Kelly Hudson Graduate Spotlight: From Chef to Economist
Kelly Hudson worked in the restaurant industry for 16 years and held the title of chef for eight. Today, Hudson holds the title of a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service International Fellow, which is a title held by only four people in the United States.
Food and math have always been enjoyed by Kelly Hudson, a first-year master’s student in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) at Michigan State University (MSU). Prior to joining the department, Hudson worked in the restaurant industry for 16 years and held the title of chef for eight years. Today, Hudson holds the title of a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) International Fellow, which is a title held by only four people in the United States.
According to the USDA FAS website, “The FAS International Agricultural Fellowship, administered in partnership with Howard University, provides funding and support for selected students to receive master’s degrees in Agribusiness or Agricultural Economics from the accredited U.S. university of their choice.”
As a fellow, Hudson’s graduate school education will be supported financially and he will participate in two internships, one domestic and one international. After graduation, Hudson will also join FAS for at least five years of employment as either a civil servant or as a Foreign Service Officer.
Hudson has always been passionate about feeding people. When he moved to Austin, Texas in 2015, he started culinary school. After climbing the ladder of the restaurant industry, he became a sous chef in 2017 and helped to open a couple of restaurants over the next three years.
The stress of the restaurant industry led Hudson to return to school and pursue a degree that would still have ties to food. Naturally, he began looking for an agricultural degree program. Hudson attended Texas State, where he befriended an economics professor who helped guide him to the next stage after undergrad: receiving a master’s in economics.
Pursuing both a degree and career in economics seemed to be a true fit for Hudson once he noticed the similarities between his time as a chef and the potential of a future in economics.
“It's the problem-solving element of economics that was very attractive to me from the start,” Hudson shared. “I mean, as a chef, you solve problems and I've always liked math. I get excited when I get to do math, and all of that comes down to solving puzzles, solving problems, and coming up with solutions. Specifically, for me, I like to feed people, and working for the USDA as an economist really gives me an opportunity to help feed a large population of people, not just people that can buy a $100 steak.”
Nearing the end of his first semester with AFRE, Hudson has enjoyed his experience thus far.
“The community here is fantastic. Everybody is very kind, very helpful on a social level, but even faculty-wise, I feel very extremely supported,” Hudson shared. “As far as the program goes, there's no weak points. Everybody's very strong at what they do. It's kind of like an iron sharpens iron mentality, where [people] make me want to do better and be better.”
Reflecting on his current experience and looking ahead to the future, Hudson also credits his time with AFRE to the FAS.
“I wouldn't be [at MSU] without [the FAS International Fellowship program], that's for sure,” Hudson explained. “I feel like the biggest thing is that I have a sense of purpose now. Before, I was always trying to figure out what my next step was. Now, it's like I know what I'm doing for the next five to seven years, and I have more confidence and know what I need to focus on to put myself in a good position. The fellowship has provided me with an opportunity and given me purpose.”
If you are interested in applying for or learning more about the FAS International Agricultural Fellowship program click here.