Finding her path: Clara Metzler ’18 combines her passion and academic interest into a fulfilling career

Clara Metzler walking in a greenhouse

Clara Metzler’s path to college looks a bit different than the average student’s. Metzler ’18 attended college in upstate New York for a few years, spent time working in Washington state and traveled abroad to India before she decided to return home to the area and attend Bridgewater College.

The decision worked out well for Metzler, who said being a transfer student in her mid-20s allowed her to develop deeper connections with her professors. Her sociology 101 professor, Senior Instructor Skip Burzumato, first introduced her to the idea of combining her passion for food justice with her interest in sociology.

“I couldn’t speak more highly of the professors at Bridgewater because they really helped shape me into who I became and where I wanted to go,” Metzler said.

Metzler majored in sociology with a minor in cultural studies and a concentration in nutritional science, and her summer research project, made possible through a Research Experience @ Bridgewater grant, focused on “A Qualitative Analysis of the Emergency Food System in Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg Virginia.”

Metzler’s sociological research on food pantries in the area and the need of people who rely on them as a source for food served as a launch pad for additional summer research projects by other Bridgewater students. Sydney McTeague ’19 planted a community garden at the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren as a way to supply fresh produce to local food pantries, and Lauren Buckhout ’20 focused on the educational aspect of the garden for area school-aged children.

Today, Metzler is using her food and sociology background as the Associate Director of Farm Operations at Project Grows in Verona, Va. Project Grows is an educational nonprofit focused on improving the health of youth through garden-based education and access to healthy food. The organization works with children and their families to bridge the gap in access to affordable, nutritious produce.