By Amanda Hoover, news editor

Courtney Kielman, a senior international affairs major, was selected to serve as one of 120 student ambassadors from American universities at the the 2015 World’s Fair in Italy, serving as representatives of the United States’ vision for food sustainability.

Kielman and the other student ambassadors will staff the USA Pavillion at the Expo Milano 2015, where they will focus on the theme “American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet.” The Pavillion is part of the larger Expo Milano’s 3.6 million square foot “smart city,” which has been designed for energy efficiency and will play host to the fair’s exhibitors and guests.

“I think everyone that’s going has a passion for the theme,” Kielman said. “We’re really interested in food security and agricultural sustainability, but also in languages, foreign cultures and learning more.”

The US’ focus is part of the larger conversation facilitated by Expo Milano 2015, with the overall theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” The US will showcase American innovation in addressing global food issues through a variety of exhibits. The student ambassadors were selected from a pool of about 1,000 applicants and will serve as the face of the United States during the World’s Fair, which will run from May 1 to Oct. 31. Overall, the Expo is expected to attract between 20 and 30 million visitors, according to a press release from the PR Newswire on Jan. 29.

The World’s Fair occurs every five years, moving to a different host city each cycle. This year, the selection process for student ambassadors at the US Pavillion was facilitated by Jerry Giaquinta, assistant professor of clinical management communication at the University of Southern California.

“We have an incredibly diverse student representation,” Giaquinta said. “These students are scored objectively. We had a criteria of looking at hard data, and also the verbal skills and representation of why they wanted to [participate].”

From the pool of applicants, Giaquinta focused on selecting students with various language skills who could bring enthusiasm to the US theme.

“Courtney was a standout,” Giaquinta said. “We had many standouts, as you can imagine, but it wasn’t just a quantitative experience. It was also qualitative, that they understand the mission, [speak a] second language. It’s just a great group of what we believe will be the future leaders of the country.”

The selected students will travel to the Expo in two waves, one from May to mid-July, and another beginning in July and working until the end of October. The ambassadors will staff the pavillion and greet the estimated 2 to 3 million visitors who frequent it, according the Giaquinta. They will also act as translators, assisting visitors from around the globe with potential language barriers.

Kielman, who has studied Italian at Northeastern, decided to apply after her professor, Luigia Maiellaro, suggested the opportunity.

“[Kielman] will be a perfect representative of the US because she’s open-minded, brave and courageous and tolerant, but also very serious,” Maiellaro said. “Courtney is a very smart student. She is very talented with languages, but she is also not afraid of new situations and new experiences.”

Kielman has shown an aptitude for Italian by co-oping at IIS Luigia Di Savoia in Rieti, Italy as a teaching assistant for English in an Italian high school. In addition to her language ability, she also has a strong interest in food sustainability.

In high school, Kielman participated in the Youth World Fair, hosted in Waukesha, Wis. She was selected by the local rotary chapter to represent her high school at the fair.

“It was the first time that I was introduced to all these different cultures,” Kielman said. “There were young people from all over the world. That really opened my eyes to what people face on a daily basis.”

Kielman hopes to bring her former experience to this World’s Fair and jump start her career with this opportunity. She has a strong interest in international businesses with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship. She hopes that this experience will help her to understand how those fields tie into food security and world hunger, and the solutions that corporations or entrepreneurs can work towards.

“I really hope that personally I can be introduced to people working in the field,” Kielman said. “I think it can really help my career and narrow down what I want to do and focus on after. There [are] tons of new innovating companies that are working within [food sustainability].”

Photo by Scotty Schenck