senior spotlight: dylan campos ’24

Our 33 class of 2024 ENVS linked majors have primary majors in 15 different departments, from film to government to feminist, gender and sexuality to chemistry. This diversity reflects the deep and widespread interest in environmental issues on the Wesleyan campus and our incredibly fertile coexist community! Dylan Campos ’24 (he/they) is a history and environmental studies major with a minor in global engagement. Learn more about Dylan, below!

Hello Dylan! Would you like to share a bit about yourself with coexist readers?

I’m originally from Branford, Connecticut, a suburb right next to New Haven. I’m a senior history and environmental studies major with a minor in global engagement. I work with Sunrise Wesleyan, the newly revived Environmental Solidarity Network, and Wesleyan’s International News Group. I also help around the Sustainability Office and the Bailey COE sometimes!

What is the central question or area of research you’ve been examining for your thesis?
A lot of my environmental work personally revolves around my passion for food justice and agriculture. One question that I’ve been thinking about is, how can we mobilize communities to combat food insecurity? For the past couple of years, a lot of the work that I do has been looking at both rural and urban populations, considering what struggles they face, what the history is of where they are, and how that history impacts the way they secure and grow food or can’t secure and grow food. That is at the core of what I’m looking at: seeing how people on a community level feed themselves.

Was there any reason you were drawn to studying food justice?
As a Peruvian American, my culture has roots in food being important and vital to the family. I grew up loving food and helping my mom cook. It wasn’t really until later in life, around high school, and then especially when the pandemic hit, that I saw a lot of the reality in politics surrounding food and how people secure food and often how people unfortunately cannot secure food.

I became interested in how we grow food in our capitalistic world. We don’t talk much about farms and agriculture as being one of the biggest pillars of our society. Looking closer at agricultural systems, I saw many issues, for the environment, workers, and, later, in the supply chain, surrounding receiving and giving food.

Are there any communities in particular that you have focused on throughout your research?
For my thesis, I’ve been focusing more on urban populations. I want to address communities that are overlooked and at the same time need the most attention. Immediately I thought I would look at cities in the Global South, and that brought me to Latin and South America. I decided to focus my thesis on Buenos Aires in Argentina.

How has your experience as a history major influenced your thesis so far?
My thesis pertains to food insecurity in Buenos Aires. I’ve been looking at the history of Argentina as a nation, specifically how it has handled its agricultural sector, and how systems of urban planning and zoning impact the ability to feed the urban city centers.

As a history major, how I view food and my research can take a lot of different social science approaches, through sociology, anthropology, political science, and even economics. I wanted to use these approaches to tell a story. I believe history as a discipline is about the way that humanity tells stories and passes them down. The people who tell those stories believe that they’re important and that they need to stay in the memory of our society. I wanted to tell the stories and perspectives of people in Buenos Aires, specifically.

One of the most important historical moments I’m researching took place during the Argentine Dictatorship, and I want to highlight the stories and narratives of hunger and poverty in that time. It was definitely not an easy time for many people and there were lots of different social and human rights issues. Hunger and food insecurity is one problem that is a little overlooked. It is still an issue that plagues Buenos Aires to this day, and so I wanted to learn more about it.

What drew you to studying Buenos Aires specifically?
Originally, when I was thinking about trying to find cities in the Global South, I wanted to study the histories of how their nations came to be, how these cities formed, and how they handle their food systems. I’ve learned from my research that food insecurity is not the same everywhere. Similarly, a lot of the solutions and ways to mitigate food insecurity, are not a one size fits all policy either. When I came across this story about a neighboring city in Argentina, Rosario, and learned that they have flourishing urban agriculture and an urban farming program as a part of their city and municipality legislature, I realized that urban farming can be feasible as one way to mitigate food insecurity. This is not a popular opinion based on my research because often urban farming is seen as an infeasible solution in many cities. I became more interested in why it worked in Rosario, which led me to come across Argentina’s long and complex history with its government, the way it handles its economy, and Argentina’s role in the world as a highly interconnected, very active participant, in global trade and in food.

Argentina is one of the biggest exporters of soybeans and yerba mate. Argentina, and many Latin and South American countries, are integral to global food and agriculture, especially in trade. It’s a nation I wanted to highlight, and I was fortunate enough to not only be there once but twice in Buenos Aires and Argentina, both during my time studying abroad this past spring and again with the support of a COE summer fellowship grant last summer.

Where did you study abroad?
It was called “Cities in the 21st Century,” an urban planning and politics program, which took me to three different countries throughout the semester: Argentina, Spain, and South Africa. In general, the program is very experiential and unorthodox, encouraging open learning. Not only did I work on various projects and collaborate with community partners through the classes, but there was also a giant comparative analysis research project that lasted the entire semester. I focused on studying food vendors: understanding the supply and chain dynamics of how cities receive and distribute food to their citizens and residents. I was able to talk to vendors, farmers, and community members about food, how they acquire or grow it, and the discussions about food insecurity and hunger in all three of these cities. While they had similarities in their issues, each had unique experiences and vastly different attitudes and cultures around food. It was very interesting and eye-opening for me, shaping the way I perceive food in a global context.

Do you have a favorite Argentinian food?
A: While I was in Argentina, I liked milanesa, which is very popular there. It’s deep-fried meat, which could be chicken or steak, often served with pasta or rice, and I really liked it! Also, being in the northeast, especially near New York, we believe that we have the best pizza in the country and arguably the best pizza in the world. It was interesting to me that Buenos Aires, because of its history with connections and influence with a lot of European countries like Italy and France, has amazing pizza. I was pleasantly surprised that the pizza was really great!

Is there anything else you would like to share with our coexist community, or advice for Wes students with similar interests?
As an environmental studies major, I really do appreciate how interdisciplinary the program is. I also appreciate how supportive and generous the Bailey College of the Environment has been helping me conduct this research and support my thesis. I definitely encourage students to engage with the COE if the environment is something they are passionate about and to explore adjacent interests, like food. There are many opportunities to learn about food on campus, like working with food rescue or the food co-op at Long Lane Farm. In general, if you care about the environment, get involved in local politics and related activism through groups like Sunrise Wesleyan. There are many ways to get involved!