Indigenous Food Systems Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship


With the generous support of the MacKenzie Scott Foundation, Whittier College has established the Indigenous Food Systems Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship.

This fellowship will support one fellow who has an interest in food and food systems, environmental justice, indigenous food practices, and a desire to engage in a fulfilling experiential summer undergraduate research project with a faculty mentor and with a local indigenous non-profit. 

Food and food systems are at the core of systematic, historical societal injustices that are perpetuated to this day. Indigenous communities, in particular, have experienced the trauma of land dispossession and, due to federally imposed food rations provided to reservations across the US, many indigenous communities have lost connection, exposure, and knowledge of food that used to be foundational to their diet and culture. Inevitably, this disappearance of knowledge has resulted in the broader US population’s ignorance regarding indigenous food. Even more widespread is the lack of appreciation for the ecosystem benefits associated with traditional farming practices, focused on climate-adapted crop varietals. Losing cultural food knowledge does, therefore, lead to loss of ecosystem services that benefit society as a whole. There is a growing recognition of the essential role that indigenous knowledge has on sustainable farming practices, especially in connection to the increasing biodiversity loss and climate change. A food movement is currently taking place, in which indigenous chefs, with the support of their tribal members, work on casting new light on indigenous food. 

Among the main objectives of this fellowship are:

  • Systematic data collection pertaining to culturally relevant crops and edible vegetation for the area;
  • Collection and organization of information regarding indigenous chefs at the forefront of the food movement;
  • Compilation of plants and crops to be introduced in the campus garden and adjacent open space;
  • Establishment of experimental plots for indigenous plant species. 

The fellow will work under the direct supervision of Professor Cinzia Fissore and will be mentored by tribal biologist Matthew Teutimetz.

Eligibility Criteria

  • First-years, sophomores, or juniors in good academic standing; Seniors eligible if graduating the following Fall semester
  • Open to students of any major or academic program

Selection Criteria

  • The project will enhance the student's academic experience.
  • The personal essay is compelling and well-written.
  • There is an evident passion and interest in the topic at the core of this guided fellowship.

 Program Benefits

  • A stipend of $4,000 (to be used for research activities).
  • The faculty mentor will also receive a stipend of $500 upon completion of the project.

Applying to the Program

The application is due on March 4, 2024. Use this guide to gather your application documents. Request these items two weeks prior to the deadline.

A complete application consists of:

  • Unofficial academic transcripts.
  • Current semester Course Progress Report for each 3-4 credit course you are enrolled in.
  • Signed sample Student Contract.
  • Signed Mentor Contract.
  • A reference contact from someone outside your major and the project’s area of focus. This can be a faculty member or, when applicable to the project, a personal reference (e.g., employer, internship supervisor, volunteer coordinator).
  • A essay ( less than 1000 words) explaining how you became interested in the project, why you want this fellowship opportunity, how you will benefit from the fellowship both personally and professionally, and what personal qualities (skills, attributes, and/or abilities) you possess that will ensure a successful fellowship experience, including your ability to work independently, organizational skills, and how you will contribute to the team.
  • Selected semi-finalists may be interviewed. 

Fellowship Advisor

Professor Cinzia Fissore

Past Fellows

Samantha Abad (2023)
Lucia Piner (2023)