Food Science launches virtual buddy program to support student community

November 12, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Food Science Club and the Penn State chapter of Phi Tau Sigma launched a buddy program this fall, a virtual platform for undergraduate and graduate students to connect, interact and gain professional development skills during the academic year.

The program currently has 28 partnerships between undergraduate and graduate students who are matched based on hobbies and interests. The pairs connect virtually via Groupme, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, iMessage or WhatsApp.

A doctoral degree student in the Department of Food Science, Laura Maria Rolon, spearheaded the initiative because she saw that new students need support to balance the stress and limitations caused by COVID-19.

“Based on my work as teaching assistant for undergraduate courses, I often see a division between the graduate and undergraduate students in the department,” she said. “With the buddy program, I found the opportunity to connect graduate and undergraduate students on a more personal level, to promote friendship and future professional connections.”

Rolon wanted to promote connections between students early on because the pandemic has shifted school life significantly. “Having an additional support system is very important for our academic success,” she said.

Brigitte Farah, a new graduate student in the department, is pleased with the new initiative.

“I wish I had this experience as an undergraduate — I think forming relationships between grad students and undergrads is a great idea,” she said. “I look forward to being a mentor to my buddy, and I am excited for this opportunity to get more involved in the department.”

Faculty champion for the buddy program, Josephine Wee, assistant professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences, hopes that the program can bring a sense of comfort and friendship to students, especially first-year and new graduate students.

For more information, contact Rolon at or Wee at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 13, 2020