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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 09 | May 10, 2001

Graduate seeks vital link

Agent of change sets sights on land, food and community

by Bruce Mason staff writer

Living in the Lower Mainland, Erin Sawyer has seen strip malls and subdivisions spring from soil where crops were once cultivated and animals grazed.

"We've lost a vital link -- our awareness of where food comes from," says the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences student who has earned a Bachelor of Science in Global Resource Systems. "It doesn't suddenly appear on the table or in supermarkets."

Sawyer is among the more than 5,000 students who will graduate during the 22 Spring Congregation ceremonies spanning May 23-30. Twelve honorary degrees will also be conferred.

She isn't surprised that sensational headlines on foot and mouth disease, E. coli and contaminated water are raising concern and awareness.

"We need to get back in touch with food, back in tune with the environment," she says.

The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences has refocused on land, food and community. It's attracting more urban and international students who want to be agents for change, says Agricultural Sciences Dean Moura Quayle.

Sawyer, who intended to become a veterinarian, became more interested in conservation and finding connections between urban and rural life.

"One new program, Global Resource Systems, appealed to me because real contact with people and cultures made resource economics much more interesting."

The program requires a resource specialization such as sustainable agriculture or international development and a regional specialization in Africa, the Asia Pacific, Europe or the Americas.

Sawyer, who specialized in resource economics, studied for a term in New Zealand.

There she saw a much different agricultural system, she says.

Now she's landed a dream job -- volunteer co-ordinator for an Agricultural Sciences initiative to integrate existing south and mid-campus farm areas into a centre for sustainable urban agriculture.

"It's me," says Sawyer. "I want everyone to help prune the vineyard and trees, to get their hands in soil and grow food and awareness."

See also: Graduates think, act locally and globally


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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