Published on 07/09/24

CAES student follows her zeal for food safety to UGA School of Law

By Lillian Dickens
View of the front entrance of Hirsch Hall with students walking on the sidewalk in the foreground.
UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences student Emily Harris, who is headed to the UGA School of Law to study food regulation, encourages other students to pursue their interests and aptitudes beyond traditional career paths. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

The career world is wide open for students at the University of Georgia, a life lesson third-year student Emily Harris learned as a food science major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Harris plans to attend the UGA School of Law to pursue a degree in food regulation and law this fall, a unique path she discovered through classes in the Department of Food Science and Technology.

We recently caught up with Harris to ask about her journey as a CAES student, applying to law school and pursuing a crucial role in an ever-changing food industry.

Where did your interest in food law come from?

I came in to UGA as a pharmaceutical sciences major and thought I was going to do cancer research in a lab, but soon realized that, to be successful in that field, I was going to be on the bottom of the totem pole for a while. Pharmaceuticals just weren't for me.

I changed to food science after talking it over with my parents two to three months into my time at UGA. Food safety has always been a topic of conversation in our home, and my dad and I had a long conversation about how people in the agricultural industry need people who have food safety knowledge. They need them on farms doing inspections, among other things, and there's a shortage of people in agriculture who also know about food safety.

From there, I changed my major to food science and fell in love with it. During my sophomore year, I was doing an internship with Athens Chick-fil-A and taking the “Governmental Regulation of Food Safety and Quality” class with Associate Professor Faith Critzer. I remember thinking, “Okay, food law is my jam.” It was a natural progression of my learning set.

What was it like applying to law school as a CAES student?

Emily Harris in her CAES Ambassador blazer
Emily Harris, 2023-24 CAES Ambassador

I didn't take the traditional route to law school. I applied through the UGA Scholars Program. In this program you don’t have to take the LSAT. They take your SAT or ACT scores from high school, which was interesting in my application group because with COVID, a lot of students didn’t have to do that for their college applications.

I submitted my SAT score, my GPA and all the other normal requirements for law school, like the personal statement and the diversity statement. I also wrote an extra letter to tell more about why I was interested in law. I brought up a lot about being from a rural area and being a STEM major because that’s not a normal background for someone going into law. Normally you only need to do the personal statement, but because my situation was so different, I made sure to go the extra mile.

What does it mean for you to go from being a CAES student to attending UGA Law School?

As far as I know, there's only one other student in the whole law school who came from CAES. There are 600 students in the law school, and I'll be one of two. That's less than half a percent.

It means that I can not only influence others, but I can show people that it is possible to do something amazing with a degree in agriculture. There's a common misconception that you have to be a farmer with an agriculture degree, and it’s just not true.

Even though I grew up on a farm, I have never thought that I have to go back to farming just because I have a degree from CAES. It feels great knowing that there are opportunities outside of our college for further education, and I'm glad that I get to be one of the students who shows other people that this is a possibility. It may be harder for us because we don’t have a “traditional” background, like political science, history or English. It also gives us uniqueness because we aren't traditional and we can bring a different perspective to the law school.

What are some of your goals for law school and after?

I hope to get a lot of experience outside of the classroom. Similar to an undergraduate degree, there will be opportunities to do internships and externships. During the summers, I'm hoping to intern at food companies to get some experience. I know Land O’Lakes and Hershey have multiple legal internships for which you have to be in law school to apply.

After law school, who knows? I like a lot of different types of food law, including foodborne illness and food safety law. I think it's going to be the internships I get in the coming years that are going to help narrow my focus. My options are endless, and I’m just excited for the ride.

Learm more about the UGA Scholars Program at For learningn opportunities through UGA's food science and technology department, visit

Lillian Dickens is the communications, public relations and program coordinator for the UGA Department of Food Science and Technology.