Alyssa Griffin ’23: Committed Changemaker and Problem-Solver

Plymouth State’s food pantry serves a vital need, providing sustenance for a significant proportion of PSU students who are food insecure. Alyssa Griffin ’23, interim president and food pantry manager of the Student Support Foundation, has enhanced the pantry’s efficiency by conducting inventory trend analysis.

“I realized that a better way to understand what was going in and out of the pantry could help us better predict what was needed,” says Griffin. “Then we could be more proactive in asking for donations.”

A 2017 survey revealed that 15 to 20 percent of PSU students experienced food insecurity. Recent reports that take the pandemic into account indicate 60 percent of students nationwide report basic needs insecurity and 29 percent have experienced food insecurity.

Griffin conducted a personalized “Passion Project” through the University Honors Program, tracking inventory items such as foodstuffs and hygiene products by categories, demand, and months received. One key realization concerned the timing of campus food drives.

“Giving back to the community was something my parents made sure my brothers and I partook in to humble ourselves, learn compassion, but most importantly to help others.”

“A lot of drives take place at the end of the semester through the efforts of Tackling a Wicked Problem and Social Entrepreneurship courses, which is great,” says Griffin. “We get these huge donations just as the spring semester ends, and it’s helpful to know what items are really popular in the fall.”

Assistant Director of Community Impact Casey Krafton served as Griffin’s Passion Project mentor. “Over the past two years, Alyssa has been a driven and active board member of the Student Support Foundation,” says Krafton. “She spearheaded initiatives to grow our pantry locations and has added multiple satellite pantries on campus. In her time as a member, she has also been a part of awarding over $10,000 in emergency financial grants to Plymouth State students demonstrating financial need.

“I am so grateful for her energy and the way she encourages others to think critically of what it means to advocate, serve, and support our community.”

In only her second year, Griffin has already made a strong impression on the PSU community by embodying the University’s Ut prosim (“That I may serve”) ethic and was recently recognized with two Campus Compact of New Hampshire honors. The President’s Leadership Award highlights her outstanding contributions to civic engagement, and the Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes Griffin as a community-committed student, a changemaker, and a public problem-solver.

Griffin’s scientific approach to bettering the PSU community is rooted in her academic interests. A meteorology major, she aspires to use the skills learned in her leadership position in a career researching and communicating the risks of climate change.

Griffin wrote her first scientific paper as a first-year student in Professor Eric Kelsey’s Climatology course, and has contributed to his on-going research this year as a student worker. Her duties include conducting isotope analysis on water samples from the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest and the Mount Washington Observatory. By determining ratios of heavier and less weighted oxygen, the analysis can indicate whether the sample represents direct runoff from rain, groundwater, or some combination of the two, which can be useful in assessing drought and other conditions.

“Alyssa displays great curiosity, critical thinking skills, and tenacity,” says Kelsey. “She has great communication and people skills, is an outstanding student academically, and is well respected by colleagues and peers.”

Griffin began augmenting her science coursework right away as a first-year student through participation in a National Science Foundation-funded enrichment activity, Pathways into the Earth, Ocean, Polar, and Atmospheric & Geospace Sciences (GEOPaths). The program builds hands-on experiences and skills, and Griffin’s project involved placement and analysis of temperature sensors around campus and in nearby Fox Park.

Griffin’s many campus contributions and activities include serving as an admissions tour guide, a Lamson Library writing consultant, and class treasurer. Professor Kelsey notes that she generously provides informal tutoring for fellow students as well. She is also a student member of the American Meteorological Society and recently completed an emergency management internship at the encouragement of her advisor, Professor Sam Miller.

This summer, Griffin will intern with Professor Jay Cordeira through the Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric & Related Sciences (NEPARS) program, which provides Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) early in their education. The PSU Meteorology Program received a $528,000 NSF grant last year to continue the REUs and related opportunities. “I’m very excited to get that one-on-one preliminary research experience,” says Griffin, who is already looking forward to her own junior-year independent research.

Griffin’s research into meteorological phenomena will find a place in her busy schedule alongside her fellowship work with the Office of Community Impact. For Griffin, working to address climate change and helping her classmates deal with challenging circumstances are all of a piece.

“Giving back to the community was something my parents made sure my brothers and I partook in to humble ourselves, learn compassion, but most importantly to help others,” she says. “Today, I still try to bring this mindset to everything I do.”