Farewell from a Fellow: A Different Kind of Fellowship
“Fellowship” is not a word I typically associate with a corporate job. I should know — this has been my third fellowship in four years. In the first two, I researched local food systems in Japan, then served as a career advisor at my alma mater, Oberlin College.
As a Bon Appétit Fellow, I’ve traveled to a dozen colleges and universities to support, educate, and engage students around sustainable food issues. Although my first two fellowships helped set me up for success in this role, the Bon Appétit Fellowship has differed from the others in three key ways.
As in my other Fellowships, research plays a role. Bon Appétit Fellows contribute to in-depth studies and work on projects that can result in new companywide policies. Just in the time I’ve been a Fellow, this team has analyzed our Farm to Fork relationships by region, grown our Campus Farmers Network, researched sustainable coffee, and run an extensive national plate waste study. (I worked mainly on the latter.)
But the biggest role the Fellows have is in facilitating and cultivating connections between our staff at our cafés, our vendors, and the guests we serve. It’s the kitchen tours for students to see how our cooks prepare meals from scratch every day for thousands; the conversations between campus staff and dining managers to find new ways to improve sustainability; the visits to Farm to Fork farmers and artisans who communicate with our chefs weekly but may have never met them in person. At the end of my campus visits, I have felt most satisfied not when I added something new, but when I multiplied or deepened the many relationships that already exist.
“Like bees picking up pollen as they fly from plant to plant, Fellows use the knowledge gained from each conversation to inform the next, thereby bridging stakeholders at Bon Appétit cafés nationwide.”
Diverse yet related experiences
The sheer range of campus cultures and activities I’ve gotten to participate in is another reason the Bon Appétit Fellowship stands out from what I did before.
As a Bon Appétit Fellow, I helped organize an art exhibit for National Farmworker Awareness Week; recover excess food and serve it to homeless people in my neighborhood in San Francisco; judge entrepreneurial nonprofit pitches for a course on the anthropology of food; and lead professional development workshops for student dining workers. These events all embodied something distinct to each campus, yet the participants echoed passions and motivations at other schools. The questions I hear after every guest lecture or presentation are similar, but they lead to discussions that can’t be had anywhere else. Like bees picking up pollen as they fly from plant to plant, Fellows use the knowledge gained from each conversation to inform the next, thereby bridging stakeholders at Bon Appétit cafés nationwide.
Making a difference
The last differentiator for the Bon Appétit Fellowship is its cumulative impact. Here’s a snapshot of my activities this year:
- Spoke with more than 600 people about Bon Appétit’s commitments and initiatives
- Brought 38 chefs, managers, and marketing specialists to visit nine Farm to Fork vendors throughout California
- Hosted four rounds of Food Jeopardy with 71 contestants
- Led 40 students on six kitchen tours
- Taught nine cooking classes for 174 children through the Healthy Kids in the Bon Appétit Kitchens program.
When you consider the fact that I’m just one of four Fellows, and that the Fellows program is approaching its 10th anniversary, it’s clear that this is a tremendous opportunity to create value in the world for recent college graduates exploring a career in sustainability.
As my Fellowship comes to a close, another word comes to mind that I don’t usually associate with business: family. Looking back, I have felt a sense of family with colleagues during long car rides to see farms, with chefs and managers while debriefing after a full day of activities, and with students seeking to improve sustainability and dining on their campuses. The Fellowship with Bon Appétit Management Company is unlike anything I’ve done before, and I am grateful for everything and everyone who has been part of this journey.