Lupine Anderson, MS Candidate

I (they/them) graduated from undergrad shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began with degrees in Anthropology and Nutritional Sciences from the University of Connecticut (UConn). Unsure of my next steps at the time but passionate about food systems and with experience doing community organizing with students and faculty around social justice issues on campus at UConn, I joined FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps service program. During my gap year as a FoodCorps service member in the city of Middletown, Connecticut, I continued engaging the community whenever I could, helping people access food assistance at the local farmers market, connecting the school food service department with local farmers to procure from, recording seasonal cooking demos for the local library, and enlisting gardeners in the broader community to help with the growing I was doing in my elementary school gardens. Teaching in those schools, my love for garden-based food and environmental education grew, and I truly enjoyed teaching my students about gardening, cooking, nutrition, and food systems as a whole from the lens of food justice. Being intentional about dissecting the complex reality of our global food system and confronting that it functions at the expense of many in a way that was digestible for elementary schoolers all amidst numerous uprisings against state violence, an ongoing pandemic, and an intensifying climate crisis forced me to personally delve into and grapple with concepts like abolitionism and decolonial theory. Situating myself in that history, I was very self-aware of my own position as a white settler named after my great-grandfather, a Swedish missionary in the Belgian Congo, and saw the importance of centering the history of the land we're currently on for my students. Ultimately, my loves for food and nature were born from my childhood connection to my grandmother's cooking, particularly her Swedish food around the holidays, and the relationships I developed with the bugs, plants, and outdoors while gardening and hiking with my mom where I grew up in northeastern Connecticut, but they've grown into so much more. I'm excited to continue deepening my understanding of agroecology and food sovereignty movements and to explore the role revolutionizing our food systems will need to have in our continuing work toward liberation for all on a healthy, thriving planet.


Bridget Craig, MS Student

Bridget grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and earned a BS in Animal Science and Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Rhode Island in 2020. She wanted to work with livestock from an early age, and at URI discovered a passion for animal research and an interest in food production and supply. After college she became a research technician at the William H. Miner Agricultural Institute, where she conducts research with dairy cows and has learned about the complexities of the dairy industry. Bridget also enjoys hiking, making ceramics, baking, and the ocean.


Alida Farrell, MS Candidate

Alida (she/her) grew up on the coast of Maine. After graduating from high school in Portland, she spent a year farming in Spain and New Zealand, where her interest in food systems was sparked. Alida earned a BA in Philosophy and Environmental Studies at St. Lawrence University in 2017, making sustainable agriculture the center of her senior research. Since 2018, Alida has been living in Vermont and working in the food system in various capacities— Most recently as a farm hand and summer camp cook, and previously as a Local Food Access Coordinator where she managed hunger relief programs, and worked with charitable organizations to increase their local food offerings. Before the pandemic, Alida worked as a Farm-to-School Coordinator, educating elementary students through cooking and gardening, encouraging them to build a deeper understanding of where our food comes from and its impact on our bodies, communities, and ecosystems. As an MS student in the Food Systems Program at UVM, Alida is thrilled to be deepening her own understanding of food’s impact on our bodies, communities and ecosystems. Alida recognizes the inseparable link between these metrics of sustainability and sees great potential for improvements in our food system to influence social, economic, and environmental justice. In her free time, Alida enjoys crafting of all kinds (sewing, ceramics, stained glass, printmaking) and spending time in nature.


Makenzie Keen, MS Student

Makenzie is a registered dietitian who has spent her career focusing on food security for low-income and historically disenfranchised communities. She’s worked primarily in public health settings, providing support for low-income individuals in both Women, Infants, and Children programs and for SNAP-Ed programs designed to increase healthy eating habits and behaviors for families. Makenzie received her bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Kansas State University in 2019 and completed the didactic program through Cornell University in 2020. She firmly believes that no one should go hungry and that our food distribution systems could be more equitable. Over the years she’s developed an interest in the environmental impacts of food production, leading her to UVM’s Food Systems program. After graduation, Makenzie would like to work for a non-profit organization and focus on global food security with a public health lens. She also plans to continue her education and achieve a doctorate in public health and become an instructional and research professor. In her free time, Makenzie loves to hike and explore new areas, teach yoga, play music (piano and guitar), and read with her cat, Emmy, on her lap.



