When taking notes in the Haley Center or studying in RBD Library, it can be difficult to imagine applying knowledge beyond the classroom. But for sophomore Sara Rains, her hunger studies class took her to places she never imagined.
Last spring, Rains, a nutrition and horticulture major and hunger studies minor, took the hunger studies capstone course taught by Director of Hunger and Sustainability Initiatives Dr. Kate Thornton. Through Auburn’s relationship with the World Food Programme of the United Nations, the class was given the opportunity to work on a unique project.
“The project was a qualitative study for the World Food Programme analyzing the data that they provided us with using reports and evaluations from their past 10 years of operations,” said Rains. The class then compiled a report of more than 100 pages to find the themes that emerged.
Rains, Thornton and Sydney Herndon, another student who had taken the spring capstone course, went on a study abroad trip to Fiji, June 3rd-25th. While in Fiji, Thornton received an email invitation for Auburn professors and students to present more of their research project to the UN. She just happened to be in one of the few places with available WIFI. This time, they were invited to the WFP headquarters: Rome.Their hard work was soon recognized by the WFP. The class and Dr. Daniel Henry, the qualitative research expert from Auburn’s College of Education, were invited to their office in New York City to present the methodology of the project.
Six of the students, including Rains, were able to go on the all expenses paid trip. Rains said the trip and New York City was an incredible opportunity, but her journey did not end there.
When Thornton found out the news, she immediately turned to her students and exclaimed, “We’re going to
With a short turn-around of a few weeks, Thornton, Rains, Herndon and the dean of the College of Human Sciences, June Hintons, hopped on a plane the third week of July.
The Auburn representatives spent their first two days in Rome preparing for the presentation and meeting with WFP staff from all over the world. The entire WFP office was invited to hear the Auburn students and professors speak and they advertised the event through fliers hung around the building.
Rains said an unexpected and humbling twist in the adventure was that the director of emergency management and the deputy executive director of the entire WFP came to hear the presentation and stayed for its entirety.
“To have them there was so amazing,” said Rains, “we didn’t know they’d be there until the morning of, and then all of a sudden they were seated right next to me.”
After overcoming this star-struck moment, Rains, Herndon and the Auburn professors experienced the hour and a half they had all been waiting for: they presented their findings to a conference room full of WFP and Food and Agriculture Organization staff.
“It was unpredictable and phenomenal,” said Rains, “I’ve learned to use a lot more adjectives because great and cool don’t cover it anymore.”
A few debriefings and meeting later, Rains, Thornton and Herndon were able to truly take advantage of the European adventure and stayed for a few extra days to sightsee. Among their checked-off bucket-list items were visiting the Sistine chapel, being the only English-speaking people in an area and walking around the Vatican to say they made it all the way around a nation state.
Rains said the whole experience was amazing, and that none of this would have been possible without the university’s support.
“Every single thing I’ve done is because I came to Auburn,” said Rains.