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OPINION: Professor Gigi Berardi outside the classroom

This WWU professor has a ‘cheesy’ hobby

WWU professor Gigi Berardi practicing her hobby outside of the classroom. She makes a variety of cheeses and hosts tasting events for close friends. // Photos Courtesy of Gigi Berardi

Many of us know very little about the personal lives of our professors, including Western Washington University Professor Gigi Berardi, who teaches in the College of the Environment. 

Berardi has been teaching for almost 40 years all across the U.S. She has worked at more than 10 universities, including the University of  California Los Angeles, the University of California Irvine and the University of California Santa Barbara. 

During Berardi’s time at Western, she has taught a variety of classes, including writing proficiency, food security classes and core graduation classes.

Although her academic achievements are remarkable, teaching is just one part of who she is. Outside of the classroom, Berardi is a perfect example of the other life that some professors have. She has been making cheese and milking goats for more than ten years.

“You could consider it a very niche hobby, but since the pandemic, lots of people have tried to get into it. The Facebook group, ‘Learn to Make Cheese,’ has 36,000 members, including professional and amateur cheesemakers who help each other in an online forum,” said Courtney Johnson, executive director of the Washington State Cheesemakers Association, in an email.

Berardi describes her fascination with making cheese in connection to her interest in milk itself, which she discovered after studying the energy efficiencies of dairy farmers during her time at Cornell. 

“[I] got very interested in the nutrition profile of fresh milk,” Berardi said in an email. “I wanted my own fresh milk! So I helped some farm friends (milking a cow once a week), with goats (from which I could make delicious chevre), and then participated, with my partner, in buying two milk sheep — and milking them and making cheese.” 

Annually, she makes around 20 to 30 cheese wheels. She chooses not to sell any of the varieties of cheese that she makes, which includes these cheeses:

  • Gruyere

  • Fontina

  • Alpine tome

  • Colby

  • Buttered jack

  • Parmesan

  • Black pepper asiago

  • Manchego

  • Caerphilly

  • Ale-washed Trappist 

Lindsey Slevin, a co-owner of the Twin Sisters Creamery, works as a team with her husband to run their creamery. She has worked with Berardi over the years. 

“It's very collaborative cheesemaking, we all love to call and talk to each other and see what each other's doing and promote each other,” Slevin said. “Gigi is right in the middle of it. She's a true educator on artisan production of things.”

Slevin said Berardi has gone as far as to bring her classes into the creamery. 

“She's such an advocate on the local side of things and likes to connect with people,” Slevin said. “Especially small businesses and people that focus on making things, you know, by hand.”

Teachers do so much outside of the classroom that should be celebrated as equally as their academic triumphs. Berardi is an inspiration for students and teachers. Juggling hobbies and work life can be very difficult, but Berardi is an example of how to have the best of both worlds.

Avery Rossman

Avery  Rossman (she/her) is an opinions reporter for The Front. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the gym or cracking jokes and laughing with her friends! 

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