AMES, Iowa — For the past 10 years Iowa State University students have worked with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome as part of the Dean’s Global Agriculture and Food Leadership program.
“We wanted to design a program for students to work abroad and address some challenging issues to benefit developing countries,” said Joe Colletti, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and associate director of the Agriculture Experiment Station.
The program offers students a unique, client-based international experience in analyzing and evaluating complex international issues in the areas of food security, world hunger and sustainable resource development and policy.
Rome was selected because the Iowa State College of Design had a place for students to stay and Iowa State had contacts at the FAO. That made it easy for Colletti and Shelley Taylor, director of study abroad for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, to approach the FAO.
“The FAO staff were uncertain at first, but since the students have been working on these projects they’ve been very impressed with the quality of work,” Colletti said.
Including the nine students currently in Rome working with the FAO, 89 students have participated in the program since 2009.
“This program is a transformative opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real world challenges,” Taylor said. “For students who are interested in global food and agriculture, this is a critical program that allows them to practice the skills they’ve learned.”
Students spend the semester prior to the trip preparing. During that time the FAO staff works with faculty members to select projects and halfway through the semester the students decide which projects they want to pursue. When the students arrive in Rome they spend one month working and collaborating on those projects with the FAO.
“This is a way for students to reflect about what it means to be a global citizen. This experience will allow them to do well in any career they chose, especially if they are addressing these agricultural and food issues,” Colletti said.
For Jake Swanson (’14 global resource systems), the legislative liaison for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the experience was life changing. He said he continues to use the skills he learned in the program and he’s proud of his team’s contributions.
“I think our research is still being used. It’s really cool to think about how six students from Iowa can get together and help inform global policy – that’s super cool.”
— Iowa State University
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