Using Trust to Build Community

Jared Grant, Ph.D., Agricultural and Applied Economics, UGA 2023

Jared Grant is a recent Ph.D. graduate in Agricultural and Applied Economics at UGA. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agribusiness from Florida A&M University and continued his education at the University of Georgia, participating in the UGA Graduate School FUSE Program (Facilitating Underrepresented Student Experiences). The FUSE program has operated at UGA since 2014.

One of the benefits of participating in the FUSE Program, in addition to an application fee waiver for the UGA Graduate School, is consideration for a graduate school assistantship once admitted to UGA. The ability to work as a graduate research assistant led Grant to decide to pursue both his Master’s of Science and Ph.D. degrees at UGA. “I had offers from other universities, but UGA’s offer allowed me to focus on research,” Grant said.  The FUSE program also supported Grant through community building, tapping into a strong FUSE cohort support system with other students from Minority-Serving Institutions.

Jared Grant“Jared is a great example of all that is possible through our Graduate FUSE Program. He participated in workshops, learning valuable professional and personal development skills.  He attended social and networking events, finding a vital community that assisted him with his transition into a large Research I institution.  He also volunteered to mentor several incoming FUSE students, honing his communication and leadership skills. It has been a joy to watch Jared’s journey from college student to the professional he has become,” said Dr. Lisa Sperling, who directs the FUSE Program within the Graduate School’s office of Student Success and Well-Being.

“Once I finished my master’s degree, I was encouraged that I was capable of pursuing a Ph.D., so I kept going with it,” Grant said. He now encourages others to pursue higher education and is thankful to the FUSE Program for support along the way.

In June 2023, Grant joined The Ohio State University in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics as a tenure-track assistant professor.  “I’ll be serving as an agriculture economist focusing on urban and environmental health outcomes,” Grant said. In this position, Grant will be implementing his theoretical framework and gathering additional primary and secondary data. Additionally, he will be teaching and helping students understand the field of agricultural economics.

Grant has been curious about food accessibility and food security from a young age. “Growing up in a low-food-access area, I remember seeing a grocery store finally being put in my neighborhood, but we rarely visited,” Grant said. He went on to explain that he asked his father why they did not visit the new store in their neighborhood, instead going to the one in the next town. His father responded with, “The store won’t last.” Grant recalled that seven months later, the store was closed for underperforming in a low-density area.

This was the starting point for Grant’s research, which focused on food accessibility and food security. He pointed out that there is existing literature surrounding why some grocery stores which are opened in low-food-access areas fail and some succeed. However, “I believe we can distinguish that what makes them fail or succeed comes down to trust,” he said, and thus made that the focus of his dissertation.

Grant explained that negative historical patterns of grocery stores in food-insecure areas can create distrust in individuals regarding new grocery stores. This distrust leads to the community not adopting the store and the store not making profits and closing down. “It’s a paradoxical cycle,” he said.

Recalling his findings, Grant said, “From secondary and primary data, the three things that can help make a successful store are maintaining the store, maintaining trust, and overall price of healthy foods.”

Grant is thankful for his time at the University of Georgia Graduate School and is excited to create positive change in his future role.

To learn more about the nomination process for the FUSE Program, please review the FUSE Application Checklist or contact the Office of Recruitment & Diversity Initiatives at


Unlocking potential. Building futures.

Apply Today