As the summer has progressed, it’s been interesting to see the details of this project progress. Time spent with this project this summer is a continuation of time spent in the fall as a THINK Fellow during the Fall of 2019 with the Honors College. Over the course of the Fall and movement into the Summer, the project has been shaped and refined. To be completely transparent, I have gotten to witness first-hand the time and energy that goes into developing and refining a research project well before the data is collected or the project is actually embarked on. Back in the Fall, I went into the experience with a very broad research idea and learned rather quickly how much refining I would have to do. I have become aware of the unique context I am in and the unique set of skills I bring to the research space, in good ways and in challenging ways. At Pitt, I’m studying supply chain management and marketing within the College of Business administration. Experiential learning takes the form of group projects, engagements outside of the classroom, and large investment to take learning beyond the classroom and apply it to the city of Pittsburgh and the world beyond. The term ‘research’ is rarely directly spoken, although a fundamental piece of the whole of what we are learning and experiencing in the classroom. Embarking on an independent study was a way I was able to lean into a personal passion and interest in food, while also allowing me to nourish a more general set of skills that I hope to carry with me throughout Pitt and well beyond. I am aware that in business, what we manage are connected to much deeper spaces beneath the surface. Going back to the food space throughout my time as a business student has given me space to apply what I am learning and ask questions about what is happening beneath the surface. This being said, I have struggled to maintain a narrow scope. With something as broad as food, there are so many implications and forces that are leaving an impression on the arena. Early on in the process of developing a research question, I found myself often distracted by the other forces I was missing or not recognizing. By narrowing my scope to the lens of organic, my hope is to establish some boundaries both for myself as a researcher and the spaces in which this work is applicable. I hope to spend my life devoted to improving the food space for the whole of our world. The past Fall and early moments of Summer have shown me that I have to start small and focused if I want the seed that I plant to bloom into something more with an even greater reach.
As mentioned above, my own academic curriculum doesn’t typically lean on participating in research as a part of the process. I would say the exception to this is the classes I have taken in Marketing, which is a field rooted in research. Most of the research I have conducted in those classes has been narrow, rather sequential in terms of the steps that need to be taken. This project in being in the food space is a little more ambiguous and self directed, something I have limited experience with. What is driving this project for me is my own personal passion for the food space and the potential for change there is in being present in it. I am aware that I found myself in this fellowship experience in a rather unconventional way considering most join a professor or other faculty member with their work. While that isn’t how I entered into this space, I do feel supported in the different experiences I have gained and those who have been a part of those experiences. Early on this summer, I realized that having someone with experience in the subject matter provides a layer of academic support that I am increasingly aware I don’t have.
As of now, I am looking to study how our ideas of the meaning of “Organic” are shaped and how that influences our attitudes and behaviors related to organic consumption. Even in writing that I am aware that there is narrowing down I have to do in order to investigate something that is refined, but arriving at this subject matter is much more defined than where I originally began back in the Fall. I have done some research about what the conversation surrounding organic consumption is, and it is fascinating to see the variety of backgrounds that are entering this conversation, from consumer behavior to policy. It’s interesting to look at this space with different lenses and understand how we, as consumers, are influenced by a variety of factors. This space is of immense importance for a variety of reasons, one of which is studying the meaning of “Organic” plays into a larger narrative of food as a whole and our relationship with the food chain. This research also matters because based on my own perspective as a consumer, it is clear that there is an association with “Organic” that isn’t associated with food as a whole.