Exploring intersection of food, sustainability and culture in Italy

June 12, 2015

When ASU student Lynnsey Bogash decided to study abroad in Italy, she had her sights set on Florence or Rome. 

She never imagined that she would spend a semester studying food and sustainability at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, which ended up being the perfect place for this nutrition major with a passion for food. ASU student Lynnsey Bogash in Italy ASU student Lynnsey Bogash spent a semester studying food and sustainability at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy. Photo courtesy Lynnsey Bogash Download Full Image

“Perugia is exactly what I pictured when I thought of Italy. It is a town full of winding, narrow, cobblestone streets, full of family-owned businesses, the Italian language and gelato shops,” said Bogash, who pointed out that the three universities in the center of the city gave her the opportunity to meet students from a number of countries.

For Bogash, the interdisciplinary Food & Sustainability Studies Program at Umbra combined her desire to study in Italy and her love of food.  Three classes make up the bulk of Umbra’s program: History and Culture of Food in Italy, the Business and Study of Wine: Italy and Beyond, and Sustainability and Food Production in Italy.

The sustainability course focuses on the significant increase in food production over the past 50 years and the ecological and social problems it has created, as well as possible solutions.  Bogash learned about the organic movement, Slow Food, innovative food technologies, and the shift toward local food – a shift happening both in America and Italy.

The Umbra Institute also requires students to take an Italian language class or a class taught in Italian.  Bogash said learning the language was essential to her time in Italy.

“Very little English is spoken in Perugia, so if you don’t know the language you are kind of out of luck," she said. “I remember being in a restaurant at the beginning of the semester and I could not order my food correctly.”

During her wine studies class, Bogash and a team of classmates worked on a project to market wine from the sustainable Roccafiore Cellars to customers in the United States.  She said she enjoyed this project because it was her first time giving a professional presentation.

One of the biggest differences she noticed between the U.S. and Italy is how long it takes to finish a meal. In Italy, once patrons get a table at a restaurant they technically have that table for the entire night while in the U.S. restaurants work to turn tables quickly.

“The food culture in Italy is very different from the food culture in America,” she said. “In Italy, food is really valued and the time spent eating food is really valued as well.  Meals can take hours to complete because people spend a lot of time visiting with their company.  Here in America, we are always rushing with our food.”

Bogash’s biggest take away has been the cultural awareness she gained studying abroad.  Before living in Italy, she would be frustrated with someone if he or she could not communicate with her.  Now she understands what it’s like not being able to speak the native language.

“I want to go into the medical field, and there is probably going to be a time when I have trouble communicating with other people,” she said.  “After knowing how it feels to be on both sides of the communication ‘problem,’ I feel as if I have increased my cultural awareness.  I’m grateful that I had this eye-opening experience before heading out into the real world.”

Linda Vaughan, director and professor in ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion in the College of Health Solutions, believes that Bogash’s experiences in Italy provide a great example of how ASU students can broaden their experiences beyond the traditional classroom. 

“As a total stranger upon her arrival in Italy navigating an unfamiliar place, Lynnsey has strengthened many important skills and will be a much more generous and supportive practitioner once she starts her professional life,” Vaughan said.  “Even if a student can’t afford to study abroad, volunteering or working with an immigrant population within their own hometown or community can offer many of the cultural opportunities describe by Lynnsey.”

Written by Kaly Nasiff

Media contact:
Denise Kronsteiner
(602) 496-0983 

Wentz appointed ASU dean of social sciences

June 15, 2015

Elizabeth Wentz, professor and director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, has been appointed dean of social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

Effective July 1, Wentz assumes the leadership role previously held by Patrick Kenney, who is now university vice provost, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. portrait of Elizabeth Wentz Elizabeth Wentz has been appointed dean of social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

"As a New American University, ASU is focused on being a global leader in elevating the stature of the social sciences as an integrative science,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said.

“Our teaching and discovery contributions range from global climate change to digital humanities, the geologic anthropocene and engineering solutions. All of which require comprehending and communicating human behavior, social dynamics, cultural differences and political interactions across broad geographic and time scales. Dr. Wentz has the background and experience to move us toward our goal.” 

“The social sciences offer creative and effective solutions to the nation's and world's most complex problems,” said Robert E. Page Jr. “Take human health outcomes. At one time the leading cause of death globally was infectious disease. Research in the social sciences identified how the urban infrastructure and human activity contributed to the spread of diseases. This knowledge led to innovative engineering solutions for sanitation systems.

“Dr. Wentz has the understanding and leadership to build connections within the university and partnerships that integrate social sciences into research, education and community efforts,” Page added, “whether for solution-building for today’s health challenges, such as obesity, or supporting new avenues for negotiating emerging challenges.” 

Wentz received her doctorate from Pennsylvania State University, and her master’s and bachelor’s from Ohio State University. She came to ASU in 1997 to focus on the design, implementation and evaluation of Geographic Information Science technologies, such as Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing and spatial analysis.

Using these tools, she analyzes human activities, physical processes and the interaction between them. Wentz’s teaching has included geographic technologies, as well as research design and proposal writing at the graduate level. She is the author of a book, “How to Design, Write and Present a Successful Dissertation Proposal,” which grew out of her graduate teaching. 

Wentz is also a senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. One question of interest for her has been how to restructure cities to be more effective in the face of global climate change, most particularly understanding the factors influencing single-family water demand.

Her modeling efforts are reflected in the Decision Center for a Desert City-developed decision tool WaterSim, designed for use by local water managers. She also delves into the tradeoffs between residential water and energy use. In addition, her work extends to studies of land cover dynamics, spatial patterns of birds and human health.

“Director and professor Elizabeth Wentz is an outstanding selection to advance the social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She is nationally and internationally recognized in her research arena, and she has been directing a highly interdisciplinary and top-ranked program in the School of Geographic Sciences and Urban Planning,” said Kenney. “She has experience working with the chairs and directors of the many and complex units in the social sciences. She grasps the power of the social sciences is to understand, explain and predict the behaviors of people as they interact with one another, their institutions and their environments.” 

ASU’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) faculty members are internationally renowned for their work developing GIS methods and software. During her tenure as director in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, the school launched a bachelor’s degree in geographic information science, one of the first programs of its kind in the U.S.

In addition to her ASU service, Wentz has been elected the 2015-2016 president for the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, “a non-profit organization that creates and supports communities of practice for GIScience research, education, and policy endeavors in higher education and with allied institutions.”

“As dean of social sciences, I will advance the social sciences within ASU, nationally, and internationally. This involves in part, reaching across the campuses to engage with all ASU social scientists and linking problems to solutions,” Wentz said.

“I also see an educational opportunity to speak with political leaders on how the social sciences have shaped and contributed to better human outcomes,” Wentz added, “so that they better understanding of the importance of the social sciences in decision making and afford appropriate funding levels.” 

There are eight academic units reporting to Wentz. The units are:

• American Indian Studies
• School of Geographical Science and Urban Planning
• Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
• School of Human Evolution and Social Change
• School of Politics and Global Studies
• School of Social and Family Dynamics
• School of Transborder Studies
• School of Social Transformation, which includes African and African American Studies, Asian Pacific American Studies, Justice and Social Inquiry, and Women and Gender Studies

There are more than two dozen research centers and institutes operating in the social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Of these, American Indian Policy Institute, Institute of Human Origins, the Melikian Center, Institute of Social Science Research, and the Consortium of Science, Policy and Outcomes will report directly to Wentz. 

In addition, Wentz will provide guidance for College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ departments of Aerospace Studies, Military Science and Naval Science.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost