Garrett “Gunner” Swope graduated summa cum laude (3.9+ GPA) in August of 2017 with a B.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies and a minor in Sustainable Development from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS). He is a member of the Quad’s Spring Semester Food Access Team.
As a student of geography, Gunner worked as a student teacher and tutor for Climate and Vegetation and also worked as a Student Ambassador to the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences for his department. As such, he was responsible for creating a forum through which student concerns, whether research, grant, or course related, could be met with regard from the dean’s office.
Gunner also helped create the foundation for the student ambassador program, advocating for student leadership included sitting on the Committee for Academic Progress at UCCS. This committee accounts for the interworking of campus procedures and student petitions for change, such as course equivalencies, credits available for transfer, and grants available for allocation. As the first non-faculty member elected to represent the student body on the committee, Gunner’s presence signified an increase in representation in the school of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.
Though geography and demography comprised a majority of his curriculum, the latter stages of his undergraduate career focused on food literacy and education. His introduction to food systems in Colorado Springs began in his Sustainability Seminar in which each student would propose changes to the physical landscape of the university campus, with Gunner electing to erect a beekeeping initiative with other members of the course. After being awarded a grant through the Green Action Fund, two hives and an educational program were presented to the UCCS Farm.
His work at this site provided resources and connections to further pursue food research. This was guided by Dr. Nanna Meyer of the Human and Health Sciences department, a member of the Food Advisory Council of Colorado Springs, and a heavily involved community member. During this transition into Health Sciences, he attended the locally sponsored Grain School and worked on a Grain Market Assessment in which local food growers, vendors, and millers were connected with local businesses to reinvigorate small-scale food systems in the Arkansas Watershed.
This project also connected Gunner with local farms, namely Venetucci, Frost, and UCCS Farms, giving insight to the demands and rigor of food cultivation. In addition to the on-site work and market assessment, expectations of the internship included harvesting herbs and vegetables, food demonstration and purveying, food literacy at Colorado Farm and Art Markets, and documenting how well certain heritage grains performed in a Grain Trial sponsored by UCCS.
This exposure to food systems in Colorado Springs and subsequently the inequitable access people have to it has transposed directly to Gunner’s post-graduate career, working now as a Project Consultant for the El Paso County Public Health Food Access project at the Quad Innovation Partnership. The Quad creates opportunity for those associated with one of the four accredited universities in Colorado Springs—Colorado College, United States Air Force Academy, Pikes Peak Community College, and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs—to further the interests of members of our city and the broader Front Range region.
In doing so, those with a propensity for initiating positive change in our community are supported by local institutions to do so, a cause Gunner wholly identifies with. In further pursuing his understanding of food access through this innovative project as well as his recreational gardening backgroun, Gunner hopes to apply his geographic, demographic, and agricultural background to law. Accessibility, whether related to housing, politics, or food, defines all communities. He hopes to aid in increasing this accessibility and promoting general mobility in his graduate studies.