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Adventures Across Disciplines

Barista, Micro-gardener, and Dedicated Researcher

Jetting off for an Spanish internship in Spain in the Fall, Jane Morrisey continues an interdisciplinary adventure that began years ago. Earlier this summer, the junior Latin American Studies major jumped into a housing contract in New York City with both feet. On a spontaneous bike ride, she saw a job posting as a barista and opted to work there while drafting her thesis among the high rises and dense populations of New York City. She is truly living the life of a cinematic main character. This desire for adventure and willingness to roll up her sleeves have been key characteristics of Jane’s entire undergraduate career.

Jane started off college as an illustration major focused on developing her art skills. It wasn't until her mission in Scottsdale, Arizona that she realized she could do greater good as a Latin American Studies major. On her mission, she was able to work among underprivileged Hispanic populations, and she quickly saw the difference personal connections made in creating lasting change in those populations. With her new major, Jane hoped to work with locals in Latin America to solve problems as opposed to falling into the trap of white saviorism, where solutions are often temporary and superficial. She explored agricultural instability while completing a Ballard Center Social Innovation Project, and she learned more in sociology classes about the necessity of change.

In Spring 2020, Jane was chosen to participate in an internship in Latin America, teaching and facilitating self-reliance classes. She was especially interested in the possibility of going to Peru, where her friend Tamra Bassett, Associate Professor at Idaho State University, has worked to provide food security and medical services. Eager to start pitching in, Jane was incredibly disappointed and confused when the world was shut down in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She lost her internship as well as any prospect of traveling to Peru.

Instead of allowing the sudden gap in her schedule to scare her away, Jane quickly applied to the Honors Project Fellowship Program to begin research on her thesis. She secured funding for both Spring and Summer terms, which allowed her to remain productive while the world stalled. Her research focused on how food security is affected by the mass exodus of Peruvians from cities to the countryside. Her initial theory was that the lack of food security in cities due to distribution failures was causing people to move to the more agricultural countryside, where food was more accessible. However, her research exposed that moving was mostly caused by the desire to be close to family during the pandemic, and food security was a problem in the countryside due to the lack of infrastructure to accommodate the mass migration. Overpopulation causes a strain on food production, which results in migrants mostly eating food with low nutritional value for its cost.

This fellowship project blossomed into Jane’s proposed thesis. She hopes to travel to Peru in the winter to see firsthand where food insecurity is occurring. Jane will be investigating to what level chosen cuisine (choosing unhealthy foods) and accessibility (only having access to unhealthy foods) affect food insecurity.

Jane is not satisfied with just completing research--she wants to do something more. After completing her fellowship, and knowing that access to healthy food was a problem, she wanted to see how feasible gardens could be in the mountains of Peru. This resulted in her creation of a soda can microgarden. Jane used old cans as pots that she could leave on a windowsill or fasten to a gate. To accommodate for the differences in Provo versus Peruvian climate, she looked into what plants grow best in Peru--squash, tomatoes, and peppers--and adjusted sun, soil, and water to Peruvian levels. When her garden was a success, Jane used her artistic skills acquired as a previous pre-illustration major to write and illustrate a book in Spanish explaining how to plant a soda can garden. Jane says she felt a little out of her element while working on the project, since she had never been to Peru or gardened before. She had to rely on her interdisciplinary skills in Spanish, illustration, and social science to create the successful project. Jane hopes to use her book to teach 11- to 16-year-olds how to create soda can microgardens while she is in Peru this coming winter.

In addition to her work on microgardens and Peruvian food security, Jane has also spent time in the BYU branch of the Washington Model Organization of American States. Model OAS focuses on proposing and debating solutions to problems affecting the American continents. These problems range from policing and child trafficking to refugee treatment and now pandemic regulations. Representing Columbia on the Special Topics committee, Jane researched how member states could best prepare for a future pandemic while recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her team proposed that there should be technology benchmarks, such as wi-fi and laptops, for educational departments to meet. These benchmarks would ensure access to a quality education for all students, even while quarantining at home. When their resolution was put to vote at the Model OAS virtual conference in April 2021, it passed! It was at this moment that Jane felt the joy of how research and action can produce beautiful results.

Honors classes solidified Jane’s passion for learning through interdisciplinary means. In Honors 223, she learned how to look at astronomy through a philosophical and artistic lens. As an artist and scientist herself, this method of viewing the world appealed greatly to Jane. In her Honors 320 essay, she explored the question, “Do I have a purpose in life?” through an interdisciplinary lens as well.

Jane has a full plate before she graduates, but it is clear that her passion for helping others by using her numerous talents will make the journey a successful one.

Jane is double majoring in Spanish Studies and Latin American Studies with a minor in International Development. When she isn't researching or getting laws passed in Model OAS, she enjoys playing piano, violin, guitar, and organ or doing mixed martial arts. As a native of Pocatello, Idaho, she enjoys hiking and biking as well. Jane graduates in April 2022 and hopes to pursue a career in nonprofit humanitarian efforts.