College students gain experience working at the World Food Prize - including two former Borlaug-Ruan interns returned from overseas work
A year ago, Linda Geiger and Danika Schaaf were high school seniors travelling around China and India, conducting research with agricultural experts as Borlaug-Ruan International Interns. Today, they’re working to make that life-changing opportunity available to other high school students as George Washington Carver Interns at the World Food Prize Foundation offices in Des Moines.
Since concluding their Borlaug-Ruan internships, both enrolled at Iowa State University and each chose the global resource systems major offered by the College of Agriculture (Danika focusing on Chinese and agricultural business, and Linda emphasizing agricultural engineering).
During her eight week internship at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai, India, Danika was able to pursue an independent research project that opened her eyes to the diversity of agricultural problems facing smallholder farmers in India and around the globe. In order to evaluate an MSSRF project in Andra Pradesh, Danika personally interviewed sixteen rural women, held discussions with three self-help groups, visited several rural villages, and worked one-on-one with MSSRF’s researchers.
As she explained, “Throughout the course of my internship, I was exposed to so many different situations and unforgettable experiences, all of which I know will benefit me in the future.”
Linda’s experience in China was quite different. Based in the laboratories at China Agricultural University (CAU) in Beijing, her research focused on the evaluation of transgenic Bt cotton and allowed her to learn many different lab techniques and procedures, including: protein, DNA, visual and practical analyses.
Although based in the city, Linda had many opportunities to visit the countryside on the outskirts of Beijing in order to observe traditional agricultural techniques still used in rural China today. It was, as she describes “an eye-opening, life-changing few weeks.”
As Carver interns, they’ve spent the summer learning about the administrative side of managing an international non-profit organization. Linda has worked to compile, research and standardize World Food Prize nominations under the supervision of Judith Pim, the director of secretariat operations, and to organize and develop the Chrystal-Szymoniak Intern Award book with Lisa Fleming, the director of youth and education programs. Danika has worked primarily with Keegan Kautzky, the director of national program development and outreach, to compile and align state and national educational content standards with the Global Youth Institute curriculum, as well as to develop 25 new webpages showcasing each of the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship sites.
In only one year’s time, these two remarkable young women have gone from being high school research interns abroad to working alongside the World Food Prize staff to fulfill Dr. Borlaug’s dream. Other students interested in this experience should contact the World Food Prize staff about opportunities through the Borlaug-Ruan internship or the George Washington Carver internship.