When Asha Warner ’15 signed up for a course on public policy in the spring of her sophomore year she had no idea that it would spark the idea for the capstone project of her college experience. But it was in that course where the political science major and Mandarin Chinese minor first discovered her interest in policy analysis, which she used, two years later, to explore sustainability and local food systems in “Farm Fresh Foods: A Policy Analysis of Local Food Programs,” her thesis with advisor Zachary Oberfield.
“I have an interest in sustainable agriculture and the promotion of locally grown produce,” says Warner, “as sustainably grown local foods can have a positive impact both on the environment and on local economies.”
In the end, however, that course didn’t just inspire a thesis, but a career path. Warner is looking towards to a life in public policy, where she hopes that “researching and writing this policy analysis [will have provided] valuable skills for future professional work.”
What are the implications for your thesis research?
My thesis discusses the implementation of community gardens, community-supported agriculture, and farm-to-school programs within municipalities. From my research, the benefits and disadvantages of each program—in terms of the political feasibility of implementation, the cost to municipalities, the community inclusion, and the effectiveness of produce distribution—can be realized.
What is your biggest takeaway from the project?
The biggest lesson I learned from the thesis process is that the evaluation of real-world public policy is not perfect. There will be limitations on the data [that] exists, the original data collection [that] can be completed, and the conclusions [that] can be derived. I learned that it is important to acknowledge these analytic deficiencies while still forming meaningful conclusions based on the existing evidence.
Photo: Lance Cheung/USDA
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.