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Student Biographies

PhD, Food Studies

Natasha Bunzl

Natasha Bunzl

Natasha Bunzl is a doctoral student in Food Studies. She researches food and agriculture non-profits and the increasingly emphasized role of celebrity chefs in solutions to food systems challenges. Prior to joining the NYU Food Studies department, she worked for God’s Love We Deliver in communications. She holds a BA in Comparative Literature from Cornell University and a MA in Anthropology of Food from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Her MA research explored the political stories and myths that restaurants reproduce.

Eric Himmelfarb

Eric Himmelfarb

Eric Himmelfarb researches food system poetics: how poetic practices generate movement towards, and meaning around, food justice and food sovereignty. Since 2015, he has been an adjunct professor in the Food Studies program, teaching a course he designed, entitled Food in the Arts: the Poetic Voice. The course utilizes a writing workshop model to engage with political and social issues in food through poetic methodologies and frameworks. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Eric worked for over six years at City Harvest, a non-profit anti-hunger organization in New York City, first in fundraising and then in operations as a manager of food sourcing and procurement. He has a BA in English from Georgetown University and an MA in Food Studies from NYU.

Steven McCutcheon Rubio

Steven McCutcheon Rubio standing in front of a curtain made of dried ears of corn hung on string.

Steven McCutcheon Rubio is a PhD candidate whose work focuses on agrarian change in contemporary Latin America. His dissertation is a historical and ethnographic study of agrarian movements in Mexico that explores the material and semiotic processes shaping social movements’ political orientations. He is an MMUF Fellow, and his research has received support from the Tinker Foundation, SSRC-MMUF, and the NYU Provost’s Global Research Initiatives. 

Steven is an experienced multidisciplinary researcher and teacher. He has collaborated on: the fieldwork phase of a research project on the State, agricultural development, and natural resource management in northern Peru; a historical project on Mexican migrant workers in the US during WWI; and a qualitative project on urban agriculture and social justice initiatives in New York City that culminated in the publication of Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City (University of Georgia Press, 2016). As a Visiting Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore, Steven proposed, developed, and taught the school’s first food studies course. At NYU, he redesigned, co-organized, and assisted in imparting Global Food Cultures: Mexico, a weeklong study-abroad course.

Steven also has significant journalistic and editorial experience. He has worked as editor for Americas Quarterly and as a freelance food and travel writer in Mexico. He holds an MA in Food Studies-Food Systems from NYU and an AB in Comparative Literature (Spanish and French) from Princeton University.

Jennifer Shutek

Jennifer Shutek

Jennifer Shutek, a PhD candidate in Food Studies, researches the intersections of urbanism, migration, nation-building, and foodways in Palestine/Israel. Her dissertation focuses on consumption, sensoria, and surveillance in three analogue and digital locations: sabich stands in Tel Aviv; Hansen House in Jerusalem; and Deir Cremisan in Beit Jala. Drawing on historical sources, ethnographic field work, and digital ethnography, Jennifer explores the relationships between physical places and digital spaces, as well as how foodways participate in and facilitate activism and resistance. 

She began her academic career at Simon Fraser University, where she completed her BA with a major in Middle Eastern and Islamic history and a minor in literature. During her M.Phil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oxford, Jennifer studied Modern Standard Arabic, and conducted fieldwork in Palestine/Israel. Jennifer’s interest in languages has inspired her studies in French and Arabic (fuṣḥa and amiyya).

Over a decade of teaching inside and outside of academia has given Jennifer extensive pedagogical experience. As well as teaching children’s cooking classes and ESL, Jennifer has taught a diverse array of academic courses. Jennifer also has experience in journalism, copyediting, and social media management. She has published in Live Encounters, Raseef22, Vice, The Historical Cooking Project , and Anthrodendum, and served as an editor and weekly contributor with Muftah magazine. Additionally, Jennifer has edited academic articles and books (including edits for Ella Shohat’s On The Arab-Jew, Palestine, and Other Displacements).

Sofía Jimènez Saborit

Sofía Jimènez Saborit is a human rights lawyer. She holds a MA in Development Studies from The Graduate Institute of Geneva, where she wrote her thesis on agricultural development in rural regions of Mexico within the framework of food sovereignty. With years of cumulative experience as a lawyer and a development professional, Sofia has been part of several projects on an international level. In 2019 she was part of a consultancy project for PwC, mandated by the Swiss government for the Gender Pay Act to achieve equal pay for women and men. Prior to that, she has also worked in Kenya with non-profit organizations to support Maasai victims of female genital mutilation and early marriages by organizing advocacy campaigns for awareness on gender issues. Sofía’s academic and professional experiences span over 10 years and have helped her acquire a range of inter-disciplinary skills to develop and execute projects to empower people who are systematically disadvantaged.

Sofía’s current research interests include food security, agricultural policy and gender. Her approach to food security aims to identify and understand where food and gender justice intersect. The purpose of her research is to address the gendered power relations and gendered inequalities in food systems and agricultural practices.

Ran Mei

Photo of Ran Mei

Ran Mei is a first-year doctoral student in Food Studies interested in the spatial politics of food. Reading the built environment as the physical manifestation and shaper of social relationships that are deeply entangled with the politics of race, ethnicity, gender, and class, her research explores the social and cultural construction of architecture and infrastructural landscapes of food distribution, consumption, and waste management. Using geospatial analysis, archival research, and ethnography, her master’s thesis Stir-Fry Urbanism traces the changing foods, architecture, and geographic networks of Chinese restaurants in Boston for the past 140 years to reveal the dispensable roles that the Chinese diasporas have played in shaping Boston’s urban landscape and place identity. Before joining NYU in 2023, she worked as an architectural and urban designer in Boston, Tokyo, and Wuhan on projects including Time Out Market (Boston), Moynihan Train Station Food Hall (NYC), and Volpe Redevelopment at MIT Kendall Square (Cambridge). She graduated with a BArch from Syracuse University, and a MA in Design Studies (Critical Conservation) with distinction from Harvard Graduate School of Design.