Alumni Spotlight: Theresa Ong ’17

Dr. Theresa Ong | Alumni Spotlight

Date: January 19, 2021

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Ecology, Evolution, Environment & Society, Dartmouth College

Dr. Theresa Ong is a scholar activist who found personal and professional nourishment through involvement with Science For The People and volunteering at D-Town Farm. Learn more about her work and connect with her and/or learn more about research in her lab.

Did any of your experience(s) on campus lead you to your current role?

Absolutely, my MS and PhD graduate education in EEB and with members of SFSI were integral to my career in agroecology. I was advised by Dr. John Vandermeer (EEB) and had close collaborations with Ivette Perfecto (SEAS), both of whom are leaders in agroecology. I learned so much from them and through the extended ‘Perfectomeer’ family. As a student at U of M, I participated in NWAEG (New World Agriculture and Ecology Group), participated annually in BioBlitz outreach events at D-Town Farm, and was engrossed in as many agriculture events on and off campus that I could find.

Highlights include courses on Food Sovereignty at SEAS, participating in the Fast Food For Thought and guest seminars and meetings with Malik Yakini, Dick Levins, Francis Moore Lappé, Sandra Steingraber, Amy Goodman, and Bill McKibben, to name a few. I also had an amazing tour of farms in Cuba with Food-First and visited urban gardens across the USA. As a student, I was heavily involved in both teaching and outreach, as a GSI for Agroecology, Field Ecology, and Food, Energy and the Environment and co-organizer of the Teach In +50: End the War Against the Planet, the MC^2: Michigan & The Climate Crisis Bicentennial and Science with a Passion and Moral Compass conferences. I also attended and spoke at the Museum’s Science Cafe as part of my membership in Science For The People, which I helped resurrect while on campus. In addition, I loved participating in weekly “Out of the Box” discussions with my fellow OOTB-ers at Sylvio’s Pizzeria to expand my mind and challenge me to think broadly.

I would not have achieved my goals without being part of an amazingly supportive group of scholars, the Frontiers Masters Program. I think that this diversity of activities really helped me to develop myself as a well-rounded, scholar-teacher-activist.

What is one piece of advice you would give students interested in pursuing a career in food systems?

I would advise students to think broadly about what education is and to make sure to always be critical about who is speaking and for whom when it comes to food systems. Look carefully at who is representing the food movement of the moment, learn its history, and remain simultaneously hopeful and skeptical. Have fun in graduate school, there’s so much joy to be had in a free license to learn.