Hello everyone! My name is Nora Kraus and I am entering into my senior year and final semester at the University of Pittsburgh. A little bit late to be writing an introduction post, which I apologize for. As many of my peers can relate to, this summer has unfolded quite unexpectedly and, outwardly, has looked different than was planned. That being said, I am grateful for the quite serendipitous timing of receiving this scholarship with my internship being cancelled. Those two different emails arrived in my inbox within days of each other, literally showing me how with one closed door, another opens. I am grateful for this door to be open and to be joining several other students in this academic journey.
At Pitt, I am a student within the College of Business Administration studying Supply Chain Management and Marketing, pursuing additional certificates in Business Analytics and Leadership/Ethics. Back in January of 2020, I made the decision to graduate a semester early, which was a decision mostly informed by the financial implications of being a student and wanting to be in a position of lower student loans when I graduate. Additionally, the decision was informed by an opportunity to go abroad one last time before graduating. Back in May, I had planned to be in Rome, Italy participating in the food studies program. While the not being able to participate in the program was accompanied with disappointment, I am incredibly grateful that embarking on this program would not serve as my only experience abroad. Studying abroad has served as a significant part of my college career and, in both direct and indirect ways, has lead me to where I am today personally, academically, and professionally. Over the course of the past three years, I have had the opportunity to learn as much as I have learned in the classroom outside of it embarking on experiences such as the experiences I have enjoyed abroad. During my freshman year at Pitt, I participated in a global service learning course which afforded me the opportunity to work on a semester long project with a client based on Cochabamba, Bolivia. On it’s own, the experience was incredible. I also continue to see the ripple effects of that experience as it lead to working within the Study Abroad office within the business school, spending a summer interning in Ireland, and embarking on an independent study project alongside Bryan Schultz, the former Director of International Programs of Pitt Business and the current Director of Global and Experimental Programs within the University Honors College. Together, we discussed working on a project connecting the dots between my own personal passion for food systems and affinity for global experiences. In wonderful and important ways, the seeds that were set bloomed into something different than expected, and the journey along the way has been incredibly significant and rewarding. We were able to put together a sort of framework for an investigative project into food systems, which was pursued further in participating in the THINK fellowship. Overtime, I have been putting together a project looking widely at food systems, more narrowly focusing on the different aspects that have shaped our food systems through the lens of information and messages.
Since the creation of this project, it has evolved tremendously. Considering how large and complex food systems are, I have had to ground myself in focusing on one narrowed lens to the best of my ability. At the end of the THINK fellowship, I had developed a concentrated idea of looking at how rhetoric and language have shaped the meaning of the word “Organic” within the modern day food system as seen through advertising. Originally, this idea began with looking at the development of organic food systems as seen through policies. The shift was informed by an experience I had at a conference in New Orleans, LA this past fall. I was down there for a conference I had received funding to attend and realized within moments of being there that the experience wasn’t quite like what I had anticipated and invited me to be with a population of people that were- in more ways than one- very different than I am. I went into the conference under the impression that a “Food Technology” conference would be one of tech enthusiasts and those who were passionate about innovation within modern day food systems. I was caught off guard upon arriving when I realized it’s not techies but farmers who are engaging in these conversations. It was powerful to be in a population I couldn’t identify with and engage in conversations with individuals with much different backgrounds than mine. I remember a distinct conversation with a fellow student relating to the meaning and significance of “organic,” becoming powerfully aware that how we saw and interpreted the word was different. Why is this? I wondered and still wonder. How are our own personal views of topics within the food system informed and shaped? While a small piece of the food system, this conversation is important because the different parts of the food chain aren’t in isolation with one another, but rather interdependent. Our food system is a space that is filled with contradictions in being of surplus and scarcity. Which is one of the reasons it has captivated my academic thinking.
Long term, I hope to stay in the food space. I am unsure, however, of what capacity that will take. My hope is to begin my career in consulting to gain experience and develop general tools to apply to a more concentrated space over time. I am grateful for this scholarship to continue to spend time in this space and look forward to what the summer will invite in terms of nourished curiosity and the continued establishment of a foundation.