Megan Knight, MS Student

Megan grew up in Southern Vermont, where her interest in the environment and food systems was sparked by a semester-long environmental learning program offered by her high school. She earned a BA in Economics and BS in Environmental Science from the University of Washington, Seattle. While in school she interned at an organic community farm in Southern Vermont, and as a research assistant discovered a passion for international development. Her senior thesis focused on sustainable food purchasing policy for institutions, and she enjoyed being active in food advocacy and food justice groups on campus. In Washington, she also solidified her love of outdoor sports and spent time hiking, kayaking, climbing, and (most importantly) skiing. Megan has pursued a career in international development, and has been working at Tetra Tech in Burlington, VT since 2018. In the Agriculture and Economic Growth Sector, she works on a variety of international-donor funded projects that aim to improve livelihoods, adapt to climate change, and increase the sustainable production of safe and nutritious food around the world. She is most interested in climate-smart agriculture, permaculture systems, and sustainable market systems. Megan currently enjoys maintaining her community garden plot, hiking, running, skiing and kayaking around Vermont, and her latest interest in sheep and wool fiber production. She is excited to learn and grow as a student in the Food Systems MS program, and use her skills to benefit her local and international communities.


Anna Marchessault, MS Student

Anna (she/her) is a Burlington, Vermont native who currently resides in Winooski. She obtained her B.S. in Natural Resources Ecology from the University of Vermont in 2021. Since then, she has worked at the University of Vermont with three grant-funded projects; Lake Champlain Sea Grant, Northeastern States Research Cooperative, and the Vermont Water Resources and Lake Studies Center. As she looks forward to pursuing a part-time enrollment in the Food Systems graduate program in the upcoming fall, Anna will continue her work with these UVM projects. Her academic pursuits revolve around the reduction and equitable distribution of food waste. During her leisure time, Anna finds solace in activities such as hiking, camping, biking, baking, and spending time with friends and family.


Kevin Markey, MS Candidate

With over 15 years of professional food service experience, Kevin grew up not only in California wine country, but also in the kitchen. The son of an event planner mother and a chef father, Kevin began his hospitality career in 2005. While serving four years in the US Navy as a Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman and Petty Officer 3rd Class, Kevin travelled throughout Asia while providing medical coverage to the Marines he was charged to protect. Kevin is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a bachelor’s degree in Applied Food Studies. While attending the CIA, Kevin served as SGA President and Editor-in-Chief of La Papillote, the student run newspaper. In 2017 Kevin returned to Northern California as the Winery Chef at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards where he established a seasonal and sustainable menu. After a brief stint with Eurest Dining services running multiple corporate dining facilities, Kevin refocused on academia and received his master’s degree in Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security from the University of Galway, National University of Ireland. While cooking is his passion, Kevin believes that the transformative overhaul of the global food system is a paramount issue that deserves its place in the national discussion. Kevin’s academic interests include sustainable food systems, cellular cultivated meat, and agri-business / climate change adaptations. Kevin’s personal interests include food & wine, golf, and travel.


Katherine Morrissey, MS Candidate

Katherine is entering into the Food Systems Masters program on the accelerated track, having done her undergraduate studies in Food Systems at UVM. Growing up, her one true passion was food, and she always thought she would make that into a career. Originally planning on pursuing food science, Katherine found her passion when learning about the food system and the ways in which it involves food, people, and the environment. Her undergraduate research investigates the relationships between on-farm crop diversity, market access, and dietary outcomes among smallholder farmers in Uganda. She also works on a Conservation Innovation Grant for UVM, Biological Capital, Vermont Land Trust, and Philo Ridge Farm, which is collecting data on sustainable livestock management practices. Her interests include community nutrition, sustainable agriculture, farmer livelihoods, and the socioeconomic factors behind decision making within the food system.


