Nikki Luke


I am originally from a small town in southwest Virginia and wanted to study agriculture in college. Yet, after visiting Pitt, I fell in love with the urban environment. I decided to major in environmental studies and economics and became engaged in community service through the Pittsburgh Student Environmental Coalition and the Pitt student garden Plant to Plate, which grows organic produce for the neighborhood food pantry. To better understand how urban gardens serve local communities in Pittsburgh, I submitted a research proposal to the UHC and received a Brackenridge Summer Research Fellowship. With the Brackenridge Fellowship, I participated in an interdisciplinary seminar, which introduced me to inspiring students, new fields of study, and different research methods. With the assistance of Holly Hickling, the Community Engagement Advisor, I was able to continue my research in coordination with a local non-profit. The great thing about the UHC is that whether you are plugged in as a freshman or a senior, it connects students of all ages and majors to academic experiences that are right for them.

I am also grateful for the advice and patience of Judy Zang and Ross Reilly in the National Scholarship Office, who helped me to apply for a Fulbright Award to the United Kingdom. I also had the opportunity to do field research on agricultural communities in China and Northern Argentina and started an honors seminar in sustainable agriculture.  Pitt faculty and advisors are passionate about students. If an academic opportunity does not exist at Pitt, the UHC advisors can help you make it possible or apply to another program anywhere in the world. As a senior, writing my thesis to complete my BPhil, I am so happy I decided to come to Pitt. While it might not have been the agriculture school that I was looking for initially, through the UHC, I was able to pursue my interests through advocacy, scholarship, and research.