Day 1 Recap: Washington, DC Career Trip

Immerse yourself in the first 24 hours of the annual Friedman School Washington, DC Career Trip through the lens of second-year AFE student, Emily Stanislawzyk.

8 am – Arriving bright and early at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) while the cherry blossoms were still shaking off that night’s cold temperatures made for an easy call time. As graduate students at the Friedman School, we regularly use USDA data, research, webinars, and other resources in our studies, but rarely speak to staff and never “see where the pie is made.” Six of the many Friedman alumni working at the USDA joined our group for breakfast to share how they leverage their Friedman training to interpret and communicate policy, be nimble and flexible, and harness innovation in a bureaucratic setting. One key takeaway is that all Friedman students can find their niche at the USDA – whether that focus is on nutrition, agriculture, public health, research, program implementation, monitoring and evaluation, or community engagement.

10:45 am – After a picturesque stroll through the National Mall, our group arrived at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID manages the U.S. government’s foreign assistance funding for development and humanitarian aid projects oversees. We were hosted by five Friedman alumni as well as Dr. Patrick Webb, esteemed Professor at the Friedman School and current Chief Nutritionist at USAID. Here we learned how government funds are distributed to create impactful international development programs that affect the lives of people around the world.

12:30 pm – While sharing lunch around a large conference table with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) team, we understood the important work CSPI does in advocating for consumer safety in the food system. Deemed “Your Food and Health Watchdog”, CSPI provides evidence-based information to the public and represents the interests of American citizens. Examples of projects we heard about were their influence on school meals, the dietary guidelines, and food business policies.

4 pm – A two-hour break meant we squeezed in a trip to the Air and Space Museum and then made our way to our final visit of the day at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). A Tufts Fletcher School alumnus walked us through IFPRI’s structure as a CGIAR center and provided a high-level overview of the main research areas in his unit: school meals to improve child and adolescent diets, cash transfer program impacts on diets and nutritional status, graduation model programs and impacts on nutrition, and gender-sensitive agriculture programs to improve household diets. The breadth of research conducted at IFPRI resulted in every student on the trip identifying a project that fit their interests, as they ranged from nutritional behavior change to sustainable agriculture.

5:30 pm – The alumni networking reception at Zaytinya, a José Andrés restaurant, was perhaps the best place to have one-on-one conversations with the generous and enthusiastic Friedman alums working in the DC metro area. Many of our hosts from earlier in the day joined students, faculty, alumni relations, and Dean Economos for delicious apps and drinks to connect to and foster a Friedman School community away from our home in Boston. It was a wonderful end to a busy Day 1!

By Hannah Symons
Hannah Symons Administrative Coordinator