UGA Project Leadership

Jennifer Jo Thompson (UGA Project Director)

Dr. Jennifer Jo Thompson is an Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Crop & Soil Sciences at UGA. Her research interests center around community food initiatives and sustainable agriculture. She strives to create an interdisciplinary perspective to address the root issues in food systems that affect health, justice, culture, and policy through community-engaged research. Dr. Jennifer Jo Thompson advocates for transformative, welcoming spaces for her students through diverse learning experiences and inclusive mentorship.

Learn more about Dr. Jennifer Jo Thompson here.

Folasade Olaoye (Graduate Research Assistant)

Folasade Olaoye is a second-year graduate student pursuing her Master of Public Health (MPH) through the Double Dawg program at the College of Public Health at UGA. Folasade graduated in Spring 2022 with her Bachelor of Health Promotion (BSHP) with a Global Health minor, which has provided her with background on behavior change models. Through this grant, she has been working to create program planning material to address equitable initiatives in food systems. Her mission is to increase avenues of food availability, accessibility, and affordability for underserved and marginalized populations through equitable food system work.

Abigail Borron

Dr. Abigail Borron is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication (ALEC) at UGA. Her research interests focus on culture-centered communication and engagement in underserved and marginalized populations. Dr. Borron seeks to address the complex social structures, barriers, and inequities that underserved and marginalized populations face through different toolkits and frameworks, such as the Community Diagnostic & Social Impact Toolkit and Community Capital Framework. Not only is Dr. Borron committed to addressing social barriers in her research, but she prioritizes an inclusive space for diverse learning.

Learn more about Dr. Abigail Borron here

Caree Cotwright

Dr. Caree Cotwright is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UGA. Dr. Cotwright’s research interests center around health and wellness practices through nutrition education in early childhood settings to promote healthy eating, wellness education, and physical activity. She loves to illustrate her creativity through nutrition education by using theatre, music, and games while implementing a service-learning approach to her research. Her goal is to create healthy early childhood environments to prevent childhood obesity among children while reducing health disparities among low-income and marginalized populations. Being an HBCU grad, Dr. Cotwright uses her experiences to provide her students equitable opportunities to pursue their research interests.

Click the link to learn more about Dr. Caree Cotwright and her current research

Cecilia Herles

Dr. Cecilia Herles is the Assistant Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies. Her research interests center around gender, race, class, and environmental and food justice. She incorporates service-learning and community learning for students to participate in knowledge-making and praxis connected to food justice. Dr. Herles is open to collaborating with students and is organizing a research symposium for students interested in social, environmental, and food justice. Dr. Herles aspires to teach and learn in community with students through an inclusive and welcoming space for all to grow.

Learn more about Dr. Cecilia Herles here.

Nik Heynen

Dr. Nik Heynen is a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Geography. He is also currently a Visiting Scholar at Spelman College. His research interests mainly focus on environmental and food justice alongside topics of race, class, and gender. Dr. Heynen is also a co-director of UGA’s Cornelia Walker Bailey Program on Land and Agriculture as the program seeks to address the “history, present status, and future of agriculture, property politics, and related issues on Sapelo Island.” Learn more about the program here. Dr. Heynen’s experience filters into his relationship with students as he seeks to make the learning space more equitable and inclusive for all.

Click the links to learn more about Dr. Nik Heynen and his research.

Spelman College Project Leadership

Kimberly Jackson

Dr. Kimberly M. Jackson is a professor of biochemistry, chair of chemistry and biochemistry, and director of the food studies program at Spelman College. She is also the director of a living and learning community for STEM scholars, an initiative whose goal is to improve access to STEM careers through professional and social networks and social justice empowerment. A Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Jackson maintains a robust and active research program focused on novel therapeutic agents (plant-based) for castration-resistant prostate cancer and advancing equity for Black women scientists. In March 2022, she was honored with the national American Chemical Society Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences, sponsored by the Dreyfus Foundation.  

Click the links to learn more about Dr. Jackson and her research.

Affiliated Faculty

Leo Bastos

Dr. Leo Bastos is an assistant professor in Integrative Precision Agriculture at the University of Georgia. His lab focuses on two areas: i) the use of proximal and remote sensors to assess crop health and develop variable rate nutrient algorithms in corn and cotton; and ii) the use of remote sensing, large-scale soils and weather open data, and crop and management information to predict regional drivers of yield and fiber quality in cotton. Dr. Bastos strives for his team to be diverse in different aspects and for all his students to feel welcomed, valued, and heard.

To learn more about his lab’s news, projects, talks, and all of his teaching material, click here.

Aaron Thompson

Dr. Aaron Thompson is a Professor in the Department of Crop & Soil Sciences whose research focus is environmental soil chemistry. He seeks to understand the biogeochemical processes in complex environmental systems such as soils and sediments. His current research projects have openings for students to learn more about soil health and soil biogeochemistry working on sites in the Pyrenees and the causes of greenhouse gases produced in agricultural systems in Georgia, especially related to cover crops, “living mulch,” and other methods to improve soil health. Dr. Aaron Thompson is dedicated to creating an equitable space with a more diverse learning experience for all students involved with his lab.

Click the link to learn more about Dr. Aaron Thompson and his research. 


Supervised by Farm Manager April McCoy, UGArden is a student community farm focused on promoting a sustainable food system for the UGA and Athens communities. Its goals are “1) to teach students to grow food using organic practices through experiential learning; 2) to share healthy, sustainably grown food with members of the local community who are facing food insecurity; 3) to provide an opportunity for engagement, service, and experimentation; and 4) to foster an entrepreneurial spirit.” Under supervision from a UGA faculty member, students have the possibility of completing field projects that help people find different ways to engage with UGArden. Current projects include (but are not limited to) medicinal herbs, compost management, bicycle-powered compost sifters for small farms, lettuce variety trials, rainwater collection systems, shiitake mushrooms, and solar panels for generating electricity.

Learn more about UGArden here.