Marisa Wilson works quickly in the late summer heat, setting each cauliflower sprig in a warm earth hole before patting the soil in place. When she stands at the end of the first row, dirt has left brown blushes on each of her knees.
Now a junior at Davidson College, Marisa started working on the campus farm as a way to cultivate her interest in environmental science and sustainable agriculture. Spending time weeding broccoli and planting cabbage keeps her grounded for the classroom and lab.
Marisa, 20, is attending college on a James B. Duke Scholarship, a merit-based award that goes annually to a select group of high achievers at Davidson, Furman University and Johnson C. Smith University. Funded by The Duke Endowment, and named for the Endowment’s founder, the scholarships help the three schools attract top students.
Marisa says it has allowed her to “learn for the sake of learning.” She’s majoring in environmental science, focusing on the science of agriculture and climate change and exploring the intersections of food, biology, agriculture and social policy. Through her studies, she hopes to address the broader issues surrounding access to healthy, affordable food.
On campus, it’s hard to find Marisa with downtime on her hands. She’s involved in Davidson for Climate Justice, mobilizing demonstrations and educational events to address environmental issues. Last year, she helped organize a student-led food system symposium. She’s a founding member of Davidson Syrian Medical Outreach, a student group aimed at raising money to fund a medical clinic in Aleppo, Syria. And she’s a coxswain for the men’s crew team.
In 10 years, Marisa would like to have a job developing community gardens, especially in urban areas with limited access to fresh produce. College has filled her with lots of ideas and a passion for the work.
“Davidson has opened my eyes to the many environmental and food system issues that exist in our world,” she says. “But it has also helped me understand that solutions are possible and that we all need to work to find them.”
Susan L. McConnell
Director, Higher Education