I was born in Dallas, Texas, and I spent most of my childhood in the DFW Metroplex with a brief stint in Worcester, Massachusetts where I gained some experience with actual winter weather. My mother, a native Texan, raised me to appreciate southern cuisine, Tex Mex, and Texas BBQ. My father, a New Englander, inspired my initial interests in elections and taught me to approach politics and food with an open mind. He also passed on his love of cooking, and I hope one day I can make dishes that reflect our Greek heritage as flawlessly as he does.
I completed my undergraduate studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Encouraged by my professors to pursue academic research, I completed various projects and developed an interest in political science as a discipline. Conducting participant observation research during the 2012 New Hampshire Primary for my Senior Honors Thesis sealed the deal that I wanted to become a professor and continue my studies of American politics. Immediately following my tenure at TCU, I began graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Graduate school was quite an experience to say the least. The six years I spent at UNC were a time of personal and professional growth. Seminars allowed me to realize my true research interests lie in the realm of political psychology, specifically the politics of identity and intergroup relations. However, serving as a teaching assistant and eventual sole instructor were the most enjoyable aspects that allowed me to speak about the discipline with highly motivated students. Conducting research can be enriching, but it also can be isolating, which proved to be a struggle for my extroverted self.
Students in one of my summer school classes suggested that I post pictures of the desserts I made them on Instagram, so I obliged. I had no idea this hobby would provide such a welcome sense of relief from increasing academic pressures that affect all students as they mature and become PhD candidates. I applied on a whim to be a contributor to a local food blog. Upon my acceptance, I met so many people who comprise the Triangle “foodie” scene. Attending food media events at night helped motivate me to work on my dissertation during the day. However, writing about restaurants and foods ended up being my favorite aspect of this new “side hustle.”
While I enjoyed dreaming up clever Instagram captions for my homemade creations and restaurant favorites, I especially appreciated my first opportunity to pitch a story to a local newspaper about a new Chapel Hill restaurant. Writing for INDY Week restored my love of writing during an especially trying time of dissertating. Additionally, this paper both welcomed and encouraged pieces that told a story about the food beyond describing it using innovative adjectives. Exploring the social and political implications of various foods along with evaluating the impact of the restaurants on their respective communities made me realize that this hobby did, in fact, relate to my “real job.”
I joked with my friends that I wanted to combine my two interests, which made sense given my ENFJ/Enneagram Type 7 personality, but seemed like a pipe dream. That is until I pitched an idea to develop a “Food Politics” course at Penn State during my job market interview. After accepting a position at Penn State as a Assistant Teaching Professor, people seemed to take this idea seriously, and most importantly, I started taking myself seriously. My short term goals include planning this course and exploring the local food scene in State College, and my long term goals include serving as a food writer in Pennsylvania and conducting academic research on this intersection of food and politics.