Laila grew up in the green of the Surrey Hills and South Downs in the UK, and now lives in New Haven, CT. She is going into her senior year at Yale, majoring in Ethnicity, Race & Migration. In regard to the experiences on her resume most relevant to her work here, she says, “The most useful skill I bring to TLI is indubitably my ability to drive stick, but working with delicate manuscripts and insect specimens at college (two separate jobs! we try to keep the insects and books away from one another, promise) taught me how to find joy in tenderly handling thousands of important objects as part of gargantuan projects with decadal time lines…”
What drew you to work at TLI?
James Scott, a truly prodigious scholar and phenomenal professor, mentioned TLI’s work in an Agrarian Societies class I took. His description of perennial polycultures’ radical potential and his emphasis on the fact that this future was no longer speculative – that TLI was already commercializing a perennial grain crop (an extraordinary scientific feat that I now know as Kernza®) – got wedged in my brain. I ended up gleefully pouring through TLI’s website over winter break trying to figure out how to get to Salina as soon as possible.
What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at TLI?
I try to count how many cups of coffee David Van Tassel drinks, as a personal, woefully under-funded research project into the necessary conditions for scientific break-through. Never before has my joy at fresh coffee coincided with the possibility of transforming agriculture, perennially.
What’s your motto / favorite quote?
Arundhati Roy’s encouragement to listen very closely, very gently to the sound of our times: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
What were you like at age 10?
Exactly the same as I am now, except half the size and reading twice as many books.
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