An emerging leader

November 21, 2016
Elizabeth Alonzi

With a challenge so daunting as feeding a world with 9 billion inhabitants by 2050, we’re in need of a new “Green Revolution” and the talent to oversee it.

A program begun recently by local food company Land O’Lakes seeks to cultivate that next generation. Its Global Food Challenge—Emerging Leaders for Food Security program taps 10 or more exceptional college students each year for a yearlong fellowship.

Elizabeth Alonzi was among the 2015-16 cohort of emerging leaders. The University of Minnesota junior is studying bioproducts and biosystems engineering in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE).

Her recently completed fellowship entailed going on numerous field trips, organizing an interactive event for U students, and participating in a summer internship in which her group analyzed food waste in K-12 schools and made recommendations for reducing waste and connecting with local food shelves.

She also spent a week each studying food issues in Rwanda, Kenya, Washington, DC, and at a rural coop (affiliated with Land O’Lakes) in Indiana.

The fellowship opened her eyes to the myriad practices, challenges, and opportunities in food and agriculture.

“I came in with zero hands-on knowledge about agriculture,” Alonzi says. “And I feel so comfortable discussing ag now. … I feel like I’ve seen firsthand a lot of [aspects] that people that work in the business haven’t seen—just because I got to see such a wide breadth of things.”

And the experience reinforced her desire for a career focused on sustainable solutions, be they in energy or agriculture. “It’s really hard to predict the future and to effect changes that people won’t see for decades,” Alonzi says. Sustainability, she adds, is “the ultimate long-term problem.”

Watch a CSE Student Voices video on Alonzi.

Two other University of Minnesota students, Blake Schweiner and Katie Enzenauer, also were chosen for the 2015-2016 Global Food Challenge fellowship.