Alum Spotlight: Dana Freshley

Dana is a Grade 8, Class of 2005, alum and currently resides in Ghent, Belgium where she works as a PhD researcher for B-GOOD, a project funded by the European Union (EU) aimed toward developing policies and practices for healthy and sustainable beekeeping in Europe. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Dana to learn more about her focus on the socioeconomics of beekeeping, and how her research will lead to the identification of viable beekeeping business models.

Q:  Please tell me about project B-Good and your role as a social researcher.  

A: Absolutely. So basically, the honey bee population has been in decline for some time. About five or six years ago it became an even more alarming situation and many organizations throughout the U.S. and Europe felt it was time to really focus attention and funding on bee population research. Project B-Good was born from a grant awarded by the EU. I am part of a research team from 15 different universities throughout Europe looking at beekeeping practices and what beekeepers can do themselves to improve bee health. Specifically, my research within the project focuses on the socio-economics of beekeeping. I work with many different stakeholders such as NGOs, agricultural workers, policymakers, and scientists. We are all part of the B-Good forum so we have a constant and continuous feedback loop that drives the project. Insights obtained from the research will lead to the identification of future viable business models for healthy and sustainable beekeeping in the EU. 

Q: What led you to study Rural Development and ultimately beekeeping?

A: I graduated from the University of Maine with a B.A. in Communications. After graduation I took a trip by myself around the world and spent some time in Asia and Europe. I knew that I wanted to stay in Europe and pursue a Master’s degree in something like agriculture or sustainability. Ultimately, I was awarded a scholarship from Ghent University’s Department of Agricultural Economics.  I fell in love with Belgium during that time so it seemed like fate that I was able to stay at Ghent for my PhD and work for project B-Good.

Q: How did your Waldorf education influence your life and career choices?

Living in a foreign country is amazing. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I’m living in a completely different continent! It’s crazy, I’ve made the decision to live my life here in Belgium. I’ve been here for four years and I’m planning to stay. I just feel so grateful for the foundation I received at Merriconeag (MCWS).  I learned to believe in myself and trust my intuition. The way I was raised and through my Waldorf education, I learned to be comfortable with risk and not be afraid to step outside. I learned to trust myself. Waldorf education also made me curious to learn new things.  That is definitely something that has stuck with me; I always need to be learning.

Q: What advice would you give a graduating senior? 

A: Trust yourself and be brave.  It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen or if you have doubts. Take a leap of faith and leave your comfort zone.  Go grab an opportunity even if you’re a bit unsure. Take chances because you don’t know what kind of doors are going to open; you may discover interests you aren’t even aware of yet.

Q: What do you see yourself doing in the next 5 to 10 years?

A: After I graduate, I’d love to work within the EU. I love European politics and could see myself working for the European Commission in Brussels. It is hard though; I do miss my parents. For now, I am so happy in Belgium. I definitely can see myself staying here for the next 10 years.

To learn more about Dana’s research and project B-Good, please visit https://www.b-good-project.eu/.