students sitting in circle talking

Olivia Pena, MS student

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 student

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 student

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 candidateSerge Wiltshire, PhD student

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 student

I grew up in northeastern Vermont and got my undergraduate degree in Food Literacy from the University of California at Berkeley, working for several years after as a freelance writer and community nutrition educator. Having just finished my master’s in Food Systems at UVM, I have decided to stay for the PhD in Food Systems and ecological economics. My master’s thesis, on food agency in a low-income community of color, taught me how incredibly strategic people can be at accessing food in an unsupportive environment, and solidified my interest in research and the communication of science. My PhD research will continue my work on food agency and on social justice in the food system and in a changing climate.




Sam Bevet, MS candidate

I graduated from the University of Vermont in 2012 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Asian Studies. I did my undergraduate senior honor’s thesis examining some of the ethical issues around humane meat production. After college I spent three years working as a cheesemaker at Shelburne Farms, and have spent the last year working in the mental health field. In my free time I play music in the band Little Slugger. I am excited to begin the UVM Food Systems program this fall to get hands-on experience connecting consumers to all of the amazing local food made here in Vermont.



Caroline Putscher, MS candidate

As an Environmental Studies major in undergrad, I already knew that I wanted to examine how food systems work and how they keep evolving. After taking a class on food, society, and the environment that worked with a local CSA farm, I became very interested with how small farms and CSA programs create hubs of local food availability and community engagement.  Since then I have worked at a variety of food-related jobs, including a retail position at a local foods grocery store and a farmhand at a small farm in Massachusetts. These experiences have made me want to learn more about how we can make our food systems more sustainable. During this program, I am looking forward to working and learning within the Vermont food system, which is so different from the one I've lived in all my life. 




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.



Chloe Boutelle, MS candidate

Early on in my undergraduate career, I worked as an intern for the Koch lab at the University of Florida, where I researched the genetics behind carbon partitioning in maize. And, through studies abroad at the University of Auckland, I once again became interested in human nutrition. During my senior year at Saint Michael's College, I worked as an intern for Whole Health Nutrition,  where I wrote a cookbook that features quick and healthy meals for college students. I graduated from Saint Michael's College in 2015 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and am looking forward to starting in the Food Systems MS program at UVM.



Catherine (Katie) Horner, MS student

My interest in food systems can be traced back to summers spent in my family's small Queens garden where I first experienced the wonders of the natural world and the satisfaction of growing food. Seeking to explore a more rural landscape, I attended Middlebury College, in Vermont where I earned a degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Environmental Policy. After graduating, I moved back to my native New York where I gathered an array of professional experiences that ranged from writing about water scarcity for The Earth Institute to teaching elementary and middle school students in urban gardens through The New York Horticultural Society. In 2010, I was drawn back to Vermont and completed an internship with Rural Vermont at the Statehouse and UVM's Farmer Training Program. I am excited to now apply my varied experiences in farming to a more formal intellectual pursuit and am particularly interested in examining innovative economic practices to address rural food insecurity during my studies at UVM.



Francesca Boulton, MS student

I graduated from the University of Vermont in 2012, with a degree in English and a minor in Ecological Agriculture. During my time at UVM, I discovered a passion for all aspects of food - from the production and distribution of food, to the cultural implications and environmental significance of the ways in which we consume our food. I was and am fascinated. Since graduating from UVM, I have worked as a paraeducator, cook, and server in farm-to-table restaurants. Currently, I work at Shelburne Farms as a Farm Based Educator, helping kids connect their food to its origins, and learning about the importance of farms - especially those striving for the most ecologically and humane methods possible. I am excited to pursue my interest in Food Systems this fall, and also to return to UVM. Going forward, I would love to find a way to combine my interests in agriculture, food policy, and food education.



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.



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