Year and semester studied at Umbra: Fall 2008
Major: History and English Literature
Undergraduate institution: Wabash College
Graduate institution 1: Boston University – Metropolitan College
Graduate degree 1: MA in Gastronomy
Graduate year 1: 2013
Graduate institution 2: Washington University in St. Louis
Graduate degree 2: Currently 1 year into PHd in Anthropology program
What have you been up to since attending Umbra?
Since attending Umbra, I’ve graduated Wabash College with a BA in History and continued on to graduate school. I received my MA in Gastronomy from Boston University in 2013. During that time, I managed the cheese counter and taught taste education classes at one of best independent specialty grocers in America. I helped found a start-up company that cheese and beer education classes in Boston.
How has studying abroad impacted your life (both personally and professionally)?
My semester in Perugia had an enormous impact on the shape of my academic studies and my career. The opportunity to bring together practical and theoretical aspects of food in the extraordinary setting of central Italy, with insightful classroom lectures complimented by field excursions working with cheesemakers, bakers, organic farmers, and others, has been truly invaluable. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
After leaving Perugia, I continued my studies at Wabash University thinking, reading, and writing about food. I basically wrote about food in every class that would let me. I developed my own independent study on the history of food and culture in America that very closely resembled the Umbra course. I wrote my senior history thesis on the topic of Italian food nationalism through time and space. It really is amazing how deeply threaded food is in the fabric of culture. It’s at once quotidian and infinitely complex. It fascinates me to this day, how much using food as an academic lens allows you to see.
Once I graduated, I continued my studies at Boston University and received an MA in Gastronomy. There, I founded the first peer-reviewed graduate journal devoted to the study of food—a publication that has been highly lauded across the academic community.
What are you doing now?
Right now, I’m working on my PHd in Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis and hoping to complete my studies there in 2021. My research explores alternative forms of food production, cultures of craftsmanship, and neo-agrarianism in the United States. I’m one of the founding editors of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies and my work has appeared in: CuiZine: the Journal of Canadian Food Culture; Food, Culture, and Society; Digest: A Journal of Foodways and Culture; the Graduate Journal of Food Studies; and The Inquisitive Eater; among others.
Are you still in touch with friends you made in Perugia?
Absolutely. Dan King and I were roommates and we remain great friends! Julie DiLeo (now Smith) and I stay in regular touch. I’ve visited several other folks (Liza Carey, Megan McDonald, Domenica Cerasaro, a couple others) in my travels across the country, old study abroad friends are always generous with their couches and fine company, even on short notice. Former Umbra administrator Zach Nowak and I reconnected in Boston a few years back and we’re now best buds! I still remember him teaching me (at La Tana del Orso) that bread was made via glorified yeast farts (fermentation). I owe much of my interest in food studies to Zach as well as to the History of Food and Culture in Italy course I took with Peter Fisher. Mauro Renna remains “un grande amico” as well.
What is one piece of advice you would give to prospective students thinking of studying abroad?
Absolutely do it, no question about it. It will be one of the greatest, most memorable experiences of your life. You’ll make great friends, see amazing places, and take a huge steps towards transcending the young in young adulthood. You’ll travel later in life, and having studied abroad will make you more eager and competent to do so, but the actual experience of studying abroad is once in a lifetime. You’ll regret it if that extra biology course keeps you grounded in Illinois.
What is one piece of advice you would give to students studying abroad (during or after their experience)?
During, make great friends, study hard (enough), and venture out on your own to meet locals and get lost (and found again). After, stay in touch with folks, visit them while traveling, offer them a couch when they’re passing through town. This worlds feels like a great big place, but Disney had at least one thing right, it’s a small world after all.