CEHS alumna encourages students to gain global experiences

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Maggie Dawson Machaca is a maternal and child health policy and programs’ intern in the Office of Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition at the United States Agency for International Development in Washington, D.C.

CEHS alumna encourages students to gain global experiences

02 Dec 2021     By Cherish Perkins - CEHS Global

Maggie Dawson Machaca wants students to know that anyone can have an international career, but only if you try to find opportunities on campus and seek advice from faculty with international expertise.

As an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, she was looking for a way to combine her interests in international studies and nutrition as she worked to complete her degree at the university. She enrolled in NUTR 253 - Cultural Aspects of Food and Nutrition, taught by Mary Willis, and learned the way in which culture influences eating habits and the importance of understanding nutritional factors in global settings. According to Maggie, her global career began when she "took the initiative to approach Dr. Willis about the faculty-led study abroad program to Ethiopia while a student in NUT 253." Maggie also learned about Willis’ study abroad program in Ethiopia, so in summer 2014, she joined the Food Security, Health, and Nutrition program. Her experiences increased her interest in Africa, and while promoting the Ethiopia program at a study abroad fair, Maggie heard about the U.S. State Department’s Boren Scholarship for the study of language important to U.S. agencies. Although her minor in Spanish was not a study option, Portuguese was a language with fewer speakers in the U.S., and focusing on Portuguese could help Maggie return to Africa.

As a Boren Scholar, Maggie studied in Mozambique her senior year, delaying graduation and adding a fifth year to her program. Willis linked Maggie with CARE International and she collected data in Mozambique for her senior honors’ thesis. She also became fluent in Portuguese, studying at the Universidade of Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo. After graduation, Maggie was matched to a dietetics internship at Johns Hopkins University. With a BSN and RD completed, she worked in clinical nutrition to increase her skills. This allowed her to apply for and receive acceptance to the nutrition-focused MPH program at Johns Hopkins University. While an MPH student, she learned about international nutrition career opportunities working with NGOs, international organizations such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and research organizations.

Armed with a wealth of international experience and academic credentials, Maggie is now contracted by the Public Health Institute as a Maternal and Child Health Policy and Programs’ intern in the Office of Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) at USAID in Washington, D.C. MCHN operates within USAID’s Bureau for Global Health and Maggie hopes to transition to a permanent position with USAID in the not-too-distant future. In her role as a Policy and Programs’ intern, she supports the policy team and helps them manage one of the large cooperative agreements UNICEF has with USAID. Her clinical nutrition skills allow her to offer technical guidance when partner organizations submit their program descriptions to the UNICEF agreement. Maggie’s international experience has also proven invaluable as the policy team is constantly consulting with international partners and assisting with the management of programs from a variety of countries.

Machaca understands first-hand that as the world becomes more globalized, having college grads with global experience and a desire to work in the international sphere is more important than ever. It’s never too late to seek out these opportunities., Machaca said. “Become involved in study abroad. Talk with like-minded colleagues. Share your interest with professors who’ve worked internationally. Apply for internships with international-based organizations.”

College of Education and Human Sciences