MACON – Mercer University seniors Alyssa Fortner and Hinal Patel were recently selected for two of 15 Congressional Hunger Center Zero Hunger Internships offered to college students and recent graduates nationwide.
The Zero Hunger Internship immerses participants in anti-hunger policy work in Washington, D.C., for 10 weeks during which they gain work experience at global and domestic anti-hunger organizations, develop professional skills and grow as leaders. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s internship will include nine weeks of remote work with the possibility of a weeklong training program in D.C.
Friends throughout their time at Mercer, Fortner and Patel participated together in Mercer’s South Africa Internship Program, where they collected data on political activism and civic participation rates among high school students in six demographically distinct schools. They both decided to take a year after graduation to work in the development field and successfully applied to the Zero Hunger Internship.
Fortner, from Chickamauga, is a double-major in international affairs and global development studies with a minor in anthropology. She will intern with Oxfam America’s Food Systems Thematic Team on projects related to gender justice, food security and agriculture, and climate change.
“I am ecstatic to have received the opportunity to work in the field I am passionate about while cultivating my skills as a professional and as an advocate,” she said. “In these current times, it is imperative to address the causes and implications of food insecurity, climate change and gender inequality. With the Congressional Hunger Center and Oxfam America, I am grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside my fellow cohort members and development practitioners to combat these crises. Through the Zero Hunger Internship, I will be able to use my educational background and community development experience to help do this on a global and policy level.”
At Mercer, Fortner was a member of Pi Sigma Alpha national political honor society and the National Society of Leadership and Success, a Gilman Scholar, Boren Scholarship alternate, Fulbright semifinalist, Peace Corps Prep Ambassador and Study Abroad Ambassador. She also was selected to the Dean’s List.
She plans to pursue a master’s degree and work in international development with a nongovernmental organization or agency.
Patel, from Macon, is a double-major in international affairs and global development with a minor in political science. She will intern with InterAction, a leader in the global quest to eliminate extreme poverty and vulnerability, strengthen human rights and citizen participation, safeguard a sustainable planet, promote peace and ensure dignity for all people.
“I am extremely grateful to receive the Zero Hunger Internship during these challenging times,” said Patel. “COVID-19 has made food scarcity/shortage an issue for so many families both domestically and abroad. Now more than ever, we have to work together to combat these issues and focus on community-focused anti-hunger work and poverty. I am delighted to have received an opportunity such as this since it allows me to contribute to the current global crisis while also enabling me to work with a cause about which I am passionate.”
At Mercer, Patel was a peer adviser, international student mentor and a member of the Girl Up Executive Board and Phi Beta Kappa honor society. She received the Outstanding Student in Global Development Award and was selected to the Dean’s List.
She plans to attend law school.
“Alyssa and Hinal have been actively searching for the next phase in their young professional lives, and these internships could not be a better fit with their passion for development work and the education they received as international affairs and global development double-majors,” said Dr. Eimad Houry, professor and chair of international and global studies. “Hunger and food insecurity are multifaceted and complicated challenges, and the interdisciplinary education they received empowers them to think more holistically about these problems. Moreover, the internships that they completed in South Africa were formative experiences that helped them affirm their determination to pursue work in development and international justice. I have no doubt that these internships will help them further refine and advance their personal career aspirations, while making the world a little better for all of us.”
The Congressional Hunger Center matches Zero Hunger Interns with anti-hunger organizations across the D.C. area based on skill and interest. Interns work in different areas such as policy, program implementation, development and fundraising, communications, nonprofit operations and more.