Susanna Baxley, MS student
I earned a B.A. in Studio Art and a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Texas in 2006 and 2011. I currently work as an RN in the Emergency Department at UVMMC in Burlington. In 2018, I received a Family Herbalist certificate from the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism in Montpelier. I was drawn to plant medicine to find an alternative to the one-size-fits-all and stringent structure of western medicine, as well as to deepen my understanding of the relationship between plants, humans, and the earth. I worked a small organic farm in Starksboro in 2016 & 2017, and although I only farmed part-time it was enough to radically shift my perspective on this small slice of the food system. I had a newfound respect for those that commit their lives to farming. I better understood the importance of local producers to land and community. I felt the urgency for policy change for farm viability. I cultivated my love for the earth and my respect for plants. However, I found myself frustrated with barriers that felt insurmountable to staying in the farming field, such as accessibility to land, farmer income, student debt, health insurance costs, government policies, and the unpredictability of climate change. I was drawn to the food systems program to dive into the world of food production and agroecology, specifically how to make farming more sustainable for farmers and the environment in the face of economic, environmental, and political challenges.
Ali Boochever, MS student
The Food Systems graduate program is one of the main reasons I moved back to Burlington this April after graduating UVM in 2015 with my B.S in Plant and Soil Sciences (majoring in Ecological Agriculture and minoring in Food Systems). I have spent the past five years in Northern California working as an outdoor educator on a magical coastal non-profit farm, a floral designer at an innovative ag start-up, a public land use planner, a farmer, and teacher at the community college level. My personal and career goals are to merge the academic study of complex food systems with hands-on farming in a mutually enriching way and learn how to empower consumers and producers to make informed choices, while committing myself to the long-term resiliency of agricultural communities and ultimately, the planet. In parallel, I see a future in which I mentor and teach young adults on topics ranging from ecological sustainability to self-empowerment through farming and eating good food.
Ali Brooks, MS Student
I grew up in rural Vermont, where I formed a deep connection to farming and the land from an early age. I attended Emory University as an undergraduate. Atlanta’s burgeoning Slow Food movement provided the backdrop for a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture within my Environmental Studies and African Studies majors. Since graduating I have pursued work in the fields of experiential and place-based education. I taught middle schoolers at a hiking-based environmental science program in the White Mountains, and most recently taught at The Traveling School, a semester program for high school women. After being based in Montana for the past eight years, I recently returned to my Vermont roots. I am currently enrolled in a master’s program in the College of Education at UVM, focusing on social justice and education. I was hooked on the Food Systems program after taking a class in the department, and decided to pursue another degree. I am particularly interested in food as an access point to larger social justice struggles, while simultaneously understanding food as an integral piece of an education. I hope to further connect my two areas of study and leverage them towards pursuing more just and equitable food- and educational systems.
David Cutler, MS student
I graduated from Bates College in 2012 with a B.A. in environmental studies. In the summer of 2014 I moved to Vermont and began working on an organic beef and dairy farm. I quickly fell in love with farming and worked at a handful of other small farms before starting my own pastured livestock operation in the spring of 2016. While I had always understood intuitively the inequity in our food system starting my own farm brought those inequities into sharper focus for me. It became clear that growing food and raising animals sustainably does not produce food that is affordable to all. At UVM I am excited to dive deeper into the connection between food security and sustainability and explore options for making sustainably produced food available to all.
Anne Massie, MS Student
Anne Massie graduated from The Evergreen State College in 2011 with a focus on Ecological Agriculture and Social Justice. She is a a midwesterner hailing from the town of Mansfield, Ohio. She has been a certified Permaculturist for a decade and recently traveled to Australia to further hone her craft. Anne’s a chef who owned and operated her own farm-to-table food truck for five years. She’s also worked with non-profits addressing food insecurity, on farms and in education. Anne’s interested in seeking out interdisciplinary solutions to the challenges of food security, specifically the role of Local Food Action Plans and Food Policy Councils; applying the discipline of professional planning to bear on food systems. Anne is looking to dive deeper into systematic inequalities as they pertain to accessing healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food.
Olivia May, MS Student
I graduated from the University of Vermont with a major in Nutrition and Food Science and a minor in Behavior Change Studies in 2018. I worked as a remote health coach for two years, which ultimately left me longing to make a bigger impact on nutrition education. I was baffled by the amount of misinformation treated as gospel in the ever-changing diet culture. I spent the summer of 2019 crossing the country in a 1992 Toyota Winnebago with a few friends and my trusty sidekick, Goose the rescue dog. I was awestruck by endless miles of corn and cattle stretching through America's heartland and reminded just how complex our food system is. I was so fortunate to live some of the different climates, cultures, and food systems in the United States. I am excited to coordinate my interests in economics, history, food, and education. I am interested in continuing my career and scholarship focused on nutrition and food education, particularly through the lens of sustainability.
Shannon Meyler, MS Student
I became interested in Food Systems after working with Heather Darby’s Agricultural Research team in Alburgh, VT, where I developed my passion for hops and hemp research. Since then I have graduated UVM with a B.S in Chemistry and Food Systems and have been involved with Vermont’s brewing community, as well as hemp researchers. Before the start of my Fall 2020 semester, I have been working in Research and Development at an Organic CBD Extractions and Analytics lab and Perrigo Vermont’s Dairy Chemistry labs. If I am not in the lab, you can find me brewing at home or biking around Burlington. I am excited to continue my studies at UVM and to dive deeper into sustainable food production and characterization to support local producers and manufacturers that make up our food system.
