Undergrad Michelle Beres Wins Award at Ohio State’s Denman Undergraduate Research Forum

April 22, 2013

Undergraduate student Michelle Beres proudly represented AEDE at Ohio State’s 2013 Denman Undergraduate Research Forum on March 28th. Now in its 18th year, the Denman Research Forum is one of the largest events of its kind in the country. The Forum showcases outstanding student research at Ohio State. The university encourages all undergraduates to participate in research as a value-added element of their education.

More than 700 students participated in this year’s event, representing nearly every college and department on the Ohio State campus. The Forum is a cooperative effort of Ohio State’s Undergraduate Research Office, the University Honors & Scholars Center, and the Office of Research.

Beres, who was advised in her research by Kristi Lekies from Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, presented “Developing Youth Leadership Through Community Gardening: Opportunities and Outcomes” at the Forum. She was awarded second place in the category "Business/Education/Speech and Hearing". Beres is a senior at AEDE studying Agribusiness and Applied Economics; she is also a member of Ohio State’s Honors program.

Beres’ research focuses on the role of youth involvement and leadership in local community gardens, a topic that has little published research to-date. In her research Beres aims to identify and analyze the impact of leadership opportunities available to youth through community gardening projects. She also aims to determine the types of skills learned by youth through community garden involvement.

To conduct her research Beres sent a survey designed to assess youth leadership in gardens to over 200 community gardens and community garden coordinators throughout the State of Ohio via email. Community garden coordinators were also asked to forward the survey to their associated gardens.

Beres' research findings show that leadership skills for youth, especially the ability to work with adults and other youth, and the development of a sense of responsibility, are encouraged by involvement in community garden projects. Opportunities for leadership in gardens include, but are not limited to, selecting what to grow, making decisions about how to use the garden’s money or even teaching others how to cook.

In her research Beres also highlights existing analysis in the field, which further shows that community gardening projects have provided an outlet to better develop teamwork, communication and critical thinking skills for youth.

Overall, Beres’ research demonstrates the value of youth leadership in community gardens. In her analysis she notes that community garden project leaders should consider using a variety of ways to involve youth in more leadership roles in community gardening projects to contribute to their development. 

March 29, 2013