My George Washington Carver Internship Experience
Almost two years ago I unintentionally happened upon The World Food Prize Foundation – and there blossomed a series of professional and intellectual relationships and friendships I didn’t know were possible. My first George Washington Carver Internship at the WFP was in the summer of 2015. I came back again in the summer of 2016 because it was such an encouraging and unique environment. Both of my GWC internships were some of the most meaningful experiences of my college career.
I was the Secretariat Intern both summers and it was an incredible learning experience. A large part of my job was to read and compile briefs for nominees of the World Food Prize and the Borlaug Field Award. I was able to read about amazing innovations in technology and policy relating to agriculture and food security around the world. It was exciting because in my mind, writing and compiling briefs for the selection committees was my small contribution toward making history. Everything we were doing was going to help the Selection Committee recognize someone who has a positive impact on millions of people around the world. I was able to sit in on the jury deliberations for the Borlaug Field Award and the feeling of being a part of something bigger than all of us is something I can never forget.
The most important part of both my internships at The World Food Prize Foundation has been the personal relationships I have been able to form and maintain. My supervisors and mentors are people I continue to look to for advice and support in various aspects of my life after my internships. From the very beginning, my mentor Judith had a lot of confidence in my abilities, though I did not share these feelings. As with any new experience, I felt like I was jumping into something I had no experience or qualifications to be a part of. Judith’s reassurance and encouragement helped me be more confident and push myself to be better at the tasks she gave me. Judith’s trust in my abilities and judgement is something I am eternally grateful for, as I had not experienced anything like it before. The freedom to express myself and take any ideas or concerns I had immediately to her was an exciting part of my job. I was able to add my own personal touch to the tasks at hand and attempt to push for more. The best example of Judith’s unwavering support was when I apprehensively went to her a few weeks into my first internship to suggest that we upgrade our current manual nomination processing system. I initially felt like I was overstepping my boundaries as I was new and an intern, but Judith immediately met my idea with enthusiasm and validation. Together we pursued the idea – we did research, had several conversations to pitch our idea to Ambassador Quinn and Mashal, and made it clear that this was necessary and important for the efficiency of the Secretariat’s job. The upgrade we pushed for was approved in February 2017.
Though Judith was the person I interacted with most, the trust, confidence and encouragement came from so many other members of the WFP family. One of the most amazing parts of the WFP is the Borlaug Dialogue every October. I was lucky enough to be able to come back to Des Moines and be involved with the events of the symposium. I was able to meet some of the most influential people in the field of food security and international development, a field that I hope to be a part of soon. Ambassador Quinn, Mashal and Judith trusted me to be a liaison to a number of important symposium guests - a level of responsibility I didn’t think I was capable of. Their nudge of encouragement spoke volumes to me personally and made me push myself to take advantage of the opportunities I was given.
There are a lot of remarkable things about the WFP, but their genuine appreciation of their interns is something I’ve never seen before. “Just an intern” is a phrase that you will never hear around the office, and though that may seem small, it is indicative of the incredible values and egalitarian culture that is at the core of the WFP.