Claire Ryan, MS Candidate

Claire graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in spring of 2022 with a dual degree in Sociology, and Food Science and Human Nutrition (with a concentration in Dietetics). During her time at UIUC, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant to study the nutritional content of items offered by an on-campus food pantry and the food insecurity rates of the food pantry patrons. In her role on the executive board of a club that visited elementary schools to teach students about healthy eating, Claire was one of two Curriculum Managers who created lessons and activities for the classroom visits. As an MS student in UVM’s Food Systems program, she’s interested in studying how people, particularly those experiencing food insecurity, interact with their food environments. Her goal is to understand how to develop systems that favor the acquisition of nutritious, sustainable, and affordable foods. Additionally, she is interested in food policy and how targeted initiatives can improve access while maintaining the autonomy of both consumers and producers. Claire is originally from State College, PA. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, reading, weightlifting, cooking, combing through record stores, and going on long walks with her dogs.


CJ Sands, MS Student

CJ Sands (he/they) is from California and graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.A. in Geography and Geographic Information Systems. During his time at USF, CJ became a certified beekeeper, worked with the USF Food Sovereignty Group, Hillsborough County Agriculture Extension under a food systems program called Homegrown Hillsborough, and various food-related nonprofits and grassroots organizations throughout the Tampa Bay area.

As an MS student in UVM’s Food Systems program, CJ is interested in analyzing food sovereignty initiatives in food-insecure communities and identifying strategies to enhance food sovereignty, social equity, and community resilience.

In their free time, CJ likes to play board games with friends, trail running, birding, and build native pollinator gardens while taking photos of all the pollinators that come to visit.


Mallory Seegal, MS Student

Mal has spent the last decade as a long-suffering (don’t call them a chef) cook in professional kitchens between Vermont, New York City, the Bay Area, and Tuscany. After receiving a Grand Diploma in Italian Culinary Arts from La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana in Colorno, Italy, Mal decided to give Academia a second chance. Mal graduated from The New School with a B.S. in Food Studies in May 2020. Mal’s work, informed by their strong professional background in the food service sector of multiple food systems, centers on fostering transformative spaces of care and community resilience at all stages of food production. Mal firmly believes in centering the radical acts of community nourishment as necessary praxis in the ongoing fight for food justice, food and land sovereignty, and the hopeful overthrow of all capitalist systems. Mal currently lives in Montpelier, with their partner Anna, who is a professional chairmaker (and the best person Mal knows), and their very silly dog, Gnocchi.


Sadie Southall, MS Candidate

Sadie (she/her) is entering into the Food Systems Masters program on the accelerated track while also finishing her undergraduate studies in Food Systems at UVM. Her passion for food systems, agriculture, and policy work really began about six years ago while working and learning on a farm in Maine, where she is from. While at UVM, Sadie has been involved with the Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative and participated in on-farm agroecological research; she has also worked on the UVM Hort Farm for the past three years. Sadie is very interested in food/agricultural policy and sustainable food accessibility.




Saadatu Abdul-Rahaman, PhD Student

Saadatu became interested in food and its related issues during my Community Nutrition degree at the University for Development Studies. After graduating, she volunteered with an NGO working on food security interventions and got to experience first-hand, the interconnectedness between nutrition, agriculture, and health. Over the past 12 years, she has worked as a project officer, project consultant and as a project coordinator of several international development projects that focused on improving nutritional outcomes, promoting food security, improving market systems and providing sustainable livelihood options especially in rural communities in Nigeria and Ghana. These projects have exposed her to the emerging realties of food security, rural nutrition, community health, food systems as well as livelihoods sustainability. Thus, present the need to continue learning and doing research to unravel the complexities surrounding food systems and nutrition, especially as it relates to community health within current environmental realities – and proffer relevant, policy-driven and sustainable solutions to address the problems therein. Saadatu is particularly interested in the role food environments play in populations sustainably adopting a plant-based diet.


