Global Food Challenge University ambassadors: supporting the development of emerging leaders

Monday, June 17, 2019 - 10:00am
This dairy farming family shared powerful testimonials about the impact a dairy cow had on their lives.

This dairy farming family shared powerful testimonials about the impact a dairy cow had on their lives.

Tomato farmers and leaders of the Mwaiwathu Women’s tomato processing cooperative.

Tomato farmers and leaders of the Mwaiwathu Women’s tomato processing cooperative described their work, dreams for the future, and challenges in creating and marketing their products.

 Rebecca Swenson in Cape Town, South Africa

Rebecca Swenson in Cape Town, South Africa.

Serving as a University ambassador for the Global Food Challenge was “an incredibly memorable experience” for CFANS professor Rebecca Swenson.

Rebecca Swenson, an assistant professor at the U of M’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, served as a University ambassador in the 2018 Global Food Challenge, mentoring student emerging leaders as they tackled issues of food security, agricultural policy, and international development. Below, she shares what she learned as she traveled with the students and Land O’Lakes leaders to visit international development projects and discuss food security and sustainability with leaders in Malawi and South Africa.

Learning together

I had a great experience serving as a Global Food Challenge University ambassador—I think I learned as much as the students did! I had the opportunity to work closely with Sierra Williamson, a U of M emerging leader, as she shaped her own personal and professional goals, worked through new ideas that came up in the curriculum, and applied the experience to a team project centered on a Land O’Lakes business unit. It was incredible to have faculty from many different disciplines and Land O’Lakes leaders from multiple business areas come together to support such high-achieving students.

Learning about Land O’Lakes

Prior to the program, I was not aware of Land O’Lakes’ involvement with international development, and I learned quite a bit about the company, their domestic and international work, and overall culture. I am now cognizant of new career paths, connections, and opportunities for our students, and thinking about how we should prepare our students to make valuable contributions to global challenges connected to sustainability and agriculture.   

Bringing Global Food Challenge to the classroom

I came back from Africa excited to implement new case studies about intercultural and international communication in my agricultural communication and marketing classes. The Global Food Challenge experience also pushed me to explore how we might create additional study abroad and international experiences for students, and to consider new research questions involving water, agriculture, sustainability, and communication.

Overall impact

It was an incredibly memorable experience to watch the students’ excitement grow as they listened to Land O’Lakes employees and partners talk about their work, successes, and challenges, and to hear firsthand about the impact of these international projects. The Global Food Challenge truly inspires students to think more broadly about global food security and potential contributions they can make in the future.