Celebrating Our 2023 Graduate Certificate in Food Systems Recipients

This year, we recognized 28 graduate students from across campus who are integrating food systems studies into their research and education.

May 25, 2023
By Vicky Chang PhD, BFI Educational Programs Director

2023 recipients of the Graduate Certificate in Food Systems. Photo by Sakeenah Shabazz, BFI Policy Director

It’s graduation season on campus! Earlier this month, we recognized this year’s graduates of the Graduate Certificate in Food Systems at a first-ever food systems hooding ceremony. I am pleased to say that this year there were 28 certificate graduates! That number has grown exponentially each year since 2019, when BFI’s then Faculty Director Kris Madsen and Rosalie Fanshel (my predecessor at BFI and now a PhD student at UC Berkeley) created the certificate program at the request of students. We’ve now awarded 92 certificates in total — a growing community of impressive alumni leading the way making our food system more equitable and sustainable.

We enjoyed a wonderful ceremony on the terrace of Berkeley Way West, where students from schools and departments across campus enjoyed the sunshine and some words of encouragement from their professors and peers. Three students shared their personal journeys, and how food systems studies has influenced their work at UC Berkeley and beyond. Those students were Summer Lewis, a 2023 GCFS graduate and co-chair of the Indigenous Graduate Student Association; Dhruv Patel-Tupper, a PhD candidate in Plant Biology, GCFS holder, and alum of the Food Institute Graduate Council; and Nani Conklin, another 2023 GCFS graduate and chair of the Food Institute Graduate Council.

Then, we heard from Kris Madsen MD, MPH, a pediatrician and professor in the UCSF-UC Berkeley Joint Medical Program and in Public Health Nutrition at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. In her keynote, Madsen reminded students to “continue to transcend silos” — to explore the connection to food systems through every discipline and career avenue. Madsen then gave us a reading of Wendy & Mr Worm Save the Farm, a quaint children’s book about a cow and worm who work together to introduce healthy soil practices to bring a farm back to life. This book was written and illustrated by two students from the first cohort of GCFS recipients: Fahed Essa and Erik Gundersen.

One of the cornerstones of the Graduate Certificate in Food Systems is its interdisciplinary approach, and its flexibility in design. Students can come from any graduate program, from schools as far-ranging as the School of Public Health, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the College of Environmental Design, and so on. These students convene in a core course (PB HLTH 207 Transforming Food Systems: From Agroecology to Population Health, taught by Madsen), where they meet and work with one another on problem-solving sessions and hear from a diversity of guest lecturers. These students then integrate food systems studies into their own graduate programs by picking elective courses that complement their interests and research.

Why is that so important? Because we need to have different voices trained in different disciplines working together — thinking critically about some of our food systems issues and devising interdisciplinary solutions.

This year’s graduates are:

  • Aniket Aich, Masters of Development Practice
  • Catherine Allemann, Masters of Public Health
  • Taylor Baisey, Masters of Public Health
  • Mark Biedlingmaier, Masters of Public Health
  • Eliana Blum, Masters of Public Health
  • Kelsey Nani Conklin, Masters of Public Health
  • Cypress Erbez-Benson, Master of Architecture
  • Zachary Ferguson, Masters of Public Policy
  • Andrew Filipek, Masters of Business Administration
  • Karoline Guthrie, Masters of Public Health
  • Ellen Kamps, Masters of Public Affairs
  • Acelia Larios, Masters of Public Health
  • Summer Lewis, Masters of Public Health
  • Camila Hevia Marcet, Masters of Development Practice
  • Jeffrey Moridani, Masters of Development Practice
  • Jasmin Muñoz, Masters in City Planning
  • Krista Neumann, PhD, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Zenab Ojibe, Masters of Public Health
  • Kavi Reddy, Masters of Development Engineering
  • Alexandra Reep, Masters of Development Practice
  • Allegra Roth, Masters in Public Policy
  • Whitney Shapiro, Masters of Business Administration
  • Molly Shea, Masters of Public Health
  • Kriti Sondhi, Masters of Business Administration
  • Douglas Watts, Masters of Business Administration
  • Allison Work, Masters of Public Health
  • Alex Yokley, Masters of Public Health
  • Snow Zhu, Masters of City Planning

Congratulations graduates! There’s a food movement afoot — and opportunities to advocate for change and come up with solutions. We look forward to continuing to work alongside you on this collective endeavor.

Thank you to the Food Institute Graduate Council for co-sponsoring the ceremony with BFI. I’d like to give a special thank you to the event’s co-organizers: Jesús Nazario, BFI’s Graduate Student Fellow; Nani Conklin, FIGC chair; Nathalie Muñoz, BFI’s Community Engagement Program Manager; and the other BFI staff members able to attend and help.