Mia Vargo has followed in her older sister’s footsteps in more ways than one. Her journey at Case Western Reserve University began when she chose to accompany her sister, Madison, at the university, and will conclude this weekend as she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in cognitive science.
In her time at CWRU, Vargo also took the helm of Slow Food CWRU, a student organization previously led by Madison and a friend. Slow Food is an international organization that aims to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract fast life, and promote people’s interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, and how it affects our world.
“I think that it has been great to continue the work that Maddy and Olivia did with the club, and it seems to be growing every year,” Vargo noted. “We used to hold events at our apartment, but now we don’t have enough space for everyone, which is a great problem to have. It’s been great to ask her questions or bounce ideas off of her, and I think she’s also happy with the direction the club has taken.”
Now, as Vargo prepares to leave the university—and all of the memories she’s made as a student-athlete and as a leader of Slow Food CWRU—she’s more than ready for her next step. Vargo is taking a gap year to work at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital while she applies to physician assistant programs.
“I also plan to write a research paper with a PA at Cleveland Clinic and continue volunteering,” she added.
As she looks ahead to commencement, we spoke with Vargo to learn more about her time at Case Western Reserve.
Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
1. Why did you choose your area of study?
I was undecided until the end of my second year, so I didn’t go to school knowing exactly what I wanted to do. My roommate freshman year was a cognitive science major, which at that time I had never heard of before. After taking a few COGS classes, I found the content super interesting, and the variety of classes and areas you can focus your studies on was something I had not experienced before but found very enjoyable. From there, I stuck with it and am glad I made that choice.
2. How would you describe your experience as a track and field student-athlete at CWRU?
Participating in athletics was one of the best decisions I made at CWRU. I met almost all my close friends through the team and made so many special memories. While sometimes it was difficult to manage school, it was 100% worth it and gave me that space to not think about academics and have fun getting better at something. I have been involved in athletics my entire life, so I was grateful for the opportunity to compete competitively in college. I am very thankful to my coaches and teammates for making my experience so great.
3. Why did you initially get involved with Slow Food on Campus? Can you explain the organization’s mission and activities and why you got involved?
My older sister (Madison Vargo) and her close friend (Olivia Battistoni) were co-presidents of Slow Food. I lived with both of them during my sophomore year, and most of the events were hosted at our apartment, so I was exposed to the club through them. Some of our favorite events to host are our cultural dinners. We choose a country/culture, pick a couple of representative dishes, and invite members to cook with us from scratch and enjoy the meal together afterward. These dinners were one of the reasons I kept coming to Slow Food because the atmosphere of cooking and enjoying a meal is so wholesome and fun.
4. What was World Disco Soup Day 2023? What was the best part of the day and how were you involved in the programming?
World Disco Soup Day is a Slow Food holiday that started in Berlin as a ‘protest soup’ against food waste. The purpose of the holiday is to bring attention to the issue of food waste and its effect on the planet and communities. This year’s theme was: “Save the Food, Save Our Planet!” Our faculty advisor brought up the idea of doing an event with the Slow Food classes on campus, and Bon Appetit was kind enough to provide food that would have otherwise been thrown out. Our executive members also made gazpacho. I helped coordinate with the Slow Food professors and exec members to plan the details of the event, and one of the best parts of the day was when we raffled off a cookbook that focused on reducing food waste to one of the attendees!
5. Have you been involved in research or any other on-campus initiatives?
I have been vice president of the Pre-Physician Assistant Club for two years. I also volunteer at the UH Rainbow Connects Program and was the primary author of a literature review on the Psychological and Psychosocial Effects of Facial Paralysis through Cleveland Clinic, which was submitted to the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery this April.