Kayla is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Anthropology, and holds a M.A. in Anthropology from Wayne State University and a B.S. in Chemistry from Grand Valley State University. She is a biocultural anthropologist that investigates how people use food to cope with stressful situations and how these consumption practices impact the body.
More specifically, her interdisciplinary research addresses the entanglement of social, cultural, political, and economic factors that often construct what people consider to be edible—particularly, insects and other meat-like substitutes—as well as how these structural and social forces shape and constrain people’s agency regarding health, wellbeing, and their ability to obtain food. Since 2018, Kayla has worked with participants in Oaxaca, Mexico to understand how food, nutrition, and health are intertwined using ethnography, food frequency questionnaires, and biological measurements. Her research is a dynamic examination of meaning-making surrounding food, perceptions of edibility, and how people use food to cope with unexpected crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic presented itself as a novel opportunity to examine how her long-term participants in Oaxaca are coping with this sudden shift into their homes and its impact on their choices about health and wellbeing. This current project investigates how people use food as a coping mechanism to the COVID-19 pandemic despite structural barriers that are limiting food access/choice. Her dissertation will explore how these new food choices become embodied and how people learn to materially and phenomenologically inhabit their new selves.
At Notre Dame, Kayla is a Doctoral Student Affiliate of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and a Senior Consultant in the Office of Grants and Fellowships. Kayla has won the H. Russell Bernard Student Paper Prize (2019) from the Society for Anthropological Sciences amongst other travel awards from the American Anthropological Association. Her research has been supported by the Graduate School, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Eck Institute for Global Health, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Explorer’s Club, and most recently, Kayla is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant. Kayla is a Notre Dame Deans’ Fellow.