Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Grad School, oh my - Visiting Boston University

While WWOOF-ing gives me something to plan for in the short term, what about one or two years down the road? Unlike Mr. Adam Greenman, I cannot afford to spend a decade WWOOF-ing the world, as much as I'd like to.

What I plan on doing is attending grad school. I'll probably apply, at the latest, next fall. Getting my Masters degree (and eventually, perhaps my doctorate) has long been a dream of mine. No, not even a dream, to be honest... I've always just taken it for granted that it would happen. It was just a question of finding the right course of study. And I've researched a ton of them, from Dramaturgy to German to Arts Administration to Non-Profit Management to Environmental Policy. Enough to know, certainly, what I was getting myself into by delving into a new area of post-baccalaureate investigation.

But I lucked out. Food Studies is an emerging academic field, and relatively few schools have programs devoted to it. Those few include the Steinhardt School at NYU, Tufts University, Boston University Metropolitan College, and Chatham University, to name a few. (Incidentally, the Association for the Study of Food and Society has a pretty comprehensive list of such programs, which is not limited to the United States.)

While I feel I can cross a few of those schools off the list (for example, Tufts University seems to have a decided scientific bent, which is not really what I'm going for), I am now in the process of starting a more intensive round of research... visiting them. And I had my first grad school visit last week, at Boston University.

To be honest, I didn't think I would like BU's program, which offers a Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy. It was started by Julia Childs and Jacque Pepin in 1989 (I think), and I figured it would be a more "culture and history" oriented kind of deal. Au contraire. I left the campus quite impressed with the diversity and scope of their program, as well as the changes that are coming down the pipes to make the degree more applicable to a wider range of Food Studiers.

For example, in my meeting with Professor Rachel Black (the woman who runs the program), I asked whether she felt that being in a city hampered students' ability to learn about agriculture and the more 'hands on' aspects of Food Studies. She told me about her plans in that direction, saying that she would be teaching an Urban Agriculture class next summer, which would be followed by an Urban Agriculture conference at the college in the Fall. She says she also encourages students to get internships at farms during the summer (as evidenced by an article about farm internships taped to her office door, with a note that said, "See me for more information!") She's also looking into working with BU to get land for the Gastronomy department to use as a garden, and/or creating an urban rooftop garden on top of one of the dorms.

While this remains something of a concern of mine, it's heartening to see the steps the department is taking. Plus, one of the big reasons I plan to WWOOF is to get practical experience, after all. Rather like an extended internship of my own design.

At any rate, I think it's safe to say that Boston University is in the running for me. More than in the running, really... I think I would be quite happy there. But more grad school visits are in the offing - I have plans to drop by Chatham University on my way home from AmeriCorps NCCC in November - and who knows how I will feel about them.

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