Meet undergraduate student Kayla Rutland

Kayla Rutland with Tahoe, the guide dog she is training

Kayla Rutland is an active undergraduate at UConn majoring in nutritional sciences. Her interest in agriculture has not only benefitted the campus but also the local community. Here is what she said about her experiences as a student in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.

What attracted you to UConn? I came from a small high school and knew that I wanted a larger campus when I went to college. I received a full scholarship to go to UConn, and it made the most sense, overall. I liked the feel of the campus and all that it had to offer students.

Why did you choose your particular major? Originally, I came to UConn undecided and went into the Academic Center for Exploratory Students program, or ACES. I always had an interest in nutrition so I decided to take an introductory course.

During orientation, I was advised to declare a nutrition major because it would make getting into classes easier. I found that I absolutely loved the topics covered and had a real interest in sustainable agriculture. I am also minoring in biology and environmental studies.

Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? My most memorable experience was building a community garden in Willimantic. I was awarded an IDEA grant for this project, and it is also part of my honors thesis work.

I work with CLiCK (Commercially Licensed Co-operative Kitchen) to provide locally grown food for the community. CLiCK’s motto is to grow/cook/share. This program not only helps stimulate the local economy, but it is also beneficial for local farmers.

Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. I am involved with Real Slow Food at UConn and currently serve as president. As a club, we work to discuss and fix food issues. The members share common interests and want to make a positive impact on our food industry and agriculture.

I also completed an internship at Shundahai Farm, a local organic vegetable farm. I gained great hands on experience and learned about small-scale vegetable production.

What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? It is easy to take on too much in college. There are so many opportunities to get involved at a large school, such as UConn, that you have to make wise choices. It is a balancing act to handle academics and all other involvements at the University.

When do you expect to graduate? What then? I am graduating December 2015. I am currently raising a guide dog, so I plan to stay in Connecticut until that is over in February 2016.

After that, I will look for a job related to my major. I am interested in outreach and service, and I want to look into joining FoodCorps.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? During my undergraduate career, I had some interesting jobs. I took a semester off for a WWOOFing experience. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

The farms cover your food and housing in exchange for labor. It is a great way to travel and experience different parts of the world. I had the opportunity to work at Gold Bar Ranch, which is a cattle ranch in Arizona, as well as spend time on farms in Australia.

By Dominique Martin