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Dal AC a transforming rural experience for urbanized student

Lauren Pattison, a fourth-year student at the Dalhousie University Campus in Bible Hill, is looking for volunteers to participate in a short focus study involving the tasting of coconut water.
Lauren Pattison, a fourth-year student at the Dalhousie University Campus in Bible Hill, is looking for volunteers to participate in a short focus study involving the tasting of coconut water. - Harry Sullivan

BIBLE HILL, N.S. – When Lauren Pattison looked across the snow-covered campus fields and saw the young lambs scampering about, her decision was made.

“It just looked beautiful,” she said, of her first visit to the Dalhousie University Agricultural Campus. “And there were lambs running around everywhere on campus and it was like unlike anything I would ever experience in Ontario. So, I thought, why not.”

That was in March 2014. Come May, Pattison will be graduating from a four-year international food business program with a Bachelor of Agriculture from Dalhousie.

Because of the international aspect of the program she will also receive a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Aeres University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

Pattison, 21, of Mississauga, Ont., decided on Dalhousie as her university of choice after a computer search enlightened her to its international food business program.

“I knew I wanted to study business and I love food and I know everyone has to eat and I like to travel,” she said, with a laugh. “And I figured it’s a good industry to get into.”

After visiting the campus with her parents in the winter of 2014, her mind was set.

“It just felt like the place to be,” she said. “I think it was just so different, and I mean … where else would I get that experience, you know, to live immersed in agriculture, whereas I’ve been immersed in a completely urbanized environment my whole life. To learn more about that and to be fully engulfed in it I thought would be a great experience. And it has been.”

Her first-year studies began with a one-week orientation in Iceland, where her class met up with their European counterparts, primarily from the Netherlands and Germany. The orientation included a broad overview of business, economics and finance marketing - all based on a food and agriculture foundation.

Her second year of study was held at the Aeres University, during which Pattison and her fellow students studied with their counterparts they had met in Iceland. Those studies were followed by a three-month internship at a cold-pressed Juice company called Juice915 in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

During the third year, the Aeres University students came to the Dalhousie campus in Bible Hill. At the end of those studies, Pattison was involved in a five-month internship at Bamford Produce in Mississauga.

And that experience set her off in the direction she hopes to follow as a career.

“Ideally, I’d like to work in international operations or relations with an agri-food company, preferably the produce food industry,” she said. “It’s just so fast paced.”

The experience was so positive, in fact, that Pattison is continuing to work with Bamford Produce as part of her fourth-year research project/undergraduate thesis.

The requirements for the thesis it that it has to have an international aspect as well as involving food and be business related. And for Pattison, it also involves conducting a focus study to learn more about market research.

“I wanted to develop a skill that I’d be able to pitch to a future employer or just build on for my future,” she said.

The findings from that study have to be formatted into a formal research paper.

Looking back over the past four years, Pattison said the entire experience has been positive, with ongoing support from faculty and students alike.

“The person I came here as, is not the person I am now. I’ve grown into a young professional,” she said. “Through the internships and everything that the program offers, I just feel ready to get out there and start contributing to society as a young professional … I feel like I have a broad knowledge of both agriculture and business.”

And it all began from that awe-inspiring moment of watching young lambs playing in fresh-fallen snow.

The Focus Study

Dalhousie University student Lauren Pattison is looking for volunteers to participate in a focus study involving taste-testing a new, international coconut water.

The purpose of the study is to conduct a market research on people’s reactions to the new product.

“Ideally, I’d like people who already drink coconut water, so they’d already have their preferences established,” she said.

Pattison is looking for seven to nine persons, aged between 18 and 35.

The study, expected to last about 90 minutes, will take place on Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Dalhousie University Agriculture Campus in Bible Hill.

Participants will receive $25 gift cards from either Sobeys or the Atlantic Superstore.

For more information, call Pattinson at 416-453-8296 or by email at Lauren.Pattison@dal.ca .

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