Eurydice Aboagye, PhD Student

Looking at food with an interdisciplinary perspective became obvious to me when I began my job teaching food safety to workers in Ghanaian food industry and hospitality. With a Masters in food science (food microbiology focus) from the university of Ghana, I had previously only worked with students and individuals in a similar field. These workers were however from diverse fields including construction, engineering, as well as many who had no formal education. Food safety was however a key part of what they did everyday and they needed to understand its principles as much as anyone else within the food continuum. I am excited to start my PhD this fall at UVM and look forward to broadening my perspective about the people and processes that affect food safety. Beyond this program, I hope to return to academia back home in Ghana where I can design new course modules that will make the otherwise technical and sometimes complex principles of food safety accessible and comprehensible to anyone regardless of their background. I will be working with Dr. Andrea Etter on the mechanisms of persistence of Listeria monocytogenes, a highly stress tolerant foodborne pathogen which causes severe illness, including septicemia and meningitis in immunocompromised persons, as well as miscarriages or stillbirths in pregnant women.


Sevda Alvirdizadeh, PhD Student

I am a PhD student in Food System with a focus on sustainable dietary patterns. My educational background is Nutrition Sciences and I have a masters degree in Health Sciences in Nutrition from Iran. While working on my masters thesis which was related to plant-based diet and chronic kidney disease, I got interested in health and environmental related outcomes of plant based diets and decided to further my studies in this field. I also have work experience in a health center and a hospital in Iran as a dietitian. During my working years I participated in different research projects to hone my research abilities and prepared myself as a future PhD candidate. I am passionate about hiking, mountain climbing, traveling, and exploring the world. I also love participating in different sports like fitness training and biking.


Amaya Carrasco, PhD Candidate

Amaya has combined experiences working in the local and central government of her country, Ecuador, in areas of international cooperation, development, climate change, public policy and project evaluation. Among her relevant career milestones, Amaya was the founding director of International Cooperation at the Consortium of Provincial Governments of Ecuador. Also, as part of the National Secretariat of Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment, she was in charge of promoting and evaluating the National Plan of Climate Change. She also has experience working with grassroots organizations, NGOs and academic organizations in the fields of sustainability, climate change, food justice, urban agriculture, wellbeing and agroecology. During the last four years she has also acquired hands on experience in urban farms, school gardens and roof-top farms in the US. Amaya is mentored by Dr. Ernesto Méndez and a member of UVM’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC). With the supervision of Dr. Mendez, Amaya is involved in the Collaborative Crop Research Program’s (CCRP) Agroecology Support Project, which seeks to strengthen agroecological knowledge and capacities in Africa and South America. She is a lawyer from International University SEK (Ecuador). She has a MA in International Cooperation and Development at University of Valencia (Spain) & MS in Leadership for Sustainability at the University of Vermont (US). Amaya also has graduate level studies in Public Policy (Australian National University, Australia) and Leadership, Climate Change and Cities (Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, Ecuador), Finally, she has a certification in Urban Agriculture (Harris-Stowe University, US). Passionate about contributing to create sustainable food systems, wellbeing and food rights. For more information, please visit


Ayana Curran-Howes, PhD Candidate

I have a BA in Biology from William Jewell College, and a MS in Environment and Sustainability and a Museum Studies Certificate from from the University of Michigan. Previously, I conducted community based ecological restoration at a conservation nonprofit in Kansas City, Heartland Conservation Alliance. With my newfound focus on food systems I have worked for the Sustainability Food Systems Initiative, Matthaei Botanical Gardens with heritage seeds, and the Washtenaw County Health Department addressing local food access.

My research addresses the agrarian question in the context of the US's industrial, militarized food system that is based upon the compounding exploitation of the environment, animals, and low-income and migrant workers. Using a political ecology lens, I explore how small-scale, systemically marginalized producers thrive amidst this landscape and ways scholar-activists can support grassroots transitions to agroecology. My research is as much about the methodological process, based on reciprocity, co-learning, and co-authorship, as it is about discerning and acting upon the results. I want to work on undoing the trauma caused by capitalism and policing of farmers and farmworkers, creating an anti-racist food system that values cultural food ways and food sovereignty. Beyond UVM, I hope to work to design, curate, and conduct research in outdoor "living museums" (e.g., farms deploying agritourism, botanical gardens, public parks) alongside farmers to educate and instigate this agroecological transition.


