A deferred acceptance to a psychology graduate program turned into a trip around the world for Bea Rogers, AP05, in 1968. She left her home in New York and traveled east, unaware that this trip would be the start of a life’s work. "I saw all the hunger and poverty in the world and got really interested in international issues of malnutrition," she says. There was only one question left: how to turn this interest into a career?
"In those days, you couldn’t ‘Google’ degree programs," says Rogers, director of the Food Policy, and Applied Nutrition program at the Tufts Friedman School. "One of the reasons I am such a believer in Tufts is that it provides a path for students who have the will to make the commitment to this field, but need the education and training first." Rogers, the former dean of academic affairs at the Friedman School, says, "It’s a priority to treat our students like junior colleagues, involving them in our research, and really trying to give them all the opportunities they crave."
One way Rogers helps to ensure that students have these opportunities is by giving to the Friedman School annual fund. "Supporting the annual fund is a great way for me to express my dedication to the students and the school’s mission."
As careers in nutrition have evolved throughout the years, the Friedman School has developed specializations within each department to accommodate students’ needs and prepare them for the future, Rogers explains. One of the goals of all the programs at the School is making sure students are exposed to both the biomedical and policy sides of the nutrition sciences.
She says she aims to prepare students for the job they will have 10 years from their graduation, but also for their first job out of school. "We mix real, hands-on experience with broad knowledge and philosophy about nutrition and food policy—that’s something that’s driven us since the beginning."
Rogers is currently part of a two-year project in Bolivia, Kenya, and Honduras that focuses on studying how to maintain the impact of food- aid programs in low income countries—programs that are being closed down in all but 17 countries. Rogers and her team will collect data before and up to two years after the programs end, assess the value of each strategy, and make recommendations on how to sustain the impact of the programs. She hopes that her research, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will be used in the design of future food- aid programs. Rogers hires students and alumni to help with her work whenever she can, she says. She recently hired a graduate to aid her in Kenya, and a current study to work on the Bolivia study. "There’s absolutely no better training than what you learn in a professional situation," she says.
Rogers’ enthusiasm for fieldwork is rivaled only by her excitement about time spent in the classroom, sharing her stories with her students. "The more you are engaged and involved in research, the more you are adding to the fund of knowledge you can share," says Rogers, who finds that she learns a tremendous amount from her students. "Many students in our program already have real-world experience. Nothing pleases me more than when a student stands up and explains from a firsthand perspective how things work in certain countries."