For Pam Nagurka of Arlington, Va., a student in the Executive Master of Natural Resources program offered by the College of Natural Resources and Environment, partnering with the Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Communities program has opened her eyes to the private sector’s role in social issues.
The Campbell Soup Company launched its Healthy Communities program in 2011 as a commitment to affect measurable change in reducing obesity and hunger in Camden, N.J., by focusing on four core areas: food access, physical activity and access, nutrition education, and public will. The program employs a “collective impact” model, with the Campbell Soup Company currently acting as both the major funder and the backbone organization.
For her capstone directed study project, Nagurka is working with Healthy Communities Director Kim Fortunato to develop a series of resources to help build the program beyond the city of Camden, where the company has been headquartered for almost 150 years.
“Working with the Campbell Soup Company has provided me with the opportunity to learn firsthand how one major private corporation is enhancing global equality,” Nagurka explained. “Since all of my previous work experience has been in the public and nonprofit sectors, I knew little about the efforts of private companies to help the public good.”
“I am impressed with, and applaud, Campbell Soup Company’s commitment to improve the quality of life of its employees, families, and neighbors in its many hometown communities,” she added.
Developing resources for the company’s plants is one of Nagurka’s main tasks. They will serve as a “how-to” for employees who want to volunteer in the community, guiding them toward selecting projects that align with the company’s goals and providing an outline for how collective impact can be used to create sustainable programs in hometown communities.
“As a teacher, I am excited about the opportunity to work with Campbell Soup Company’s Corporate Social Responsibility office,” said Nagurka, who teaches sixth-grade science full-time at Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington. “Academic success is closely linked to good nutrition and positive self-image.”
Nagurka’s interest in teaching is what drew her to the Executive Master of Natural Resources program. She attends program classes one weekend a month at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington and fits in work on the Healthy Communities program and other off-campus projects around her teaching duties.
“I was attracted to the program because my curriculum is a survey course that includes energy and the Chesapeake Bay,” she said. “In order to help students understand the relationship among the various science disciplines, I teach my content through the Earth System Science lens.”
Based in the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability in the Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region, the Executive Master of Natural Resources program emphasizes the need for effective partnerships involving interdisciplinary, multi-institutional, and cross-cultural collaboration among business, civil society, and government. It includes coursework, an international residency, and capstone directed study projects designed to bring about institutional and policy change, as well as personal and cultural transformation.
“After graduating in the spring, I look forward to using the collective impact model to help solve many societal issues facing our children,” Nagurka said. “My degree will meld my science teaching career and passion for global sustainable practices surrounding the environment, food access, fair trade, and fair wages. At some point in my career, I would like to experience working in the private sector on issues related to children.”
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