Melissa Pasanen, MS student
In 1999, after a decade of work in marketing, research and product development, I signed up for a UVM summer course in food and wine writing and launched my current career as a journalist specializing in food and agriculture. More than 1,000 articles, two cookbooks and dozens of radio shows later for media outlets ranging from the New York Times, Saveur and the Food Network to Vermont Life, Seven Days and Vermont Public Radio, it felt like time for another next step. I have always tried to frame the stories I share in their larger context: the economic pressures that impact the decisions made by a farmer or chef, the history and culture of an immigrant community that holds its food traditions close, the diverse reasons that push someone into food insecurity. My work has taught me a significant amount about the food system—but, of course, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. As a part-time student still working as a journalist, I have already had the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in the Food Systems graduate program. I look forward to continuing to use new skills and knowledge to help the general public understand more about the system that feeds them.
Katie Robertson, MS Student
After graduating from Iowa State University in 2012 with a degree in Global Resource Systems, I decided to join AmeriCorps, which eventually led to me serving in Montpelier. I quickly fell in love with the state and the culture in regards to local food systems. This sparked an interest in pursuing a masters in Food Systems. Before coming to UVM, I have spent the last few years working in nutrition education, food access and social justice within the food system. I am particularly interested in the intersectionality of food access, climate change and social justice.
Claire Whitehouse, MS Student
I graduated from Wesleyan University in 2014 with a B.A. in Theater and in Hispanic Literatures & Cultures. In the six years following graduation I worked at arts and education nonprofits in Boston and New York City while spending all my free time cooking, reading, and thinking about food. My passion for Food Systems emerged out of frustration at the fact that the mainstream food media I was consuming did little to cover food supply, labor, or access. I am interested in examining the efficacy of programs that work to reconcile two aims that on the surface seem in conflict: feeding the most people with resources we have and building a sustainable food system. Is it possible to connect sustainably grown food with people who are food insecure in a way that is profitable for the producer and affordable for the consumer? Is sustainably and locally grown food able to scale up to meet greater demand and accessible pricing? In the era of Covid-19, I’m particularly interested in policies and programs to diversify the food supply chain and build a more resilient, flexible, and equitable network of producers, processors, and distributors.
Kristen Wirkkala, MS student
My passion for food systems is driven by a mission to improve human health through a love for the earth. I see food as our deepest connection to nature and our reminder that we are a part of this earth, not just living on it. I am an avid gardener and believe empowering others to grow their own food is the most effective vehicle through which to improve health and instill a desire to care for the earth. I graduated from Keene State College in 2012 with a BS in Secondary Education and Social Science. After graduation, I spent two years volunteering as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Manchester, NH before moving to Burlington and beginning a career in nonprofit development. In my current role as the Development Director for KidsGardening, I am able to bring together my passion for food systems with my career in fundraising to help create opportunities for children across the country to learn through gardening. I am excited to begin the Food Systems Graduate Program at UVM and deepen my understanding of the many aspects of food systems and how they contribute to health of our planet and its people. After graduating from Iowa State University in 2012 with a degree in Global Resource Systems, I decided to join AmeriCorps, which eventually led to me serving in Montpelier. I quickly fell in love with the state and the culture in regards to local food systems. This sparked an interest in pursuing a masters in Food Systems. Before coming to UVM, I have spent the last few years working in nutrition education, food access and social justice within the food system. I am particularly interested in the intersectionality of food access, climate change and social justice.
Amaya Carrasco, PhD Student
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 https://www.linkedin.com/in/amaya-carrasco-483410129/
Carolyn Hricko, PhD Student
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.
Tung-Lin Liu, PhD student
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.
Maya Moore, PhD student
Maya has been working in the conservation and development field, mainly in Madagascar but also in Thailand and Guatemala, for nearly 15 years. She holds degrees in Biology and Sustainable International Development. Having grown up in Northern Maine, she looks forward to joining the UVM community this fall and returning to New England with her family and three dogs. She is predominantly interested in seeking out interdisciplinary answers to the challenges of food security in the face of climate change, as it relates to human well-being and tropical biodiversity protection. Her broad research questions pertain to the ways in which smallholder farmers are experiencing and perceiving climate change, how this is impacting their land management decisions, and how this affects conservation strategy in the tropics where agricultural pressure is the leading cause of deforestation. Other interests include sustainability, organizational development, climate and food justice movements. She loves to travel, experience different cultures and try the food!
Caitlin Morgan, PhD candidate
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.
Luis Rodriguez-Cruz, PhD student
I had two experiences back home, in Puerto Rico, that led me to pursue a research career focusing on the intersections of climate change and food security at the individual, social, and institutional levels in island contexts. During my time at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, I worked with fisherfolk communities, and in an education project at the Extension Service with 4H students. These opportunities widen my perspective about the complex issues affecting Puerto Rico’s agriculture. I intend to generate knowledge through a transdisciplinary and collaborative approach that serves the current and future conversations focusing on the improvement of the Puerto Rican agri-food systems. Currently, under the advisory of Dr. Meredith Niles and in collaboration with the UPR’s Extension Service, we are working to assess Puerto Rican farmers’ drivers and barriers to climate change adaptation, their climate change perceptions, and experience with Hurricane Maria, in order to understand food security and resiliency outcomes. Our research will contribute to a nascent area of study focusing on island food systems, which are highly vulnerable in this changing climate. To truly develop possible solutions for our food systems’ problems, we must understand peoples’ perceptions and backgrounds, and how these intertwine with institutional and social frameworks. In terms of my academic background, I have a BS in Biology with a sub-concentration in biotechnology from the UPR-Ponce, and a MS in Food Science and Technology from UPR-Mayagüez. For more information and my CV, please visit https://luisalexis.com/
Nick Rose, PhD Student
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.
Sarra Talib, PhD Student
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 https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarra-talib-77315b1b/
Josiah (Josh) Taylor, PhD candidate
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.