Janet Gamble, PhD Student

Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada, I now call Vermont home along with my husband Ed and our two mini schnauzers Keebler and Tetley (yup, they’re named after cookies and tea). My life’s journey has so far afforded me the opportunity to have lived, traveled, worked and educated myself in many countries around the world. During my time as both an educator and as a Registered Dietitian I have begun to question how we teach nutrition. Is there a way to maximize nutritional knowledge beyond the traditional lecture-style classroom? And what role do culinary skills play in this knowledge? Outside of the classroom you’ll find me hiking, biking, skiing and golfing. Oh, and occasionally indulging in slopeside cuisine. I’m excited to be a part of the food systems program at UVM and am looking forward to the next few years.


Carolyn Hricko, PhD Candidate

Growing up in a rural farming community taught me to appreciate the complex relationships between our environment, communities and dinner tables. My hope and aim is to inform and develop policies that recognize these complexities and bring sustainability and health to the forefront. My research interests include the interactions between diet, health, agriculture and the environment, and the roles of agroecology and ecological economics in supporting a more just, sustainable food system. Prior to joining UVM, I managed the food systems policy program at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. My areas of focus included the environmental and health impacts of industrial food animal production, institutional food procurement reform, dietary guidelines and nutrition policies, impacts of industrial agriculture on immigrant workers, diet and climate connections, and the Farm Bill. Before my time at Johns Hopkins, I worked with USAID as a strategic policy and program management specialist for the South and Central Asia region. Although I’m a small-town Mainer at heart, I’ve spent time living and working in Montana, Guatemala, Alaska, India, Kyrgyzstan and places in between. I developed a passion for health, environment and agriculture at an early age, which was further fueled by time volunteering as a ski patroller and EMT, working in outdoor education, land use planning and food service, studying plant physiology, and gardening with my family and community. When I’m not studying or teaching, you can probably find me skiing and running with my husband, hiking with my dog, fishing and canoeing with my family in Maine, or teaching yoga. I earned my Master of Public Health degree in Global Environmental Sustainability and Public Health with a certificate in Food Systems, the Environment, and Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and my bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry from Bowdoin College.


Kacey LaBonte, PhD Student

Hi, I'm Kacey! I grew up playing in the dirt in Colchester, VT and after some time away, I've made my way back home. I graduated from Colby College in 2019 with a BA in Global Studies with concentrations in Sustainable Food Systems and Public Health. In response to COVID, I served a term as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Salvation Farms in Morrisville, VT. There I witnessed the resilience of local farmers and developed a strong passion for working alongside them to address future public health-related crises. Motivated by this experience, I went back to school to obtain a Master of Public Health Nutrition degree from Tulane University. At Tulane I worked on-campus as a research coordinator on a study focused on child wellbeing, and I worked off-campus at an urban farm and food justice non-profit. My time in New Orleans was shaped by the harsh realities of climate change as I confronted Hurricane Ida, tornado warnings, heat waves, Arctic blasts, floods, and more. These events highlighted how vulnerable our food system is to climate change and underscored the crucial role of farmers in feeding our communities despite ongoing climate-related shocks. Together, these experiences brought me to UVM where I will be working with Drs. Lisa Chase and Gillian Galford as a recipient of the Food Systems Research Center Fellowship and as a Gund Graduate Fellow to study how crisis and change impact farmer behavior. My other interests center largely around my sweet pups Finn and Bear, but I also love to garden, read, and hang out with my grandparents.


