As a communications intern for Compatible Technology Institute, Brianna Besch ’13 spent her time last semester explaining how designing innovative tools—such as a bicycle-powered potato slicer—can help poor farmers get enough to eat.
Besch, a geography and environmental studies major, has used internships and a study abroad experience in India to put her classroom knowledge to work while gaining real-world experience.
Besch is one of those Mac students who struggles to name a single hometown. Her family lived for a time in Kazakhstan, where her mother was Peace Corps country director, then moved to Egypt when her father took a job with USAID. Now when she returns “home,” it’s to Bethesda, Md. Besch came to campus already conversant in Russian and Arabic, improving the latter with a year’s study at Mac.
In Pune, India, where Besch studied abroad her junior year, she interned with the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute. That organization uses simple technologies to promote sustainable rural development. She interviewed women using improved cook stoves and biogas units to gather user feedback, and adds, “I had a wonderful college student who translated for me and also served as a cultural interpreter.”
That experience was a natural springboard to her internship with CTI, where she helped develop the annual report and wrote for the newsletter. “It’s a great way to get to know an organization,” says Besch, who wrote about their four biggest projects, used GIS to create a map of Nicaragua, and developed graphs to illustrate financial information.
“I got experience working in a nonprofit, learned more about the power of social media, developed my research and writing skills, and learned to use Adobe Illustrator and Publisher—plus it was inspiring.”
Besch’s talent for explaining technology to donors and collaborators was a great asset. For example, for their newsletter she wrote about CTI’s ingenious grain processor, which processes ten times faster than traditional methods while losing less grain.
How did Besch benefit from the CTI internship? “I got experience working in a nonprofit, learned more about the power of social media, developed my research and writing skills, and learned to use Adobe Illustrator and Publisher—plus it was inspiring.”
She recently completed her capstone project on climate change adaptation in Bangladesh and is expanding it for her honors project, which she’ll present at the Association of American Geographers conference in April. After commencement, Besch will intern at National Geographic for the summer. And after that? She’s exploring several options, including the Peace Corps.