May 24, 2017 A group of students from the Dean’s Global Agricultural and Food Leadership Program at Iowa State University visited the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome in May to learn about the role the United States plays in the international effort to address global food security.
Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Duffy discussed the importance of challenging assumptions when addressing some of the most pressing food and agriculture issues, including famine in the world right now. The group had the opportunity to hear from representatives from the Mission’s three agencies — USAID, USDA and the State Department.
The University’s Global Agricultural and Food Leadership Program brings students to Rome for a month to work with professionals at the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to research and present projects related to global food security, agricultural development and foreign food aid. Every year, the group also visits the Mission to learn more about how the United States engages with FAO and the other Rome-based international organizations.
The Dean’s program is in its ninth year, according to Joe Colletti, senior associate dean of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He said year after year, it provides the selected group of students with a chance to learn about agriculture and development from a global perspective, with exposure to the international entities that work in the field.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for students to get a first-hand look at — and an opportunity to talk with and work with — professionals who are on the front line of the work to reduce poverty, to enhance the livelihoods of all people,” he said. “By the end, they can really start to get a sense of the workings of FAO and the importance of the collaboration across nations.”
On one of her last days in Rome, 19-year-old participant Chelsea Ferrie spent the morning explaining recent trends in rural development in Vietnam and the Cote d’Ivoire to a room of food and agricultural experts at FAO.
“It was one of the hardest academic things I’ve ever done,” Ferrie said. “But it gave me such a big, broader picture of what is happening in the world, especially in terms of agriculture and food security.”
The seven students were broken up into two project groups, each focusing their research on different challenges seen in different nations across the globe. One concentrated on the optimization of food system transformation, with a focus on nutrition — using Senegal, Guatemala and Nigeria for their case studies. The other studied inclusive rural development, looking at eight countries to analyze some of factors that drive the process.
“We learned a lot about working as a group and just the enormous amount of collaboration that goes into projects like this,” 21-year-old Taylor Berkshire said. “We’re working with each other, and we’re working with FAO, and we pulled data from so many other organizations involved with the same type of work.”
FAO and many of the other UN agencies in Rome have internship programs and full-time employment opportunities for Americans, which have been filled by a number of Iowa State students in the past, Colletti said.
“Not all students are going into development,” he said. “Some of them are, and some of them will just be better off because they have a more global perspective — a sense of what it means to be a global citizen.”