies and Human Rights from the University of Dayton which shaped my shaped my belief that adequate food and nutrition should be guaranteed for all people. I chose to stay in Vermont and attend UVM because of the rich food scene and opportunities to get involved in the farming community.
Emily Barbour, MS candidate
I graduated from Smith College in 2014 with a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Science & Policy, with a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture. In my time at Smith, I became particularly interested local food systems, food access, and food waste through my Sustainable Agriculture coursework and interaction with the local community. My interest in the local food systems was especially driven by a two year internship with Rachel's Table, helping to coordinate gleaning efforts with a local farm and leading groups of students to save food that would otherwise go to waste. After Smith, I accepted an AmeriCorps position in Knoxville, TN, working as the Data Analysis Coordinator for the University of Tennessee's Office of Sustainability. When my year of service ended I moved to Boston, MA and began working for NUBIA, a small urban agriculture non-profit, where I have been growing food and running student programs for the past two years. In Boston I also worked for the non-profit Food For Free as the co-Farm Manager and Volunteer Coordinator of their quarter acre plot dedicated to donating fresh, quality produce to the local homeless shelter and soup kitchen, Pine Street Inn. In my free time I love to bake, read, hike, volunteer, and befriend other people's pets.
Serge Wiltshire, PhD candidate
Through the transdisciplinary, systems-focused approach at the core of the UVM Food Systems program, I have come to see the patterns of food production, consumption, and disposal as a complex intersection between industry, tradition, public health, and environmental stewardship. My Master’s thesis project, completed in 2015, focused on the ways in which one specific agricultural management practice, grass-based dairy farming, can help to address farm viability, public health, and environmental sustainability issues such as water quality and climate change. I used a mixed-methods approach for this project. Now, looking ahead toward earning a PhD, I have concentrated on deepening my formal training in data-driven mathematical and computational approaches—useful in the analysis of complex networked systems—through the graduate certificate program offered by UVM’s Complex Systems Center. I also continue to serve as a team member of UVM’s Social Ecological Gaming and Simulation (SEGS) Lab, where we work to develop behavioral economics games and agent-based computer simulations to better understand complex phenomena at the nexus of social and ecological domains. In addition to continuing to pursue academic research, my ultimate goal is to be able to put the knowledge I’ve built through my graduate studies at UVM in agricultural economics, computational systems modeling, and public policy optimization into play in a real world setting to improve the ecological, economic, and social sustainability and resilience of our food systems. Read more about Serge's research.
Caitlin Morgan, PhD candidate
Josiah (Josh) Taylor, PhD student
I completed a B.A. in cultural anthropology and environmental studies at Colby College. Then I apprenticed in organic farming in Canada, and recently completed a M.Ed. at the University of New Brunswick, compiling interviews with Wolastoq First Nation Elders, archiving their narratives, focusing on community and family food systems. Enjoying time in nature, I’ve been studying and teaching about botany, gardening, ecology, and health, working with schools, ages pre-K – 12. Additionally I have been researching with William Woys Weaver, working to preserve endangered, historic food plant varieties through propagation and dissemination. In 2015 the teaching garden I founded in Pennsylvania won 2nd best educational and community garden in the U.S. by America in Bloom. While at UVM, I am excited to study school nutrition programs, and farm to school and community food education projects, with goals of advancing health, engagement, and community vitality.
Sarah Lott, MS student
My love for food began as I learned to cook for my family and friends in my hometown of Fairfax, Virginia. My passion for food and its integral connection to the environment and community took shape during my undergraduate studies at James Madison University. As a biotechnology major interested in biofuels, the classes I took eventually led to my interest in global food production which turned out be be my true passion. Since taking those courses on sustainable agriculture, I have been hooked on a mission to transform the food system to bring sustainable, healthy food to all. As a Masters student at UVM, I am excited to focus on the political and economic dimensions of our food system and their potential to improve food access. For the past three years, I have been a materials researcher at Healthy Building Network where I saw how their research empowered key stakeholders to drive marketplace change towards nontoxic, sustainable building products. I am excited to apply that knowledge towards food systems. In my free time, I enjoy exploring food through cooking, gardening, fermenting, and community.