Rachel Gross ’19 has studied the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Israel and an agricultural society in China. She’s also learned about the complexities of food systems closer to home, at the College Farm and as an intern at Farmers on the Square. Below, she discusses her interests in food, sustainability and community-building; a transformative biology class that put her face-to-face with all manner of wild creatures; the appreciation she gained during a spring-break trip to a Georgia nature conservancy; and her desire to spark a one-woman revolution to effect positive change.
North Potomac, Maryland
Clubs and organizations:
I never have a favorite book because that is ever-changing, but I recently read Talking Back by bell hooks, and I adored it!
Across the Universe (it’s on Netflix; check it out!).
My favorite class at Dickinson has been Natural History of Vertebrates, taught by [Associate Professor of Biology] Scott Boback. I am not a science major, but I signed up for this class anyway, and it was life-changing. Boback has a contagious love for critters, and during almost every lab we went outside to local streams, forests and lookout points to search for all kinds of creatures. He showed me how incredible vertebrates are through studying their complex morphological features, hands-on practice with taxidermy and a spring break trip to a nature conservancy site in Georgia. On this trip we caught an alligator snapping turtle, a juvenile alligator and an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake! Science rules!
Favorite place on campus:
The Treehouse (my unique home; come hang out!).
Favorite Dining Hall food:
Peanut sweet-potato quinoa.
On studying abroad:
I studied abroad in Israel at the Arava Institute, and it was an extremely transformative experience. There were endless highlights of the experience, but by far the most valuable was spending time with the diverse group of students at the institute. The program is made up of international students, Israeli students and Arab students. I met so many beautiful people and gained a more holistic understanding of the conflict in Israel-Palestine. All of this insight and I got to live in the desert!
Most important thing I’ve learned so far:
Be open! Try new things and take advantage of all Dickinson has to offer. There are a lot of super cool programs that Dickinson has (LOCALTUNITY, edible excursions, spring break service trips, Mosaics, the College Farm, the radio station, etc.), and as a student, you just have to show up. So show up!
If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …
… Michelle Obama.
About my internships:
I spent the summer two years ago working full-time at the College Farm. This was a challenging and rewarding experience that taught me countless lessons about agency, strength, plant power and teamwork. While I was doing that, I interned at the Farmers on the Square farmers market in Carlisle. I interviewed vendors and got a better understanding of agriculture and entrepreneurship in this area. It was very valuable to do farm-based interviews, which helped to get me out of the bubble.
In a perfect world …
… everyone can see the sun, moon and stars. People have equitable access to resources, and societies run sustainably. There are more impromptu dance parties and jam sessions. Also, gender binaries are gone, and we are free of gender expectations! And shoes are more optional.
About my research:
This past summer I did research in Yunnan Province, China. It was a project with six students, two professors, a farm expert and two translators. We spent three weeks in a rural village, Fengyu, and studied the Bai people who lived there. The Bai are an ethnic minority in China and this village has seen a lot of out-migration in recent years to large cities. We studied how their culture, religion, agriculture and practices have changed in response to this demographic shift. I applied to do this research because it was with an agricultural society, and I am interested in food systems. I learned so much about kindness and hospitality, as we received a huge amount in our travels. Also patience: It takes patience to communicate in a tri-lingual space (Bai to Mandarin to English).
I hope to spread light and love! I want to be a change-maker of some sort, perhaps a one-woman revolution. I haven’t yet figured out exactly what that looks like, but I am passionate about food, sustainability, community, justice and laughter. I plan to make my way around the U.S. probably farming along the way.
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Published March 7, 2019