Tung-Lin Liu, PhD Candidate

Tung-Lin Liu is a Ph.D. student in the University of Vermont’s Food Systems program. His interest in Food Systems began during his time studying Gastronomy at Boston University. There he had the opportunity to apply system thinking and computational tools to the understanding of social patterns in food production and consumption. At UVM, he hopes to expand his current work and explore the future of food and computing.




Teresa Mungazi, PhD Student

Teresa is a PhD student in the Food Systems Program at UVM, and is also a Gund Graduate Fellow. With experience in consumer and sustainability research, as well as promotion of Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS) in Zimbabwe, Teresa understands the increasingly prominent role that the consumer plays in shaping food and farming systems. She is convinced that understanding consumer behaviour is a prerequisite for capturing consumer differences, understanding sustainability market segments and developing tailored interventions that motivate consumers to engage in more sustainable consumption. Her research involves investigating consumer acceptance and demand for plant-based proteins derived from hemp grain (Cannabis sativa L.).


Michelle Nikfarjam, PhD Candidate

I obtained my B.S. in Sustainable Food and Farming from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where I worked for three seasons as a farmer and coordinated several food justice and agroecology projects. At UMass, I co-founded the UMass Edible Forest Garden, a 1/2 acre landscape dedicated to teaching students and community members about regenerative and climate-resilient agriculture. Engaging in food production and agroecology so directly inspired me to think more deeply about issues of food sovereignty and equity. I became keen to explore these issues globally leading me to pursue my M.A in International Studies from the University of Oregon. My thesis examined the synergistic role that civil society organizations and grassroots movements play in addressing barriers to agroecological production among small, marginal and tribal producers in Rajasthan, India. Most recently, I completed a year-long tenure as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center working on national anti-racist informed anti-hunger coalition building and childhood food insecurity.

I hope to bring all these interests and experiences together at UVM as I direct my focus towards issues of gender, agroecology, and food sovereignty/security in the Middle East. I’m interested in exploring the gender differentiated impacts of climate change on small-scale food producers and understanding how women farmers engage in alternatives practices to industrial agriculture while resisting prevailing, regional trends which favor monoculture and cash crops. I also hope to explore how women farmers engage in development and policy processes -- from that of the local level to transnational spaces such as the UN and the power dynamics therein. In my work, I believe it is important to employ a feminist political ecology framework approached through the intersectional relationship of class, race, gender, and the environment. As an aspiring scholar-activist, I hope to learn more about participatory action research (PAR) to build farmers’ production capacities, foster more sustainable and equitable approaches to agriculture, and fully engage communities in the co-production of knowledge for food system transformation. I’m excited be a part of the vibrant Food Systems community at UVM while continuing to farm and garden, do research and most importantly, learn new things about this work every day.


Nick Rose, PhD Candidate

As a community nutrition educator for the largest food co-op in the nation, I enjoyed the unique challenges of explaining the complex science of nutrition to the general public through teaching, writing, and community outreach – with a mission of helping others make conscious food choices for improved personal and planetary health. Over the past decade, the nutrition community has become more mindful of the food system, and there has been a remarkable shift in consumers’ level of interest in topics such as animal welfare, social justice, food additives, and the environmental impacts of food production practices. This increased awareness has motivated me to return to graduate school to learn about the latest research on sustainable agriculture, and to contribute to the growing body of research exploring how food production practices can impact the nutritional benefits of different foods. I believe that improving the food system has great potential to transform public health, and I’m inspired to study food systems and public health at UVM, where I can collaborate with others in identifying innovative strategies to support healthy eating patterns for all.


Patrick Shafer, PhD Student

I graduated from Temple University in 2017 with a B.A. in Advertising and a focus in brand strategy. I had never seriously considered a career in food, regardless of my life-long love of cooking, but I quickly switched paths when offered a chance opportunity to train as a line cook at my favorite nationally-ranked restaurant. I was instantly hooked on professional food production and began training to learn technique in cooking, and then baking. In the last three years I’ve explored an array of paths in our local food systems - including food education in Philadelphia public schools, farmer’s market management, food distribution methods, and large-scale milling/bakery operations. I’m thrilled to be involved in the operations of a university food system, and I plan on using this experience to inform strategy of my long-term goals in local food systems.


