By Hollyn Cetrone
I had an amazing experience attending and presenting at the annual Agriculture, Nutrition, and Health Academy conference in Hyderabad, India from June 24-28. There were a multitude of opportunities to meet new people, hear about their current work, and exchange ideas. It was a unique experience for me since I was the youngest person at the conference (only undergraduate presenting, let alone attending the conference), but I put myself out there and befriended PhD students, researchers, and policy makers from institutions around the globe. People with backgrounds in economics, agriculture, nutrition, and policy from over 30 different countries all came together to exchange ideas, share current best practices and project results, and discuss how we could come together to overcome barriers within the field of food systems.
I was lucky enough to have my abstract on a nutrition and agriculture project’s impact on women’s depression be accepted for an oral presentation at the conference. I had been working on this research since last summer, when I went to Singida, Tanzania for data collection, and have since been analyzing the data and working on turning it into a manuscript. I was nervous to be presenting my findings to a room of the world’s experts on agriculture and nutrition, so this opportunity at the conference allowed me to practice public speaking in a high-pressure environment. I was happy to learn that the academic community within this field is friendly, and I received comments from people who I hadn’t met before on how much they enjoyed my presentation. I definitely gained confidence from this experience and learned that there is good that can come from being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
In addition to presenting, the conference had two of the five days dedicated to “learning labs”, where conference attendees could sign up to have hands-on learning for new metrics and tools within the field. I signed up for labs like “Managing trade-offs: Methods and Tools for Policy Decision-making” as well as “System Dynamics in Researching Markets for Nutrition”, among others. From these learning labs, I learned not only content, but also what public health job opportunities existed, since I am interested in the intersection of research and public health policy. Unique from other members in the conference, one of my goals was to learn what a career in public health could look like. So, hearing individuals share their current projects at different institutions allowed me to do that.
I am thankful for the Program in Global Health Studies funding this opportunity and allowing me to disseminate my results to a community that appreciated hearing them and can apply my findings to their own work. I was able to apply my previous global health and research topical knowledge from Northwestern classes to real-world application discussions, so this was a valuable experience. This opportunity will help me in my future public health career, since I now have expanded experience with public speaking and conducting scientific conversations with leaders within the field as well as have deepened my knowledge base for the subject area of my research. I am grateful for the people I met during this conference, and the network I now am a part of.