As a Harvest VISTA Leader in the AmeriCorps Harvest VISTA program at Harvest Against Hunger, Laura Kozuszek will be focusing on developing long-lasting strategies regarding program outreach, engagement, communications, and recruitment to support the 12 host sites around the country. The overall goal of the Harvest VISTA program is to reduce food waste while increasing the amount of fresh nutritious produce available to people experiencing poverty by building capacity within sustainable gleaning, produce recovery, and other food system programs. Other aspects of her work will ensure that training of AmeriCorps members on the Harvest VISTA team are up-to-date and accurate, on-going mentoring is provided as necessary, and communicate the impacts of the program to the community!
Laura enjoys working on national and global complex societal issues regarding the cross-section of the environment and human interaction. She has trained in various areas that have gained her a wide range of experience such as studying biology and business (obtained her B.Sc. in biology in 2015 from Walsh University), working in disaster management, and certified as an advanced open water scuba diver. She is a recent graduate of Northeastern University where she earned her M.Sc. in Global Studies & International Relations with concentration in International Economics and Consulting and a regional area focus in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Laura is not new to the world of AmeriCorps VISTA, serving from 2016-2019 as a VISTA Member and VISTA Leader with the American Red Cross Colorado and Wyoming Region. As a program development specialist, she helped build capacity in their disaster preparedness programs across 16 counties in the Colorado Spring area and then was promoted to expand the entire AmeriCorps VISTA Program across two states (Colorado and Wyoming). After three years with AmeriCorps VISTA, she spent 18 months working directly in disaster management in the Gulf Coast with American Red Cross while serving on 10 national deployments, including responding to the COVID-19 crisis as the regional lead for Community Engagement and Partnerships (supporting 51 counties and 9.5 million people).
During her graduate studies, she developed a theory, the Zipper Theory, that introduces an increased resilience design framework that encourages various working professionals at all levels to work together to increase community livelihoods regarding island and coastal communities. This led to more research centered on how to best partner with island and coastal communities to design resilience and sustainability solutions to address the effects of the current climate crisis. In December 2021, she was invited to present on this research at the 2021 Sustainable Island Futures Symposium co-hosted by the University of Aruba & the Metabolism of Islands (MoI) and highlighted in Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) “Next Generation of Resilience” Students Showcase in May 2021.
She currently resides on Anderson Island, Washington. In her free time, she loves to explore new places (visited 12 countries and counting!) and spending time with her husband and Lily, a rescued Tabby from the Humane Society.