She’s a food innovator in the making

Meet Mary Graham, student alumni ambassador

Where did you grow up?
I grew up for the most part in Tigard, just south of Portland. It was fun growing up next to a big city but also in an area so close to mountains and different bodies of water that allowed me to explore and be outside.

Why OSU?
Oregon State has a great food science program, the major I was interested in entering. I had a choice between a few but, ultimately, having a great program I was interested in, the benefit of paying in-state tuition and still being able to be somewhat close to home was what made me make the final decision.

How close are you to graduating, and what’s next after that?
I am a junior this year, so I have — if everything goes according to plan — one more year at OSU. After I graduate, I hope to enter the food industry as a food scientist with a job in food innovation or product development. I would love to work with a company where I could help focus on sustainability or alternative ingredients such as alternative protein sources, dairy-free/gluten-free, etc., as I am very interested in this growing market.

What has been your favorite class at OSU?
My favorite class has been the dairy processing class run by Dr. Lisbeth Goddik (Paul & Sandra Arbuthnot Professor and ODI-Bodyfelt Professor), where we learned about cheese and dairy processing in class, then made a different cheese in lab each week. And yes, we got to take these cheeses home to eat! It was super interesting to learn about and I love to eat cheese so it was a win-win!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned outside classes?
Fall term 2018 I studied abroad in Lyon, France, where I was taking courses about food science and, more specifically, sustainability in the food industry. I traveled, immersed myself in the French culture, learned new things every day and made friends I will keep for years to come. The most important thing I learned was simply more about myself by pushing myself out of my comfort zones and seeing just how much I am able to accomplish when I challenge myself, but at the same time take things in stride and go with the flow.

What’s your favorite place to hang out on campus?
I really love to exercise and in my free time on campus I am usually at Dixon rec center! This term, though, I am on three intramural sports teams, so I will probably be out on the fields more often than not!

What’s your favorite place to hang out in Corvallis?
Honestly, I love to be home with my kitty where I can relax in my comfy clothes and eat food in bed! If I had to choose a different place that is not my home, it would be the milk and boba (bubble tea) place, D.I.Y. Tea and Beyond, on 9th Street; I love boba.

What kind of support do you get from scholarships?
My tuition is completely paid for in scholarships and grants; last year I was very proud that I did not have to take out any loans! Most of my scholarships come from specific food science-related sources and donors and the rest are for academic performance. I get enough each term to get a refund after tuition is paid for that helps me pay for housing, which has been extremely helpful.

Of all the things you could choose to get involved in on campus, why the Student Alumni Ambassadors?
I met a young professional in my field at a food science student conference last January who was already so successful and was doing work I wanted to be able to do at his age, too. His advice to me was to find the student alumni organization on my campus and get as involved as I can; the connections he made through working with his campus’s alumni association were priceless to him and were the reasons for his early and quick success. He says it was the best decision he made in college, and I wanted to do the same. So far the people I have met in SAA have been so kind and I love being a part of it.

What’s one thing you think would surprise alumni from 10 or 20 years ago about what it’s like to be an OSU student today?
There are so many good places to eat on campus now that offer vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc., options for food and drinks. It makes it so much easier to eat on campus.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to a potential readership of 210,000 Beaver alumni and friends?
Oregon State is continuing to grow in inclusivity, involvement, student leadership, cultural involvement, activities and more! It is still a great place to be.

The Student Alumni Ambassadors (SAA) program is associated with the OSU Alumni Association and is dedicated to enhancing connections among students past, present and future. SAA members coordinate a variety of events and initiatives that integrate students and alumni across Beaver Nation. For more info, visit (Photo by Hannah O’Leary)