Willits Food Systems Summer Fellows

Call for Applications

Willits Food Systems Fellows Summer Program

We welcome applications from current Sweet Briar students for the first class of the Willits Food Systems Fellows Summer Program, to be held in Summer 2021.  This program will combine hands-on experience in campus agricultural operations with opportunities to pursue other diverse endeavors related to agriculture, natural resources management, and food systems, including research, community engagement, advocacy, and communications.   The program is open to students from all academic programs.  Students may participate in the program for a total of 10 to 12 weeks.

This program has the following goals for participants:

  1. Students gain hands-on experience in diverse activities related to production agriculture and natural resources management (including growing, marketing, distribution, communications, leadership, and stewardship)
  2. Students develop understanding of the complexity of food systems through first-hand experience, readings, observations, and inquiry 
  3. Students build capacity for sustainable and resilient community food systems on Sweet Briar’s campus and in the region
  4. Students have increased awareness of career opportunities and pathways related to agriculture and natural resources management


  • Must be a continuing Sweet Briar College student
  • Required coursework: CORE 140 (or equivalent) or ENVR 201 
  • Must be able to walk two miles, lift 25 lbs, bend/squat, and work in summer outdoors and greenhouse conditions
  • International students must contact Dr. Powell before applying, to discuss visa requirements


  • Additional coursework in environmental science, biology, or chemistry
  • Work experience in agriculture, food-related retail, or education

Program parameters:

Students may participate in the fellows program for 10 to 12 weeks; financial support will be prorated accordingly.  Students participating for 12 weeks must start no later than 17 May, but may start as early as 10 May.

This is a full-time program, and students will work 40 hours per week; students will rotate weekend hours.

Each student will spend ~25 hours each week engaged in work supporting campus food production and natural resources management.  Practically speaking, many of these hours will be spent in the greenhouse, including both the soil-based and hydroponics operation, but there will also be work in the apiary, community garden, markets/market preparation, composting, and other areas on campus.   Appropriate training will be provided. 

The remainder of the 40 hours per week will be allotted to facilitated group learning activities such as films, speakers, discussion groups, and field trips (ranging from ~1-5 hrs per week, varying weekly), and each student’s pursuit of an individual project (ranging from ~10-14 hrs per week, varying weekly).  These projects will be cooperatively designed by each student and Dr. Powell, and will relate directly to each student’s interests and career goals, including such activities as mini agricultural field research projects, feasibility studies on future agricultural or conservation endeavors for the College, collaborating with local community organizations on projects that meet their needs, pursuit of a food systems-related certification, or producing communications materials about current policy issues. 


  • Fellows will receive a stipend of $425 per week, paid on the College’s biweekly payroll schedule.  Note that this is taxable.
  • Fellows will receive on-campus housing with kitchen facilities; local students should discuss options with Dr. Powell.
  • Based on submission of a budget proposal, fellows can receive funds for direct costs related to their individual projects (e.g. costs of soil tests, costs of materials for a workshop).

Please note that a meal plan is not included with housing.  Students will have access to some produce grown on campus, and they may choose to tend plots in the community garden.

Application process

Students should submit the following to Dr. Lisa Powell by email (lpowell@sbc.edu) by 9pm on 25 February:

  • 1-2 page (~400-800 word) statement of interest in the program, including how this food systems-focused experience fits into one or more of the following areas: a. applicant’s program of study or extracurricular leadership at Sweet Briar, b. applicant’s post-graduation goals (e.g. career, grad school), or c.  applicant’s interest in community engagement, activism, or public service
  • A 0.5-1 page summary of an idea for a potential individual project (note, this is not binding, and the actual project will be determined in collaboration with Dr. Powell)
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • List of three academic, professional, or extracurricular references, including their names, email address, phone number, and context in which they know the applicant (e.g. “Professor in CORE 120 and Academic Advisor).  Please note that letters are NOT required in the first stage of application.

Please remember that the Career Services Office is a campus resource that can assist you in assembling your application materials.  The Career Services Canvas site has guidelines for preparing a resume and other useful information.

Please contact Dr. Powell (lpowell@sbc.edu) with any questions about the program or application process.