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Mackenzie Nelsen ’19, an undergraduate student in UNC College of Arts & Sciences, has received the 2018 Award for Academic Achievement Abroad from the Forum on Education Abroad.

Mackenzie Nelsen
Mackenzie Nelsen on a hike in Italy from Assisi to Spello.


During the summer of 2018, Nelsen studied in Perugia, Italy, where she and Jared Belsky, a student at Hamilton College in New York, collaborated on a project, “Cultivating Activism Through Terroir: An Anthropology of Sustainable Winemakers in Umbria, Italy,” under the Food and Sustainability Studies Program at The Umbra Institute. The two worked with locals and visited wineries across the city.

“Conducting ethnographies at different wineries and speaking to the vignaioli introduced us to the oft-overlooked cultural/political dimensions of terroir and sustainability,” say Nelsen and Belsky. The word terroir comes from the Latin root terra, which means earth. The French created this term to express how an environment affects the production of wine. “We built upon an ever-accumulating knowledge of food systems by working closely with wine, a central player in Italian food culture.”

Nelsen will complete her bachelor’s degree with a major in environmental science and a minor in geography in Spring 2019. She will present her work with Belsky at a plenary session at The Forum’s 15th Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado, on March 29, 2019. “We are truly honored that [The Forum] would recognize us for an experience that has already been so pivotal to our academic and personal development and we are excited to find more opportunities to do similar research,” say Nelsen and Belsky.

The Forum on Education Abroad recognizes excellence in undergraduate work completed as part of an education abroad program. The Award for Academic Achievement encompasses the full range of excellence in the fine arts and humanities, social sciences, and STEM disciplines.

By Rawan Abbasi ’21, UNC Global

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