Shiva Soroushnia, PhD Student

Shiva is a Ph.D. student in Food Systems with a focus on Agritourism and Food Tourism. Before she start her graduate degree at the UVM University, she studied Environmental Economics for her master's studies and started her professional journey ten years ago by working with different NGOs on sustainable development projects. She also worked for well-known organizations like UNDP and TNA and they familiarized her with sustainable tourism as a means to improve people's livelihood and the environment.

Meanwhile, she researched in various fields, learned more about sustainable tourism, and continued learning in her field of interest by starting her second master’s degree in Tourism and Sustainability in Sweden. She also, studied a one-year course to become an ecotourism tour guide to experience sustainable tourism from a new perspective and she worked as a tour guide as well. During the past years, she participated in numerous projects voluntarily, mostly educational ones, and she received the "Good Citizen" award from the municipality of Tehran due to her impactful sustainable development activities. She is passionate about hiking, traveling, and exploring nature and various cultures and she loves art and yoga, and they are two important parts of her life.


Krizzia Soto-Villanueva, PhD Candidate

I grew up in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico and graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras with a BA in Anthropology, Archaeology, and Foreign Languages. During my early academic career, I was focused on Bioarchaeology and had the privilege of digging in the Andes. Back at home, I focused on queer archaeological theory and wrote my undergraduate thesis on Indigenous Caribbean lithics. As I learned more about global politics and the anthropology of food, I became interested in jíbaro agricultural practices and colonial foodways. My research interests include food policy, food sovereignty movements in colonized lands, and agroecology. I am also interested in learning more about spatial analysis, migrant foodways, and agricultural policy at UVM.


Leslie Spencer, PhD Candidate

My dissertation research focuses on wild bees in farmscapes, and how we can better manage/design these spaces for pollinators. I am also pursuing the Education for Sustainability graduate certificate offered through UVM & the Shelburne Farms Institute for Sustainable Schools. I do natural history education work with Grow Wild, a network of folks in Burlington seeking to increase biodiversity and climate resilience by supporting the creation of more native plant and pollinator habitat. In my free time, you’ll find me growing and eating delicious food and exploring Vermont on my road bike or cross-country skis. Contact me at


Sarra Talib, PhD Candidate

Over the past decade, my academic and professional pursuits have been centred around a personal mission to better understand and contribute to the sustainable development of our global food systems. As a practitioner, I have had the opportunity (i.e. challenge) to identify inefficiencies along the food value chain in different parts of the world (including North Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey) and have attempted to address them with innovative, sustainable solutions such as the unique blending of tailored finance and technical assistance. In parallel, I have led a number of collaborative strategic initiatives, bringing together key players from the public, private, and civil society sectors to promote effective policy dialogue and improve food security. As a student of sustainable international development, I have been particularly interested in exploring innovative yet pragmatic ways to improve our food systems in order to optimise human health and wellbeing while respecting our planetary boundaries. I am excited to dive deeper into this critical discussion through my research at UVM, and will endeavour to answer the transdisciplinary question: What does a truly sustainable plate (diet) look like? I have a BA in Economics and an MS in Development Management, and over twelve years of international experience in programme management, strategic business development, and advisory, with a strong focus on capacity development, innovation, and sustainability in the agri-food sector. For more, please visit


Master skill sets for work in Food Systems

The transdisciplinary nature of our program prepares students for work across all sectors: public, private and nonprofit. They will obtain important and relevant skills and knowledge such as:

  • Ability to understand and implement multiple research methodologies
  • Ability to perform critical analysis of complex issues and make policy recommendations
  • Experience in public speaking
  • Experience writing for a range of audiences, from scholarly reports to blog posts
  • Exposure to agroecological methods and practices
  • Exposure to ecological and life sciences perspectives on food systems
  • Exposure to cultural, historical and economic perspectives on food systems
  • Analysis of global food supply chains and alternative food movements
  • Methods of sustainable agriculture