Building A Pipeline Of Diverse Talent And Innovation To End Global Hunger
The COVID-19 crisis has compounded and amplified many urgent societal challenges – not the least of which is the critical need to address hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. In February, 24 World Food Prize Laureates released a powerful call to U.S. leadership to take three actions that will move us toward a well-nourished world. I would like to propose a fourth – we must invest in building a pipeline of diverse talent and innovation to end global hunger.
At Iowa State University, our response to COVID-19 and the many other challenges of the past year has underscored our land-grant ideals – creativity and innovation are our way forward; and for innovation to occur, we must have a welcoming and inclusive environment that empowers diverse individuals to share and apply their talent. As the first woman president of Iowa State University, I am proud to be the active expression of this ideal. I have made it a priority to expand the table and include diverse talent from underrepresented groups so a diversity of ideas and approaches can be heard.
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of Iowa State University’s partnership with the World Food Prize Foundation to hold the annual Iowa Youth Institute. This event brings together more than 300 Iowa high school students to engage with our Iowa State faculty experts on global challenges. Top students at the Iowa Youth Institute have the opportunity to advance to the Global Youth Institute. Whether they want to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Norman Borlaug or chart their own path, students are encouraged to see themselves as having the innovative spirit to be a future “hunger fighter.”
More broadly, our Innovate at Iowa State initiative is opening up the world of innovation to students from all backgrounds, majors and skill sets. At our new Student Innovation Center, students from any discipline can collaborate with their peers and faculty mentors to design, build, and test their ideas. Our goal is to allow our students to express their bold ideas, take risks, and turn setbacks into creative solutions – some of which will focus on issues of food security.
The complexities of global hunger, poverty, and malnutrition are far too great for a single expert or discipline to address alone. We need to invite everyone with a passion for this cause to put their creativity to the test. By building a pipeline of diverse talent and innovation, the best ideas will move us toward a well-nourished world, even if those ideas come from surprising places.