Heidi Ekborg-Ott selected for George Washington Carver internship


Submitted to The Simpsonian

Senior Heidi Ekborg-Ott has been selected to serve as the George Washington Carver International Dialogues Intern for the World Food Prize Foundation.

by Jenna Prather, Staff Reporter

The World Food Prize Foundation of Des Moines, Iowa selected Heidi Ekborg-Ott to serve as the George Washington Carver International Dialogues Intern for the spring cohort.

Moving into her senior year, Ekborg-Ott applied for multiple internships that fit the nature of her interest. When she found out she had been selected for the George Washington Carver internship, she said she couldn’t have been more excited.

“I had been applying and applying for like four months and trying to get an internship that I wanted,” Ekborg-Ott said. “And with an international nonprofit that deals with hunger, I was like ‘woo, I finally got something I really, really want to work for.’ And I knew it was going to be a great experience.”

Ekborg-Ott has been incredibly involved throughout all four years attending Simpson. 

“She is an excellent student, and I am not surprised that she got selected for this Carver internship in Des Moines,” Carolyn Dallinger, Department Chair of Sociology and Criminal Justice said. “She has a great heart to work with others. I know she’s worked on issues with immigration and international kind of concerns before.”

Dallinger has worked with Ekborg-Ott for all her years at Simpson, as the Simpson Carver Fellows Program is one of the many things that she has been involved in. She’s also the former president of both the International Student Organization (ISO) and Native American and Indigenous Student Association (NAISA), and involved with the Kate Shelley Women and Gender Studies Resource Center among other things.

“She has really dedicated her time, not only to Simpson but to be engaged with the legacy of Dr. Carver and really trying to push that forward,” Dallinger said.

So, working with the International Dialogues team at the World Food Prize Foundation is the perfect fit for her, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any anxiety going in.

“I was pretty nerve-wracked when I went to the interview,” Ekborg-Ott said. “I was like ‘oh my gosh, I’m not going [to] get this.’ And there were four people interviewing me at the same time, which was a lot because I had so many questions coming in, but it ended up being really fun.” 

Victoria Chia, senior director of International Dialogues is Ekborg-Ott’s main mentor at the World Food Prize Foundation and has been repeatedly impressed by her confidence.

“Every few weeks we have a staff-wide meeting that all the interns are invited to join. Heidi’s been joining those and asking great questions,” Chia said. “We must have ten interns right now across all of our programs and she’s the only one who has really asked questions. We’re really impressed that she’s so young but unafraid to speak up in these meetings because a lot of people, even a lot of staff, are intimidated to speak in these meetings.”

Outside of the meetings, research has been a big part of what Heidi has been doing so far at the internship.

“I have been doing a huge amount of research. I’m helping in putting together the International Borlaug Dialogue,” Ekborg-Ott said.

The International Borlaug Dialogue is a big conference held every October. It is named after Norman Borlaug, a native Iowan from Cresco, Iowa, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and has been dubbed “Father of the Green Revolution” by the Nobel Prize organization. Borlaug worked in Mexico and India and recommended improved methods of farming, and developed a strain of wheat – dwarf wheat – that was adapted to Mexican and Indian conditions.

“They typically have a theme, and this upcoming year is going to be climate change,” Ekborg-Ott said. “So, we’ve done a huge amount of research on climate change. I’ve been reading scholarly articles, I’ve been watching YouTube videos, I’ve been looking into just like probably 50 different subsections of how climate change can be broken down into different things.”

“Heidi’s been really, really active in that, she’s been amazing,” Chia said. “And then we need to talk to our partner organizations. So that’s people in government and other nonprofits. So, before we go into a meeting, we need these briefers so that we have some background on who we’re talking to. Heidi’s been getting all those briefers together for us too, and she’s just amazing.”

For the World Food Prize Organization, Ekborg-Ott has had to spend a lot of time researching agriculture, but research is nothing new for Ekborg-Ott. Being a Carver Fellow has given her experience with in-depth research prior to the internship.

“The students in our program at Simpson come in and they’re fully engaged,” Dallinger said. “The first year they really focus on Dr. George Washington Carver and learn all about him and select an area that applies to him, but also interests themselves and they do research. This will be the fourth year that Heidi has done research in the program, so I have seen a lot of work from her throughout the years and she’s done a lot of great research around Dr. Carver and other issues of leadership.”

Originally from Grandview, Mo., Ekborg-Ott is majoring in International Relations and Global Management.