Q&A with Melanie Colvin ’19, Global Food Initiative Fellow 2018-2019

Melanie Colvin, a second year PHN Master’s student, received a fellowship to work with the Global Food Initiative (within the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources division) on projects related to improving food security and agricultural sustainability. She shared some information about her fellowship with us, and you can read more about Melanie’s position here.

Q: What are your main roles as the GFI fellow?

Melanie: In collaboration with a group of UC researchers, I will be the lead author on a comprehensive report that will propose suggestions for addressing issues related to the intersection of housing insecurity and food insecurity in California.

Q: What specific projects are you focusing on or helping develop?

Melanie: I am writing a report about housing and food insecurity that is both timely for California and one of the first of its kind. Due to the high cost of living, the intersection of housing insecurity and food insecurity is particularly pronounced in California. Those living without a home or with very unstable living accommodations affects an unfortunately large portion of Californians, especially in urban areas.

The goal of circulating this report is to provide a tool for professionals working within UC ANR and externally as a foundation for developing initiatives that combat housing and food insecurity in California to improve the health of Californians. Some features of the report include a literature review, gaps in the literature, case studies in which housing and food insecurity have successfully been addressed together, and next steps.

Q: How has this position influenced your career aspirations once you graduate with an MPH in nutrition? Do you hope to work in a similar field?

Melanie: The experience of creating a piece of writing from scratch with an end goal of widely influencing human health in some fashion is pertinent to my professional goal of being a health disparities researcher. Consistent with this goal, I plan to obtain my PhD after receiving my MPH. My role as a GFI fellow thus far has not been cut and dry with a formula for success—that is not how research projects go. The fellowship provides a space to apply my knowledge and use creativity to problem solve using empirical methods.

Q: Do you have any advice for students who hope to get a position like yours in the future?

Melanie: Think outside the box. Do not be afraid of having no rubric as you do in class. Talk to people, make connections, make your goals clear to those who can help propel you professionally. Speak your mind, be direct with what you can and wish to do with your project, and be the leader you have been trained to be. Do not use fear as an excuse for inaction!