CALS Council Senior Awardee: Battles prioritizes putting others first

Nick BattlesBy Amber Friedrichsen

Nick Battles has a broad worldview and a narrow life goal: to advocate the right to food and nutrition for all. Through academics, internships and international travel, Battles found his voice at Iowa State University. When he graduates, he is determined for his words to be heard across the country.

Battles, senior in global resource systems and agriculture and society, is the recipient of the spring 2022 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Council Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Award. This honor has been long in the making, and it began with Battles’ participation in the World Food Prize Foundation’s Iowa Youth Institute as a high school student. That is where he discovered the desire to address and work toward ending world hunger.  

After the event, Battles was accepted to the Borlaug–Ruan International Internship program the summer before becoming a Cyclone. He went to Haryana, India, to conduct research on agricultural practices with the potential to improve food security among the area’s population. He was inspired by the internship, and it was essentially the foundation for his college education.

“The two months I spent in India solidified what I wanted to do,” Battles said. “I realized I wanted there to be a theme of anti-hunger work throughout my career, and I tried to tailor my experience at Iowa State to match that ambition.”

As a sophomore, Battles was chosen as one of two Iowa State students to be the first to study at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands. During his semester abroad, Battles’ coursework focused on international agricultural policy. His classes were filled with students of various nationalities, and Battles said this challenged him to view the global food system from different perspectives.

In between his trips overseas, Battles remained actively involved at Iowa State. He is a CALS Ambassador and was an employee for New Student Programs, where he served as a Cyclone Aide, a Cyclone Aide Advisor and a team leader for Destination Iowa State.

“Working with New Student Programs taught me so much about the fundamentals of leadership, public speaking, and connecting with others and working with them,” Battles said. “I found that one of my strengths is empowering people to be their best selves and motivating them.”

Additionally, Catherine Swoboda, assistant teaching professor of horticulture, said Battles spends time serving others on campus and in the Ames community.

“Nick’s commitment to service and volunteerism – especially concerning food security – is constant,” Swoboda said. “He has volunteered with Food at First, Habitat for Humanity, and is currently working with Iowa State’s Students Helping Our Peers (SHOP) food pantry.”

Swoboda noted Battles is dedicated to giving back to the organization that originally brought him to Iowa State, as well. Since 2017, Battles has volunteered as a group leader or a student coordinator at every World Food Prize Global Youth Institute.

All of these notable characteristics will be instrumental as Battles enters his professional career. After serving as a Zero Hunger Intern last summer for the Congressional Hunger Center in Washington, D.C., he was placed with the Food and Research Action Center. He has been working remotely as a legislative aide for the organization during the school year. Upon graduation, Battles plans on moving to the nation’s capital to pursue similar work for a non-profit organization.

But his dreams don’t stop there.

Battles aspires to run for elected office when he is eligible – whether it be on the local, state or national level. His ambition to be a leading figure is rooted in his passion to end hunger and reinforces the objectives of the Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion Award.

“Treating food and nutrition as a human right will be my priority because these things are the foundation for everyone’s success in life,” Battles said. “People need food to be their best selves and contribute to those around them, and that will be my focus.”