Summer Sullivan, 2017 Graduate

After graduating from Lehigh with a dual degree in Political Science and Global Studies in 2017, I accepted a position with the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) Program and moved to Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield exemplified the hypocrisy and inequality I researched in my upper level Political Science courses at Lehigh: it is one of the largest agricultural producing regions in the world and simultaneously the number one metropolitan area for food hardship in the nation. Serving as the Edible Garden Coordinator at California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB), I worked to establish an on-campus garden which aimed to address the 40% campus food insecurity rate — a completely unacceptable statistic by any standards. One of my goals was to inculcate students and community members into all aspects of the garden’s development process, acknowledging that agency and voice are crucial in grassroots work. For example, I invited the Bakersfield community to place the garden’s first plants in the ground on Earth Day, and recruited students to maintain and expand its operations. In close connection with the campus food pantry, I advocated for fresh, healthy, culturally appropriate, and organically-grown foods to be offered to all students, faculty, and staff free of charge. Since I consider the roots of food insecurity to be systematically political and economic, I also served as a member of the Kern Food Policy Council, advocating for people whose voices have been consistently underrepresented including first generation college students, farm workers, and rural community members.

My experience with AmeriCorps both frustrated and inspired me, eventually motivating me to apply to graduate school. In Fall 2018 I am beginning a Master’s in Global Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. My goal is to research international economic injustice and its many manifestations such as food insecurity. Without my Lehigh education, I would not have the critical lens that I now possess. I am profoundly disenchanted with Western Capitalist society that continues to commodify human begins, maintain egregious and increasing inequality, and destroy the natural world. My Professors at Lehigh gave me the tools to challenge these hegemonic systems while recognizing that community organizing, grassroots movements, and student engagement are also incredibly strong forms of resistance and reform. I was so inspired by the Lehigh Political Science Faculty (especially Dr. Holona Ochs who has become a mentor and support system) that my ultimate goal is to obtained a PhD in Political Science and become a University Professor (stay tuned).

In my free time, I’ve tremendously enjoyed visiting California’s National Parks, Monuments, and beaches— and relishing in every moment that they are still open to the public…