By Joanna Furgiuele
One of the key traditions of the Re:co Symposium is the Fellowship program sponsored by S&D Coffee & Tea. This program provides an avenue to encourage growth in the community attending Symposium, and opening access to those who would not normally be able to attend, for financial or other reasons. A beneficial piece of the fellowship is a mentorship component, designed to establish rapport and community prior to the event as well as increase communication among fellows and attendees during the event.
Once again, there is an incredible group of 39 Fellows spanning 16 countries and representing the incredible diversity within the specialty coffee industry. This cohort of fellows incorporates coffee producers, baristas, roasters, non-profit managers, academics, and some who bridge multiple industry areas.
While we have many new Fellows joining us for the first time each year, some Fellows are return attendees to the event. This continuity within the cohorts allows for enhanced transfer of knowledge, improved participation in the Symposium experience, and the transition of Fellows from mentee to mentor. I would like to share with you some of the unique and incredible stories of a few of our returning fellows.
Maria Botto is a coffee producer and the Manager of Alotepec Coffees in El Salvador. Recounting her entrance into the industry, she says, “my life in coffee started suddenly in 2002, when my parents needed support to continue with the family legacy. My first step was to picture me as a coffee producer and learn about running a farm, and then I started learning about coffee quality.” She clearly developed a strong vision for herself and is now an important leader in her community. Maria is the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) Chapter Leader in El Salvador. As the leader, she raised the visibility of the Chapter nationally and last October 2016 the Chapter was included within the 8 main coffee organizations in El Salvador. Maria conveys the importance of her work, stating, “producing countries tend to have similar needs… and all together we can build better conditions and sustainable incomes for our rural families.”
The nonprofit space is a critical area for creating connections that would not exist in purely business relationships. Kellem Emanuele is a returning fellow and now manager at Attego ESG Impact Solutions based in North Carolina. At ESG, Kellem works with companies identify and implement new approaches to maximize value and ensure a positive impact for both the companies and their regional stakeholders. Kellem volunteers her time and expertise with several organizations, including the IWCA. Her involvement incorporates development and execution of IWCA’s strategic plan, working with the Peru chapter to scale their impact, and developing the curriculum for the 2017 IWCA Leadership Summit.
In the area of academia and scientific investigation, we are pleased that Kate Polakiewicz and Olivia Auell are participating again in this year’s cohort of Fellows. Kate is a graduate student in International Agricultural Development at UC Davis. Her research is a study measuring interactions between soil health and the incidence of the coffee leaf rust disease, executed in partnership with Catholic Relief Services’ Central American team. Kate’s intent is to understand a range of soil management applications, provide the industry with recommendations for Best Management Practices, and create new training programs. Describing the importance of the mentorship component of the Fellowship, she says, “I benefited from great mentorship from S&D’s David Piza, and was humbled by the breadth of knowledge and experience of last year’s group of fellows.”
Olivia Auell is a graduate Student in Food Science at University of Minnesota with an interest in human flavor perception at a fundamental level. Olivia started in the industry as a barista almost 10 years ago and now she is focusing her research on the interaction of bitterness with perception of aromatics, particularly in coffee. Her drive is to communicate the findings of scientific investigation to the different to a broader audience, both within and beyond the specialty coffee community. Describing a sentiment that many fellows share, she says, “I have a deep desire to help grow a sustainable future for specialty coffee, and hope that I can offer a valuable voice to the Re:co conversation.”
If you are interested in applying for the Re:co Symposium Fellowship Program, please visit recosymposium.org later this year to view upcoming application dates.
Joanna Furgiuele is a past recipient of the Randy Wirth Memorial Fellowship and is serving as the volunteer Re:co Symposium Fellowship Manager in 2017.