Paskov in Huaraz, Peru
Trish Paskov wasted no time discovering UW's vast array of undergraduate opportunities when she started college in 2011. Seven months into her freshman year, she participated in a service-learning spring break in south Texas that opened her eyes to problems of food insecurity here in the U.S. As a senior, Trish conducted a self-directed research project on how women's empowerment affects household food security in rural areas of Mexico's central valley.
"I had never thought about how food was grown or what it was like to not have it," she said. "Learning that farmers themselves are the people most affected by food insecurity made no sense to me."
Last winter break, Trish spent three weeks surveying 100 rural households in Oaxaca to parse the factors that enable families – especially female-headed ones – to keep enough food on the table. Many low-income, rural families practice subsistence agriculture, but they also have lost their men to the fields of California's central valley.
The women whose families fare the best are the ones who have assets like land, livestock and access to credit, but they also participate in production, and hold leadership roles in their communities and decision-making power within their households, Paskov found. "This is what we mean by women's empowerment."
From that first spring break trip, Trish pursued her interest in food systems, taking the summer to work on organic farms in California. "Those farmers are passionate about food and sustainable agriculture, but I found myself more drawn to policy questions," she said, which brought her to AAE in her sophomore year. That spring, during a semester abroad in Lima, Peru, Trish interned with an organization launching a food security observatory.
During another study abroad semester in Bangkok, "I was involved in a rural policy competition and presented a sustainable agricultural policy proposal for Thai rice farmers. My team and I won first place."
These international experiences, coupled with her AAE courses, have fired Paskov's desire to work on the ground in international development and food security before applying to graduate programs. "I'd like to eventually work for the FAO or a similar organization," Trish said. She is currently exploring research positions with the Center for Global Development, Innovations for Poverty Action and similar organizations that operate all over the developing world.
Trish cites the rich undergraduate offerings in development and environmental economics in AAE, along with her research work with Jennifer Alix-Garcia
, as key factors that helped shape her goals. She graduated in May 2015 with a double major in AAE and Latin American studies, as well as AAE's new Development Certificate.
Alix-Garcia says, "Trish represents everything that we hope our undergraduates will be: smart, thoughtful, driven by social justice, and possessed of boundless energy. I have no doubt she will make a positive difference in the world."