2015 Baird Sustainability Fellow Lexie Raczka ’15 has been interested in sustainability since middle school, when her science class helped to convert a school bus to biodiesel. Once at Dickinson, she pinpointed her passion for studying sustainable food systems, and soon, she will enter a three-year, dual-degree graduate program in sustainable agriculture and urban and environmental policy and programming. An avid cook, Raczka talks about her research on food systems in Carlisle, her internships, her experiences studying in Greenland and her dream of making healthy, sustainable food available to everyone.
Clubs, activities and organizations:
The Treehouse (Center for Sustainable Living), the College Farm, Students Interested in Sustainable Agriculture, the Liberty Cap Society (campus tour guide) and Admissions Office (student interviewer).
John Dickinson Scholar, Baird Sustainability Fellow, Alpha Lambda Delta and Dean’s List.
On choosing Dickinson:
I really wanted to find a school that had strong academic programs and also a vested interest in sustainability. Dickinson stood out among all the other liberal-arts colleges that I looked into. The campus and the Carlisle community also seemed so welcoming—I could easily picture myself calling Carlisle home for the next four years.
Favorite place on campus:
The couch in the kitchen of the Treehouse. It’s where so many great conversations occur.
On studying abroad:
I spent the spring semester of my junior year studying at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (Copenhagen, Denmark). I absolutely loved living and learning in Denmark, a country where sustainability is at the forefront of daily life. The highlight was taking a class on the history of climate change, which focused on Greenland and was taught by three world-renowned biologists and climate scientists. Halfway through the semester we traveled to Greenland with two of our professors—one is a leading ice-core driller; the other has lived and worked in Greenland for more than 30 years. We even got to take ice samples from the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
You’ve Got Mail.
As a kid, I wanted to be …
… a medical professional. During my early childhood, I frequented the Health Museum in Houston, Texas, and became obsessed with the medical field. But after a few years, I discovered that I’m not a fan of the sight of blood. I then became fascinated with HGTV and design and wanted to be an architect and interior designer.
My current research:
I became interested in researching the food environment in Carlisle after reading an essay by Julie Guthman that talked about issues of privilege in the alternative-food movement. I am looking at the issues of food access and consumption, and how different demographic factors may influence what a person chooses to eat. One of the greatest lessons I have learned from this experience is the power of community. In order to find interview subjects for my research I reached out to a number of community members and organizations in Carlisle. As a result, I was able to connect with people from a variety of different backgrounds to gather valuable information for my research.
Cooking. Nothing makes me relax more than taking an hour or so out of my busy schedule to cook a meal for myself or to share with friends.
Favorite Dining Hall food:
Anything from the College Farm or the wonderful apples from Three Springs [Fruit Farm] that we have year-round.
About my internships:
I currently work as Dickinson’s Dining Services sustainability intern. This semester I am evaluating the best practices for purchasing sustainably produced and sourced food; I’m also looking into the feasibility of adopting more sustainable sources of certain foods. I've worked as an outreach intern with the Liberty Prairie Foundation, a nonprofit in Grayslake, Ill., that’s focused on sustainable food; an organization in Sharon, Mass., that works to increase the number of residential homes utilizing solar power; Green Schools (Mansfield, Mass.), where I worked on creating K-12 curriculum on different environmental issues; and the Boston chapter of the Sierra Club.
Each of these internships have allowed me to understand and interact with different aspects of environmental issues, from individual-level behavioral changes to systemwide initiatives and policy issues. They also helped me determine what I am most interested in pursuing.
I will be pursuing a dual degree M.S./M.A. at the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where I'll study agriculture, food and environment at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. I plan to work on food-systems planning at the community level, examining the sustainability of the entire food system—from production to consumption to waste—and evaluating how the system can be improved.
In a perfect world ...
… all people would have access, both financially and geographically, to healthy and sustainably produced food—including those who work tirelessly every day to raise and produce the food.
Published April 3, 2015