About Hidden Gems

The Hidden Gems podcast began as an independent project by Julia Hesse-Fong, Sofia Garrick, and Kimika Padilla in Winter 2020. Originally meant to feature “hidden gems” —locations around Chicago that connect people to their urban environment—the podcast evolved in Spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Our first published episodes, Hidden Gems: Quarantine Edition document life in Chicago during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of places, we chose to highlight people and organizations, and their efforts to promote resilience and maintain urban identity in the face of a global health crisis. This podcast is sponsored by Chicago Studies and the Program on the Global Environment at the University of Chicago.

About the Producers

About the Producers

Sofia Garrick is a senior at the University of Chicago majoring in Biology and minoring in Environmental & Urban Studies with a specialization in economics, policy, and GIS. She leads the audio editing and mixing for each episode of the Hidden Gems podcast. Sofia is passionate about environmental conservation with a focus on sustainable business solutions. She currently studies shark fin morphology and biomechanics in her research lab at the University of Chicago. She enjoys longboarding, listening to NPR, and exploring the mountains of her hometown in California in her free time.

Kimika Padilla is a senior at the University of Chicago who will double-major in Environmental & Urban Studies and Public Policy. She manages the website and communications for the Hidden Gems podcast, and leads interview planning. Kimika is passionate about three causes: homelessness, education, and the environment. She chairs the Committee on Campus Sustainability under Student Government, a student group dedicated to increasing advocacy, awareness, and action around sustainability at the University of Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys food, fitness, and the outdoors!

Julia Hesse-Fong will be graduating in June 2020 with a major in Environmental & Urban Studies. She steers the writing of Hidden Gems podcast and assists in the audio editing. Julia is devoted to the issues of sustainable food systems and food security, and she is curious about circular economy development and regenerative agriculture. Currently, she is working on a new blog called One Pomegranate Seed about climate change and kinship through the lens of food. You are most likely to find her creating art, cooking up homemade herbal remedies and dishes, or connecting with family and friends.