Daniel Cohn, a recent graduate of the University of Rochester, has been selected for the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship Program. He is the first Rochester student to participate in this program and is among the 16 recipients selected from a national pool.
Cohn, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in health, behavior, and society this May, has spent much of his academic career studying public health and childhood nutrition. As an Emerson Fellow, he will spend a year exploring issues related to poverty and hunger at both the local and national level.
"I had originally planned to become a doctor, but at school I found there were other ways to contribute to society, and I developed a passion for advocacy," said Cohn, a native of Cleveland, Ohio. "I think this program will help me hone my skills and align my career interests with the needs of my community."
The Emerson program provides its fellows with the dual experiences of working for grassroots community organizations and for policy decisionmakers at the national level. In August, Cohn will travel to Washington for orientation and field training; he will then be placed with a local, community-based organization for five months. In mid-February, he will return to Washington for extensive training about national anti-hunger and anti-poverty policy work before being placed in a nonprofit organization or government agency involved with developing policies at the national level. Throughout the year, Cohn will learn skills related to program development, research, evaluation, outreach, and advocacy, among others.
Cohn's undergraduate experiences, which have focused on civic engagement and community service, were inspired by his longtime mentor, Doris Robertson, who is a recognized member of Cohn's hometown for her commitment to the community. In summer 2010, Cohn served as an intern with the Cleveland Department of Public Health, where he focused on how to provide low-income citizens with access to healthy, affordable food options. In summer 2011, an internship at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health led him to research at-risk populations.
An interest in nutrition and childhood obesity directed the path of Cohn's senior honors thesis, which evaluated a new school meal program in the Rochester City School District. Forming partnerships with the Healthi Kids Coalition, a part of the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, and the University of Rochester Medical Center's Center for Community Health, Cohn studied how well the new program was meeting Healthi Kids' criteria and how it impacted the staff, teachers, and students.
Cohn has received several academic honors while at Rochester; this spring he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and he graduated magna cum laude. He also received highest distinction and highest honors in research in his major.
Outside of the classroom, Cohn gained experience working with grassroots organizations as a volunteer with AIDS Care Rochester, where he engaged in street outreach initiatives for at-risk populations. Cohn also was a four-year member of the Students' Association Senate, Rochester's student government. As one of 18 senators, Cohn was involved in creating policies related to student life, including housing, safety, and student activities.
The Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship is a program through the Congressional Hunger Center (CHC), a nonprofit organization committed to making issues of domestic and international hunger a priority to government leaders and policymakers in the United States. Through the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program, and the Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows Program, the CHC provides leadership training in social justice issues. Alumni of its program have gone on to careers in government and nonprofit organizations at the local, state, and national levels.