With her eyes set on a possible future in the food industry, Carina Immer helped organize an international food festival. In addition, she works with a sustainable coffee company to better the lives of workers living in Nicaragua. Raised in Fairfield, Immer enjoys traveling and working outdoors. Here is what she said about her experiences as a CAHNR student.
What attracted you to UConn? The agricultural economics major was attractive, and the in-state tuition was appealing to me. I visited some lectures at UConn when I was in high school and found many of the professors interesting. I hit it off with CAHNR and knew I wanted to be there.
What is your major, and why did you choose it? I chose applied and resource economics because I feel that it reflects my personality really well. It is well rounded, interdisciplinary and covers many aspects, such as politics, business and sustainable development.
I am also minoring in Latin American studies, which I think is important in an age of globalization and international trade. This minor complements my agricultural studies well because I am interested in labor rights and agricultural development in Central America.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? I am currently doing an internship with a fair-trade and single-origin coffee company called Vega, which I found out about through a fair-trade workshop held at UConn last year. Surprisingly, I was the only student that attended the conference. After listening to the CEO of Vega speak about his company, I fell in love with the business structure.
Vega is trying to change the coffee industry by giving their workers incredible wages and by handling all operations (growing, roasting, packing and shipping) in one location. I help with market research and social media, which is interesting, especially since it is a new company. I am doing this internship for Latin American studies credits, and a professor in that department advises me. It is a cool process because I am connecting and working with both UConn faculty and a private business.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. This past summer, I did an internship at Slow Food USA in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I helped plan an international food festival in Turin, Italy. Chefs, sustainable farmers, consumers and policy advocates from all over the world came together to share culture, food and their “slow food” story. I spent all summer planning Slow Food USA’s presence at the festival, which involved a lot of communication, data management, troubleshooting and logistics. This was complicated at points because I do not know Italian.
I have never learned so much in such a short time about planning and working with diverse groups of people. In September, I went to Italy to help run the festival. It was exhilarating and made me realize that I wanted to work with sustainable food systems.
I also benefited from a UConn class about the politics of the US-Mexican border. It was my favorite course because it was extremely relevant to issues occurring today. I learned so much about immigration, human rights, the US agricultural industry and the issues facing immigrants today. It gave me a lot of perspective on the topic.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? I struggled a lot with keeping my mind in the present. I spent a lot of my UConn career always thinking about my professional future or traveling. I had to remind myself to slow down, enjoy my time here as a student, live in the now and not focus on what is ahead all the time.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I expect to graduate in May 2017. I am currently chatting with a few of the people I have interned with in the past as well as doing research on new companies. I am interested in the food industry, especially in the areas of international trade policy or sustainable food systems. Because of an internship with a utility-scale solar company, I am also open to working with sustainable energy.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? To all you undergraduates reading this: No opportunity is too big for you. Don’t doubt yourself. Put yourself out there to find a great professional or travel opportunity. You never know!