We look forward to welcoming a wonderful group of new students into our programs this fall. Enjoy getting to know a few of them here.
Dedicated to closing the gap of achieving higher education, Melvin Nguyen has served as a College Access Mentor for Breakthrough New York, Let’s Get Ready, and Strive for College to support first-generation low-income BIPOC seniors navigate the complex college application process.
In addition to college access, Melvin is passionate about the power of hands-on learning in kitchen environments, working in restaurants since the age of 14. His time between the foodservice and nonprofit world has shown him the inadequacy of career and technical education in current school systems. His lived experiences have pushed him to become an ardent advocate for vocational learning and classes. As a shift leader and bakery associate at DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections, he leads team members in the daily production of safe-to-eat cookie dough. He has interned at Haley House, a community cafe and soup kitchen for the underserved. He played a key role in spearheading the refresh of catering services for their social enterprise cafe and helping teach healthy and affordable cooking classes to young community members. Recently, Melvin completed two fellowships with the Edwin Gould Foundation Accelerator and Asian Pacific Islander American Scholars Organization.
Melvin graduated from New York University this past May where he majored in Hospitality and Tourism with a concentration in Organizations and Operations and a minor in Food Studies.
Samantha Schmell is a registered and licensed dietitian whose work is deeply rooted in promoting and protecting community health through food and nutrition, right at the source: the grocery store. Her classes, workshops, and programs are engaging and leave participants inspired to make changes to improve their wellbeing. Samantha’s approach to nutrition focuses on guiding individuals to better cultivate healthy relationships with their food. Her ability to connect with others is her greatest gift. When not talking or eating food, Samantha is a known beekeeper in her community – honey tastings are her equivalent to traditional wine tastings! Samantha is also a registered yoga teacher and has been teaching yoga since 2014. Her goal with the BU Gastronomy program is to further build on her work in the community to cultivate a better understanding of food and all the ways it connects us.
Sarah VanDusseldorp’s kindergarten evaluation said it best: “Sarah asks a lot of questions.” That was true at 5 years old, and it’s still true today. Sarah’s always been curious about everything and the subjects of food and wine allow for endless exploration. Sarah has worked a variety of food jobs – dishwasher, server, bartender, barista, prep cook, baker, expo, host, sommelier, berry picker, corn detasseler, and for one week in 2008, burrito wrapper. Her curiosity draws her to new experiences, new knowledge, and new cuisines. Her curiosity also drives her to collect an outlandish number of cookbooks.
Her year of service with AmeriCorps fundraising for a hunger-relief nonprofit sparked an interest in food justice and equity. Since then, she has worked with food shelves, meal programs, and community gardens throughout the Twin Cities. She is currently a National Fundraising Specialist at American Public Media where she manages fundraising and events for a portfolio of podcasts and national radio shows including the iconic culinary show, The Splendid Table. She’s also on the editorial team of The Vintner Project, an online wine publication focused on the stories of winemakers.
Sarah attended culinary school and has an associate’s degree in applied science from the Le Cordon Bleu Americas and a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education from Hamline University in Saint Paul, MN. She’s completed wine credentials with the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Wine Scholars Guild, and Wine and Spirits Education Trust. In her spare time you can find her baking with too many sprinkles, walking her dogs Applejack and Hank, and reading on her patio with a glass of wine in hand, probably a Rhône varietal.
Tillie Loeffelholz: I will be moving to Boston from Seattle where I’ve spent the last six years working in infectious disease research. Since undergrad, I’d been on the path to attend PA school but over time realized that I did not want to move further into the medical field especially because I felt such a longing to work in the food industry. The jump from medicine and clinical research to culinary felt impossible for a long time until the past year during the pandemic when, like a lot of people, I felt more clarity and motivation to take a risk to find more fulfillment in my job.
After reading about the Gastronomy Master’s Program at BU in an old New York Times article, I was intrigued. I was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the program and the variety of paths for which the program might prepare me. I am interested in seeing what inspires me as I move through the program and exploring less traditional careers in the food industry though I haven’t yet ruled out becoming a chef and opening my own restaurant (a dream since childhood.
I decided to quit my job in Seattle in May 2021 and take the summer off to road trip across the country (while applying for school) with the hope that by the time I finished my road trip, I would be on track to start school in September. I’ve spent the last three months driving from Seattle to Iowa to Maine (with a stop to visit Boston) back west to California and now again back to Boston to stay.
I was sitting at my camp on the Colorado River in beautiful Moab on the second to last day of my trip when I found out that I’d been accepted into the program and could not be more thrilled.