The Power of “Borlaug-like Persistence”
During my junior and senior year, I never expected to be interning with an internationally renowned foundation, nor did I think that my experience here would be the most influential internship when deciding what I would want to pursue in college. However, my experience at the World Food Prize has been more than an average internship- it has been about growth, learning from it and developing novel ideas to continue growing.
During my summers off from school, I have always felt the need to focus on skill development and professional experience. As I had recently discovered an interest in international relations in my sophomore year, the World Food Prize Foundation seemed like the perfect place to develop a niche understanding of this discipline. A sophomore asking if she could have a college- level internship seemed like a stretch to say the least, but I still sent an email asking if I could be a part of the organization in any way. Much to my surprise, about a week later I received a response confirming that I could be a part of the George Washington Carver internship.
Partially terrified, part excited frenzy, I spent my first week of summer reading about food security, specifically Roger Thurow’s book Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in the Age of Plenty. I had no idea what I would be getting into, how much information I needed to know beforehand or who I would be working with. After meeting with my advisor Crystal, I began to calm down. She reassured me that I would always be able to ask her questions and could pursue developing my skills in a way that reflected what I was comfortable with doing. I ended up spending the summer working on the Foundation’s newspaper archive. I essentially became the head project leader for this archive since I got to make this project be what I wanted it to be. It was a small task, but I felt its value was so much more. My time working on the archive showed me how the history of the Foundation is steeped in hard work and a genuine effort to develop novel ideas on how to support students as well as anyone who has the ability to advance food security. By the end of the summer, I had archived just short of 2,500 newspapers but felt I had learned a story of trials, errors and growth which comes from this Foundation’s persistence.
I am in the middle of my second summer with the World Food Prize and the experience I have had has prepared me for college applications in ways I never expected. I have finished archiving all of the physical newspapers and accounting for them, a major undertaking and a proud moment for me. I have also worked on revising Global Youth Institute application essays. As a senior revising other seniors’ essays, I have been in an interesting position which requires me to recognize my own mistakes in order to provide adequate feedback for students like myself. Finally, for two weeks I was the assistant to the President of the World Food Prize Foundation Ambassador Kenneth Quinn. Between his meetings and phone calls, he would meet with me to see how he can help me become better connected with those who work in international relations and politics in Des Moines just because that is my passion. As an assistant, I noticed a few things weren’t able to get done during the work hours or were forgettable, so I created a to-do list for Amb. Quinn. After receiving my second “to-do” email, Amb. Quinn called me into his office. I was nervous thinking that I came off as pushy, but he called me in instead because he wanted to thank me and described my actions as having “Borlaug-like persistence.”
That is probably the best way to describe the efforts of this Foundation and what I have learned during my summers here. It takes persistence. It takes persistence to learn from when we do something wrong, it takes persistence to get everything done and it takes persistence to create the familial like relationship my co-workers and I all share.