Pitt Business undergrad Alex Firestine says becoming the University of Pittsburgh’s first-ever Mitchell Scholar winner is “life-changing.”
Announced on November 20, 2022, Firestine was one of 12 George J. Mitchell Scholars chosen among college students nationwide to pursue graduate education in Ireland. Firestine plans to study climate change, agriculture, and food security at the University of Galway. His goal is to work in data analytics and food systems at an international level.
Firestine talks about his experience in the College of Business Administration and his interest in food insecurity in this Q&A:
Q: What encouraged you to apply for this scholarship?
A: I participated in a Pitt Business study abroad program in Ireland through the Haller Global Honors Fellowship and had an amazing experience that connected me with Ireland. Since then, I’ve been researching sustainable food systems with the Frederick Honors College for nearly four years. This scholarship will enable me to continue my research in food security while traveling to a country I know and love. Ireland also ranks highly on the global food security index, so the country is a good case study for sustainable food systems.
Q: How has your Pitt Business education set you up for success in your next endeavors?
A: My Pitt Business education set me up for success as I learned hard skills like data analytics for my research. The Certificate Program in Leadership and Ethics (CPLE) in particular sparked my interest in the intersection of sustainability, ethics, and business, which fueled my desire to explore and research innovative business solutions to current issues within our food system. Also, my extracurricular involvement with the League of Emerging Analytics Professionals (LEAP), Enactus, Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity, and many other organizations helped me develop key leadership and communication skills.
Q: What sparked your interest in food insecurity?
A: Throughout high school, I spent time volunteering at my local community food bank. Upon arriving at Pitt, I met Dr. Audrey Murrell, and her work with the nonprofit Food21 was the perfect synthesis of my interest in food security and data analytics. This involvement allowed me to leverage my technical background in analytics to catalyst change and bring attention to food security issues in Pittsburgh.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in your time in Ireland?
A: I’m most looking forward to learning more about Irish culture and history related to food. Galway, in particular, has a year-round farmers market that has been around for centuries, which I’m excited to explore!
Q: What does it mean to you to win this award?
A: This award is life-changing for me, it provides me with the opportunity to explore my passion for social impact and food security; it opens the door for me to engage in future research in the food security space on an international scale.
Highlights of Accomplishments:
Firestine’s accomplishments extend from the Pitt campus to his hometown of Germantown, Maryland, as he uses his Pitt Business education to create social good around the world. Those include:
- Designed a University-accredited extracurricular institute that now teaches analytics to 300+ students as a core fundamental class.
- Led an organization of more than 120 members who teach entry-level workshops for data programs like Python and Tableau.
- Co-led a project with nonprofit Food21 that developed a digital tool using data to measure regional food insecurity and identify areas where food apartheids may exist in Pittsburgh.
- Developed a comprehensive outreach model to combat youth gang recruitment in collaboration with the Gang Intervention Division of the Montgomery County Police Department while a high schooler in Maryland.
- Recognized as a Chancellor’s Scholar at Pitt, the first undergraduate business student since 1995.