Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Spokane, Washington
With a passion for food and farming, Alizabeth Potuceck became a remarkable environmental studies student and activist. She was the coordinator of the Westminster College Organic Garden and a member of the Environmental Center. She started volunteering at the Westminster Chicken Co-Op her freshman and sophomore year during the weekly workdays. At the end of her sophomore year, she began her part time job, that is full time fun.
As the Organic Garden Coordinator, she managed the numerous garden volunteers, planned the amazing food and garden events, and designed the garden each year. The garden has grown immensely as a program each year with interested student involvement. The Organic Garden’s goal is to create an educational and fun place to learn about food and how to grow it. Some of her favorite events include the three-month Food Film Series in the fall, the free monthly cooking classes, and the farm mobs to other small scale organic farms.
She was also involved in the student group “Westminster For Real Food”. This is a grass roots effort which organized in order to create a campus-wide change in our food system. Their goal was to get more local, organic, humane, and sustainable foods on campus. She used the national movement “Real Food Challenge” to help them create a successful, positive, and educational campaign about food. “Westminster For Real Food” has brought speakers to campus, completed a successful written petition, created a campus wide photo petition, hosted an annual Real Food Week, put up informational posters around campus, tabled in the commons, and held 'real food' samplings which created many positive changes on Westminster’s campus - seeing more local and organic foods in the dinning hall than ever.
One of the most amazing classes Alizabeth took was the May Term Sustainability and Slow Food Trip. She studied the Slow Food Movement while traveling through Spain and Italy for three weeks and learned from a hands-on perspective about the how food, farming, and behaviors are in actuality social, economic, and environmental issues. She said, “I ate the most incredible food of my life, made lasting friendships and forever changed my perspective on food in the United States.”
A wonderful, but challenging, academic experience was a group research project Alizabeth participated in for her Ecology 405 class. She wanted to learn about aquaplonics - growing plants hydraulically with water instead of soil, while culturing fish. Aquaplonics works by cycling the natural fish waste, a great nitrogen nutrient source, to be used as plant food. They designed an experiment testing biodiversity and productivity of plants.
During the process, she learned about this innovative and sustainable way to grow food, as well as how to design a good ecology experiment. With hard work and the collaboration of many teachers, her group was able to win a statistics award at the Undergraduate Research Fair in 2012.
This spring, at the Student Leadership Purple and Gold Gala, she was honored to be awarded with the Impact and Legacy Student Leadership Award, for her work on campus surrounding food and gardening. She is also a Service Learning Scholar, completing over 500 hours of community service. She completed an Event Planning and Fundraising internship with local non-profit Wasatch Community Gardens where she practiced community event planning, project management, and communication skills.
Her absolutely favorite memories of Westminster have been with the organic garden and in the Environmental Center. The Environmental Center is where she has met some of her best friends, as well as worked on important issues on campus and in the community. Working with passionate engaged people on important issues has been the most rewarding and fulfilling experience for Alizabeth.
“The Environmental Center is a campus hub for students, staff and faculty who care and want to learn more. Whether it is about food, bikes, recycling, honeybees, biodiversity, or energy, the Environmental Center is a place to find other involved students. It is an essential resource and community for motivated and passionate change-making students,” she said.
Westminster was where Alizabeth truly advanced and discovered her passion for food and farming. Her teachers were invaluable mentors, resources, role models, and friends. “The flexibility of my classes allowed me to pursue projects and research I cared about. With my professors' essential help and knowledge I have been able to learn about what I care about most: food and farming. The Environmental Center and Organic Garden gave me invaluable project management, communication, and event coordination skills. I feel confident I have the skills and experiences necessary not only to get a job, but also to make a positive lasting impact on my community.”
This summer, she is going to work on a farm in France in exchange for lodging and food, and this fall she has been accepted into the Peace Corps, in the field of agriculture. She will be working on sustainable farming projects and living in a low-income country for 27 months. She said, “I am honored to be accepted into this program, which has been a life-long goal. The unique skills and experiences I gained at Westminster were essential in my acceptance, and will no doubt continue to be useful to me during my time in the Peace Corps.”
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