Chris Vogliano Named Fulbright Semi-Finalist
Chris Vogliano received his undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics from Kent State University. Originally from Tallmadge, Ohio, Chris currently resides in Wellington, New Zealand, where he is pursuing a PhD in sustainable food systems. Chris had heard stories of other people who participated in the Fulbright Scholarship and had a fantastic time doing so, which was one motivating factor in his decision to apply; it would also provide him the opportunity to employ the skills he has been working on throughout his academic career to helping solve problems throughout the world. He applied and was named a Fulbright semi-finalist.
Chris’s proposed research concerns food waste in Indonesia, the world’s fourth-largest country in terms of population, and with a population that has been growing wealthier. While this is generally a positive development, it also correlates with an increase in food waste and unhealthier dietary habits, because the more income people have, the more likely they are to consider food a disposable resource as opposed to one that that requires the investment of significant time and effort to produce. Food waste creates buildup of dangerous methane gas, which will become a more pressing concern the more Indonesia’s population grows. If he receives a Fulbright Scholarship, Chris will move to Bogor, a suburb of Jakarta, to work with researchers at the Bogor Agricultural University and conduct research to inform statistical modeling and accurately determine how much food waste currently occurs in Indonesia. Chris says that education and prevention are crucial to adequately addressing these issues.
Chris’s interest in his chosen field of study started young: he worked a health foods store in Tallmadge while he was in high school, and he began to understand how marketing and the public’s general confusion about nutrition could worsen the disconnect between what is considered healthy or unhealthy. He started taking nutrition courses once he entered college and thought the take-home message of nutrition should be simpler. While he was a student at Kent State, Chris worked at Campus Kitchen, a branch of a national organization that recovers food that would otherwise go to waste to prepare meals for those struggling with food insecurity. He says working with families who experience food insecurity “opened his eyes” and encouraged him to take a broader look at the food system in general and how to make it more environmentally friendly and accessible in particular.
While he worked on his Fulbright application, Chris continued his PhD research; he says the two research endeavors connect well to one another. While Chris liked his original Fulbright proposal, he had the opportunity to discuss it with researchers at Bogor Agricultural University before he submitted his application, who gave him suggestions on how to revise his potential project and make it even more effective. Frank Congin of the Kent State University Honors College also offered him assistance, helping him understand how the Fulbright operates as well as serving as a cosponsor so Chris could submit his application through Kent State, along with proofreading the proposed research project.
Through the process of applying for the Fulbright, Chris learned that being patient, accommodating, and understanding are crucial, because the application takes so much time to complete. Even after he submitted his application, Chris knew it would be more than a year until he would be able to participate in the program if he were accepted, so patience was also important in that perspective. For students interested in applying for a Fulbright scholarship, he advises that students start their applications early, bounce ideas for research off of colleagues and friends, and look into countries to which they might be interested in applying and see what programs would be the best fit for them personally.
Chris believes research will be a part of his future career but not the only path he will follow; he hopes to be able to teach and possibly also work for a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization in Southeast Asia. He would absolutely love to come back to Ohio at some point, but he believes understanding what food systems look like and how they function in other regions of the world is very important. He acknowledges that “every zip code has hunger around the world” and that “there’s a lot of work to be done in America” still in relation to healthy and sustainable food systems, especially in impoverished populations. By learning from the mistakes that were made in the Western world regarding food, nutrition, and health, researchers can help prevent those mistakes from being replicated in other countries by assessing the data to discern possible solutions.