CIPA in Rome Externship

Jess Sokolow is a second-year CIPA student concentrating in International Development Policy, with a focus on food and agriculture policy. In this post Jess talks about her experience with the Cornell in Rome Program where she interned during the Spring 2016 semester with Bioversity International on the Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems Initiative.

The Cornell in Rome program is one of the many unique opportunities offered at CIPA. This program is a chance for students interested in international development, particularly as it relates to food and agricultural issues, to spend a semester in Rome. Rome is the hub of multilateral organizations and international research institutions working on matters pertaining to food and agriculture. The semester is comprised of two components: an externship and a weekly graduate course, where you develop a paper related to the work at your organization. You receive course credits for both the externship and graduate course. However, students participating in the program need to take an additional course either before or after the program to catch-up on course credits. This program is offered every Spring semester to first or second year students.

The Cornell in Rome Program was one of the important deciding factors when I was making my decision to come to CIPA. I decided to come to CIPA in part to make a subject-matter shift in my career from water policy to food and agriculture policy, leveraging my deep understanding of water. Therefore, I knew that the opportunity to work on issues related to food and agriculture on the front-lines in Rome would provide me with important perspective on the issues and later set me apart in the job market. The program did just that and was pivotal to my CIPA experience. I decided I would go to Rome my first Spring semester (rather than my second)—which I am glad I did. It served as a useful way to gain perspective on my specific interest areas in the field and to determine what courses I needed to take when I returned to support the work I wanted to do after CIPA.

In Rome, I worked for Bioversity International, an international research institution that is a part of the CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) system. As part of their Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems Initiative I worked with technical experts across disciplines—from nutrition to agronomy—to research and write about issues related to biodiversity and nutrition, as well as multifunctional landscapes and seascapes. As part of a small team, I had the opportunity to work on several projects, and thus every day was different and interesting. My work ranged from writing and researching case studies, book chapters and journal articles, such as Enabled or Disabled: Is the Environment Right for Using Biodiversity to Improve Nutrition, to revamping a website and developing a business school training for smallholder farmers of traditional crops in rural Kenya. I even had the opportunity, as part of a project with the EAT Initiative, to travel to Stockholm, Sweden to work with researchers from around the world to develop a paper about multifunctional landscapes and seascapes. During my externship, I learned an enormous amount from my colleagues and through my research. I also had the unique opportunity of being published on several papers and book chapters, positioning me well for other opportunities at CIPA and beyond.

When I wasn’t working or at the graduate seminar, I spent my time exploring Rome. Rome is a beautiful, inspiring city with amazing history, art, culture and food. It’s a great place to spend a semester. It also didn’t hurt that I studied Italian as an undergraduate—however you certainly don’t need to know Italian to take part in the program, as all the work is conducted in English!

If you’re interested in the program, you will want to spend time considering if you want to go first or second semester (there are trade-offs to each!) You will also want to make your decision early during the Fall semester, as it can take a bit of time to find an internship in Rome since they are quite competitive. (Note that the program manages the internship search.) Overall, I highly suggest the Cornell in Rome Program for anyone interested. It is one of the best decisions I made at CIPA!  

CIPA Cornell in Rome 2016 (from left to right): Roger Trancik (Cornell in Rome Faculty), Victoria De La Rosa Albritton (CIPA ’16), Tiffany Williams (CIPA ’16), Lars Björkman (retired from UN WFP), Jess Sokolow (CIPA ’17), Marcus Franklin (CIPA ’16), Adriana Arango Guillen (CIPA ’16)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *