Life often takes an unconventional route.
Just ask Andrew Shipman who graduated in May from the University of Mary Washington in American studies.
As valedictorian of Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Shipman entered the Fredericksburg campus in 2006 full of determination, but within two years grew discouraged and stepped away from the classroom.
He took jobs prepping food in Fredericksburg restaurants where he discovered a fascination for food. He cultivated his passion for cuisine at Veritas Vineyard & Winery near Charlottesville studying under classically trained chef Jonathan Burroughs. Already he distinguished sharp differences in local and non-local flavors as a teenager, which he learned while helping his father load and drive trucks at Standard Produce in Charlottesville.
But he soon found himself ready for a new challenge. With a couple of years of real-world experience behind him, Shipman returned to UMW in 2010 with a new appreciation for education.
Shipman pursued history and soon realized that he could mesh his love of history and food. He credits UMW professors for instilling in him communication skills and analytical know-how.
“Professors (Krystyn) Moon and (Claudine) Ferrell helped me develop my communication skills and approach to problem solving, how to view matters from different perspectives,” he said.
Moon said Shipman said his work experience proved an advantage in the classroom.
“Because he had already been out in the workforce, Andy was one of those students who really knew what he wanted to get out of his experiences at UMW,” said Moon. “It’s a wonderful trait to have in a student.”
When Shipman heard about plans for a new restaurant specializing in local and organically grown foods in downtown Fredericksburg, he approached the owners about working in the kitchen on weekends.
“Andy literally was our first employee. He came to us before we had a kitchen built,” said Joy Crump, chef and co-owner of Foodé. “He’s such a logical thinker. He suggested things we’d never thought of—like setting the plates next to the stove where we will need them. We were so proud to have him aboard. He’s fast, efficient and insanely reliable.”
He also volunteered to help maintain the downtown community gardens.
Last semester, Shipman pursued research in 21st century seed preservation underway at the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a small cooperative seed company in Louisa.
“They are preserving America’s genetic resources and our culture through seeds, mainly organic and heirloom seeds,” said Shipman. “Heirloom seeds are those from 1940s or earlier that haven’t been tainted by science. The importance is in taste and flavor. By saving seeds and making them available, that ensures that future generations enjoy the same foods that we enjoy. That ensures that my children, your children will enjoy the same foods our grandparents enjoyed.”
This summer after commencement, Shipman returned to Veritas Vineyard where he works as assistant chef. Ultimately, he plans to pursue a career with the National Park Service or in an agricultural field, combining his love of history, food, and the outdoors.
Whatever direction he takes, he feels that his unconventional detour and the guidance from his professors have prepared him for the future.
“From matriculation to commencement my journey with Mary Washington has been much like tending a garden,” he said. “It has taken time, hard work and patience, but the rewards and opportunities are bountiful.”