Tricia Phelps

Student Info

Graduation Year:
Cary, Illinois
Degree: Arts and Humanities

What made you decide to attend the RCAH?
MSU is my parents’ alma mater, and when I decided to leave Illinois for college, I was drawn to MSU and the state of Michigan in general because it felt like a second home. As I began identifying my major, a key selling point for the RCAH was community engagement because I had a lot of interest in getting involved and building community in a new place where I knew almost no one. An emphasis on arts and writing was important too because those are subjects I enjoy and wanted to improve on. Lastly, MSU in general is well know for its study abroad programs which was important to me, so the foreign language proficiency requirement showed priorities for the RCAH that aligned with mine as well.

Do you have any favorite memories?
I was hired to work at Aroma Borealis (the 2007 SnyPhi coffee shop that is now a Sparty’s) as a barista, but I knew NOTHING about coffee and had no understanding of the difference between a latte, macchiato or cappuccino. Luckily my new fast friends at Aroma helped teach me the ropes, and I think I pulled it off – but you’ll have to ask whoever tasted one of those first attempts. I have endless fond memories of Aroma and was really sad to see it go.

What was your favorite Gallery meal? Favorite place to eat off campus?
I most often ate wraps or salad at the Gallery, which isn’t all that interesting, but I loved Woody’s Oasis  and the Peanut Barrel to eat or drink off campus.

What was the best part of RCAH?
The like-minds; I don’t mean that all RCAH students are alike, but when lots of other people I knew were majoring in things like Engineering or Economics, it was great to have a cohort that was interested in people, and community, and language. It took some of the pressure off that could have come with college. Instead of trying to fit into a career or major that was “expected” of me I felt more comfortable choosing one that I was passionate about.

Which RCAH experiences influenced the work you do today?
I am engaged with the local community every day. Its one of the things I love most about my job. The RCAH helped me better understand that I wanted to be involved in community support and development.

Did you know while you were in college that you wanted to do the type of work you’re doing now?
I didn’t have a clear understanding that I was interested in local food until my junior year. I was working as the Residential Hospitality Services - Sustainability Intern, and I was offered a coworker’s CSA share for the week from the MSU Student Organic Farm. I didn’t grow up on fresh local produce or cooking from scratch, so this was the first time I was really introduced to local farming and real food. It totally changed me. That said, I did know right away that I wanted a job that would make a positive impact on my community. It’s a part of what attracted me to the RCAH.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?
I love connecting people. When I can help a chef find the specific local product they’re looking for, or help a consumer connect with a CSA farm that matches their personality and preferences – those are my favorite days on the job.

What are some of the challenges?
I’m always thinking about how to build the demand for local food, which actually means changing people’s buying habits and behaviors. It’s not an easy job, but it’s really a necessity to ensure that farm businesses will grow and be profitable.

What kind of hobbies do you have outside of work?
I love to be on the water whenever possible in the summer time, and last year I started cross-country skiing for the first time ever. Its something I hope to do more of this winter. I also love to cook, and cook with friends, so I’m always up for a dinner party.

If you could plan an event for alumni in your area, what would you do?
Maybe I’d tag on to the U of M vs. MSU tailgate that happens at The Little Fleet. It’s a great venue in general, but last year they had members of the high school band come to play. If you donated $5 they would play the fight song of your choice, if you donated $20 you could stop the fight song they were playing and play another. It was some of the best fun I’ve had watching a football game (away from MSU’s campus) not only are we celebrating our alma mater with some good old fashioned rivalry, but we’re raising money for the local community band. Win, Win!