Kimberly Shoff of Madison is slated to graduate from the University of Mississippi in May with a double major in international studies and Spanish.
A member of the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Shoff has focused her research on the relationship between cultural identity and eating habits, which is the topic of her Croft senior thesis due next semester.
Study tours in San Francisco this past summer and in Bilboa, Spain, during fall 2009 gave her a firsthand look at different ways of life. Shoff says she gained more than research material from the experiences.
“I definitely learned more about myself in realizing my capabilities, discovering new interests that will help guide me in my career choices, and I have a better sense of my own identity and culture.”
As for her research, Shoff said, “I was exposed to many different and, for me, revolutionary ideas and lifestyles concerning eating habits.”
In Spain, Shoff completed 16 hours of academic credit at the Universidad de Duesto. Living with a host family, she immersed herself in the local culture and became more proficient in the Spanish language. Her travels took her to Madrid and Toledo and to points of interest in southern France.
To broaden her research, Shoff took advantage of an Honors College fellowship over the summer to explore food culture in the U.S., but outside the South. She chose San Francisco because of its ethnically diverse communities.
Working with the nonprofits San Francisco Food Bank and Food Runners, she helped deliver food to the homeless and underprivileged.
“I learned a lot about the homeless community, the way food brings that community together.”
On an “eating tour” around the city, Shoff said she observed the identification of cultures through food in communities such as Little Italy, Fisherman’s Wharf and China Town, as well as areas with Thai, Burmese and coastal influences.
She also visited in Napa County, including the wine-tasting region and organic farms in Napa Valley.
“I was able to see another very important cultural identity similar to that of the wine industry in the northern part of Spain, which is very relevant to my thesis topic,” she said, adding that she also has a “newfound interest in organic food farming and eating locally produced food.”
“I have always had an interest in different foods and cooking, and this experience was not only academically rewarding but also personally, as it solidified my passion.”
Following graduation, Shoff plans to work for a while in a job related to food and culture, after which she will attend graduate school. Her long-term goal is to work for a humanitarian aid organization, maybe for the United Nations or a foreign embassy.
For her summer study, Shoff received an Honors College fellowship. The program with Deusto is an exchange offered through the UM Study Abroad Office in which students can study abroad for the same cost of tuition as studying at UM.
The Croft Institute for International Studies is a privately endowed, selective program for students majoring in international studies to help prepare them for jobs in a global marketplace. The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College provides undergraduate students from all disciplines with a vibrant center of academic excellence, merging intellectual rigor with public service, to help them become outstanding in their fields and engaged citizens of their communities.
A graduate of Madison Central High School, Shoff is the daughter of Peg and Joe Farnham.