CSUS graduate student researches farmer well-being and food systems resilience

Morgan MathisonSlee, a recipient of a 2021 CANR Alumni Association Scholarship, researches how livestock producers and farmers can improve their well-being.

Morgan MathisonSlee

Morgan MathisonSlee’s experiences growing up on a farm in Michigan have given her insight into the real lives of agricultural producers and processors. Her background inspired her decision to come to Michigan State University to study community sustainability and food systems.

As a Ph.D. student, MathisonSlee is passionate about research, teaching and mentoring. Her research focuses on solutions to increase the well-being of producers within the food system. By understanding the challenges that livestock producers face, her research aims to address ways that we can improve the system’s resilience in the face of stressors and disturbances.

“If we want to ensure farmers can be successful and well, it is imperative we study the system as a whole,” she says.

With her research and teaching background, she hopes to someday become a scientific advisor for the state government in the field of sustainability and community, and one day influence policies related to rural sustainability and well-being.

MathisonSlee is one of the 2021 CANR Alumni Association Scholarship recipients.


Morgan MathisonSlee


Lansing, MI

Degree and program:

Ph.D. in Community Sustainability

Expected graduation date:

Spring 2022

What inspired your interest in your advanced degree area?

Growing up on a farm gave me insight into the struggle farmers face, and my education experiences abroad during my undergraduate program at St. Olaf College ignited a passion for understanding how the land, animals and humans are all interconnected, and ensuring the health of one piece of the production system requires each area of the system to be healthy. If we want to ensure farmers can be successful and well, it is imperative we study the system as a whole.

Why did you choose to study at MSU?

The Community Sustainability program focuses heavily on systems thinking and sustainability, and Lansing is a great place to live! Additionally, MSU Extension was one of the first institutions to implement a farmer mental health program [Managing Farm Stress], so I was certain my research would be well received and could be applied in order to help farmers across the state.

What has been one of your best experiences within graduate school so far?

I was able to obtain a national fellowship that gave me the opportunity to meet other Ph.D. students who are working in sustainable agriculture in various capacities, and enhance my professional development. The friendships we made and the exposure to a wide range of career opportunities that I could participate in were vital to my success as a Ph.D. student.

What do you want others to know about this program?

The Department of Community Sustainability is highly supportive of their students, and the staff and faculty go above and beyond to ensure every student can be successful. They support their students, both academically and personally; I have always felt like each person knows me, and I am more than just another student in a sea of bodies.

What are some of the best things about being an MSU student?

MSU is a university known for being a land-grant university that is particularly invested in their agricultural producers. As the second most diverse state in terms of food production, Michigan is an amazing place for me to get connected to producers, MSU Extension agents and companies interested in the same ideas I am.

Any thoughts or advice for current or new students?

Make sure you take care of yourself! It is easy and normal to get overwhelmed by the workload and responsibilities of being a student, but it is just as, or more important, to stay healthy mentally and physically.

What are your future plans?

Once I graduate, I am hoping to get a job where I can use the research skills I have developed here at MSU to make practical, on-the-ground changes. It is very important to me that no matter where I work, I am able to continue conducting research and using it to improve the lives of producers throughout Michigan.

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