Welcoming new students, part IV

The Gastronomy Program looks forward to welcoming these new students for the upcoming semester.

Meaghan AgnewMeaghan Agnew once harnessed food for malevolent intent when, at the age of 2, she attempted to stuff an entire head of lettuce down her baby sister’s throat. But she soon learned that ingredients should be appreciated, not weaponized, and thus began a lifelong love affair with the cultivation and appreciation of food.

After earning a degree from Brown University in the vaguely useful field of sociology, she embarked on a fifteen-year lifestyle journalist career, writing for outlets like the Boston Globe, Fodor’s, and Tasting Table. She spent four years as the Boston editor of the now-departed DailyCandy and is currently the editor of Racked Boston, part of Vox Media. (Because she needs to pay her bills, tuition and otherwise, she also works as a senior editor and social media manager at the BU School of Public Health). Through the Gastronomy program, she’s hoping to burnish her food-writing skills — or maybe ditch her writing career entirely and become a New Zealand cheesemaker.

When she’s not fulfilling her wanderlust (Costa Rica will probably be her last great adventure for a little while), she shares a refurbished Victorian in the Savin Hill part of Dorchester with her husband Dan, her insane hound dog Watson, and her unflappable cat Spoon.

Therese Enders’s love of food can be easily traced to her large Lebanese family and the therese endersattendant happy memories of cooking and eating together (as well as the occasional unhappy memory, say, of getting caught tossing Jello Jigglers onto Grandma’s roof). She also read far too much Little House on the Prairie as a child and for a long time dreamed of becoming a homesteader. Although that’s unlikely to happen, she did marry someone from North Dakota who is descended from homesteaders, which is just as good.

This fondness for food and farms, combined with her more academic interests in public policy and health, are what led Therese to the Gastronomy program. She went to Michigan State University and graduated with a degree in international relations. After college, she served two terms in AmeriCorps and began thinking more about domestic policy. She is interested in issues of food access and poverty, as well as the role of food in building and strengthening community.

Therese would desperately like to get a dog but for now contents herself with her garden and hiking. Someday she’d also like to have a small farm with chickens, goats, and room to plant as many tomatoes as she wants.


Virginia Hyde is excited to start an adventure in Virginia HydeNew England immersing herself in food and food culture. She is from Jacksonville, Fl but has spent the last few years in Nashville, TN where she graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2013 with a B.A. in Medieval European History. Even though she is a little nervous to live in the arctic tundra, she is ready to experience everything that Boston has to offer. She is an avid lover of food related field trips and can’t wait to explore local farmers markets, farms and orchards.

She has experience with research, marketing and social media and hopes to use her studies to broaden her knowledge of different food cultures.


Ashley Jackson-Lee is from Chicago, IL and is an enthusiastic foodie, who enjoys traveling and eating. Growing up Chicago, the melting pot, Ashley was always surrounded by diverse and fusion cuisines which gave her a unique appreciation of world and fusion cuisines.

Ashley has a degree in Anthropology and Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the past she attended the Illinois Institute of Art- Chicago where she took culinary art classes. However she was searching for a more meaningful way to explore food and began exploring in the field of Anthropology. Ashley’s undergraduate thesis studied the relationship between food and culture in student dining at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research examined food selection and preparation, how food and eating is tied to cultural identity and personhood, and how food feeds into social memory by triggering food sensory responses. Ashley has also done food related research in primates with White-Faced Capuchins at the La Suerte Biological Research Station in Costa Rica studying age and sex differences in diet and activity budget. Ashley is excited to use her time in the Gastronomy program at BU to connect her passion for food, culinary arts, biology anthropology, and culture.

Barkha Shah is a Massachusetts native. Barkha ShaGrowing up in a small suburb outside Boston has given her plenty of opportunities to taste New England’s delights. She attended Boston University as an undergraduate, and earned her degree in Biology in 2012. Instead of pursuing the medical field like originally planned, she decided to take the scenic route, which consisted of couch surfing and learning how to cook from her friends. Her dad infused her with a love of cooking shows, and her mom encouraged her to experiment in the kitchen, while her sister became the reluctant taste tester. Barkha is an adventurous eater, and will try anything once.


Debbie ZidesDebra Zides was born in Boston and grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.  She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an M.S. in Organizational Management from George Washington University, and an M.S. in Military Operations from the United States Air Force Air Command and Staff College.  She recently retired from 20 years active duty military service in the United States Air Force and is excited to return to New England to enjoy the four seasons again.  She has extensive experience developing IT, space, and communication systems, as well as serving as a military commander, a United Nations military observer, and running the coalition fixed-wing intra theater airlift system in Afghanistan.

Throughout her military career, she traveled the globe and experienced unique gastronomic opportunities on multiple continents.  Brunch in the middle of the migration trail in the Serengeti?  Done it.  Goat’s milk with dinner in Eritrea?  Yep.  Fresh figs while gazing out over the Dead Sea?  Check.  Burning the roof of the mouth off with amazing spices in the Korea demilitarized zone?  Painfully amazing.  Imbibing the best Trappist monk beers in Belgium?  Bottoms up!

Debra’s long-term dream is to create a small, premium quality tequila brand.  Additionally, with her new-found appreciation for the challenges in U.S. food system, she has a passion to improve nutritional opportunities and quality of life for families in at-risk communities.  She is currently developing a web-based application to assist underprivileged families with understanding the food label nutritional contents to enable individuals to make more informed decisions.


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