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Therese Savery-Connors

College: CUNY Baccalaureate Degree
Awards: Accepted to Tulane University master's in disaster resilience leadership science, 2012

Outstanding Student

"I was nine when I wrote my first college application essay," says Therese Savery-Connors. "It was to Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island. I told them all about how I wanted to be a chef when I grew up."

When she graduated from high school at 17, the youngest in her class, Savery-Connors (CUNY BA, College of Staten Island, BS in Food Service Administration for Disaster Relief, 2012 ) wasn't as interested in cooking as she was in changing the world: She sat on the town council, ran peer counseling groups and had taken classes in politics and economic development at SUNY New Paltz, where she completed more than 40 credits but left without a degree. She then went back to her first love, cooking.

"I have a thousand tales to tell of a dozen years in kitchens across America: the resorts, the cruise ships, the formal French apprenticeship that earned me the pleats in my toque," she says.

Next, she volunteered to cook for people in New Orleans and Houston after Hurricane Katrina. Her degree plan in CUNY BA is an outgrowth of that experience. She wants to transfer her skills from luxury restaurants and banquet halls to soup kitchens and food pantries to benefit people during disasters.

Working with Professor Elizabeth Schaible, she chose courses from City Tech, John Jay and the College of Staten Island that covered social services, public policy, organizational management, nutrition, food safety, emergency planning and workforce management. She was selected for the NYU/Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine Health Career Opportunity Program for summer 2011, where she provided direct human services and learned about the U.S. health-care system, policy, ethics and working with people with disabilities. She later completed an internship through the College of Staten Island's Bertha Harris Women's Center aimed at campus-community engagement and activism based around women's issues. She participated in the CUNY Women's Center Council and was hired to be assistant to the director of student affairs, focusing on career services and women's centers.

In spring 2011, CUNY BA awarded her 15 life-experience credits in culinary arts, baking, dining room operations and food and beverage cost control. In summer 2011, she was awarded the Marsha Palanci Cornerstone Hospitality Award by Les Dames d'Escoffier, an organization of professional women in the culinary/hospitality industry.

Academically, her interests have turned toward research: She is designing primary research on food safety perceptions and behaviors of volunteer food-service workers and studying how policy is implemented in the United States, federal-state structure in food safety and emergency management, deconstructing legislation and recommending action in the way increased federal emergency grant funding is used to improve public health and food safety.

For this project, she has sought support and inclusion in programming sponsored by the Red Cross, the Council on Foreign Affairs and the Christian Regenhard Center for Emergency Response Studies at John Jay.

Savery-Connors has been accepted to Tulane University in New Orleans for the master's in disaster resilience leadership science program and will start in the fall.