When Rachel McBride transferred to NIU as an underclassman in 2011 to study nutrition, she unwittingly opened the door to a world of new and unexpected learning opportunities.
As an undergraduate in the College of Health and Human Sciences, she studied abroad in Tanzania where she assessed student nutrition needs.
This past December, as a graduate student, she served an externship in Bucerias, Mexico, where she conducted nutrition needs assessments that laid the foundation for nutrition classes and community gardens to be implemented in the near future.
Now, thanks in part to a $10,000 Clarence and June Pearson Worldview Internship Award from CHHS, the 24-year-old from Decatur, Ill., will share her knowledge and passion for healthy eating during a six-month internship at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Roma, Italy beginning April 7.
“I would have never guessed things like this would have happened for me at NIU,” McBride said. “I’ve had some amazing opportunities that I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”
While in Italy, she will assist in exploring ways to improve dietary standards for school meals, as well as work with Improved Complementary Feeding Project (IMCF) to help prepare documents, newsletters and project management activities from Malawi and Cambodia.
“I feel that my personal values align really well with this organization,” McBride said. “I am excited to learn how a large international organization works and to see how like-minded people work toward the eradication of hunger.”
She first discovered her passion for helping less developed nations after attending a micro finance lecture given by NIU College of Business instructor and active social entrepreneur Dennis Barsema. McBride said Barsema inspired her to make a difference globally, not just locally.
“He told us that the only difference between us and the world’s extreme poor is latitude and longitude,” McBride said. “He said that we need to use the skills we were blessed with here to help those who are less fortunate elsewhere. It really stuck with me.”
She was an undergrad at the time, exploring her major with aspirations of a career in sports nutrition as an Olympic dietitian. But after Barsema’s talk, the seeds of social entrepreneurship had been planted. McBride now plans to pursue a career that will help her feed those who are less fortunate.
She’s hopeful that the internship will allow her to better understand what type of organization she would like to work for after she graduates. If she can’t find the right fit, she said she will start her own organization.
“Really, it comes down to feeding hungry people, whether that be in another country or here in America,” she said.
McBride said she is excited to experience the culture and food of Italy, but she’s also looking forward to continuing to build her professional network on an international level.
“This is a great learning experience for me,” she said. “I’m truly blessed that these things keep happening for me. I just hope this helps expand my network and helps me build a future in this field. I’m excited for the adventure ahead.”