STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: TIANA AUSTEL
Every month, we give one of our student leaders a spotlight to share their story and about the work on the ground. This March, we meet Tiana, a senior at UCLA and co-president of her chapter.
What are your plans for post-grad and how does your experience with Swipe Out Hunger fit into that?
After graduating from UCLA I would love to be involved in a fellowship program, such as the CORO fellowship, working with top grads in their field to tackle some of the world's most pressing humanitarian issues (health, poverty, education, etc). Through Swipe Out Hunger I've gained an appreciation to just how rich and complex issues can be, no issue can be solved with a single focused approach. As the next changemakers we need to be looking at societal issues like hunger and food insecurity as parts of a bigger picture. Food insecurity isn't just about food, it involves public health, economic disparity, social justice, diversity, environmental issues, agriculture, labor rights, etc.
After an involvement a 1-2 year fellowship program I would love to go back to grad school and work for a non-profit foundation full time, such as the Gates Foundation, who work with a variety of different issues both domestically and internationally. As a communication studies major and civic engagement/global studies double minor I am fascinated by innovative ideas that close the gap between waste and those in need and the power of a singular person or idea to solve seemingly insurmountable issues.
My experience with Swipe Out Hunger has been a vital contribution to my discovery of self and love of working with a variety of different non-profits. Through swipes I was given the opportunity, even as a first year, to voice my opinion and really feel like I was being heard by people who would support me unconditionally. It also gave me the opportunity and the means to network both within my own school and with changemakers all over the nation in a variety of different fields. Even now, as one of the current co-presidents of the UCLA chapter of Swipe Out Hunger, I have been encouraged personally by many years of past swipes legacy members who have all been unfailingly supportive in all of my endeavours. Swipes really has been a family to me and it's incredible to see the work we have been doing across this nation and beyond.
What is your favorite part about being a swipes leader on campus?
This may be cheating but I have 2 favorite parts of being in swipes.
My first favorite part of being a swipes leader is hands down the people. Through swipes I have been able to meet some of the most creative, innovative, and passionate people and, as corny as it sounds, have been able to create lifelong friendships. One of the reasons I feel like swipes is inspiring is our "nothing is impossible if you just work hard enough" mindset. From our very inception so many years ago at UCLA I've been surrounded by people who won't take no for an answer, even if it means bearing negative repercussions. Every single student I've met from our chapters across the nation is so passionate about the issue and some of the most hardworking individuals I have ever had the pleasure to work with.
My second favorite part of being a swipes leader has been the ability to connect with other organizations to create more comprehensive solutions to long standing problems. This year through a partnership with Food Forward Swipe Out Hunger at UCLA has been able to collect donated produce from farmer's markets every Sunday to be donated to food insecure individuals in the community. There's nothing like carrying 500lbs of produce every day and knowing that all that food that would have gone to waste is going to those in need to create a healthier community.
If I didn't have Swipes that partnership would have never been possible and the thousands of lbs of food that we donated would have gone to waste.
If you were to be a cartoon character, who would it be and why?
After a thorough consultation with friends via text message the answers were almost synonymously Sleeping Beauty.
Growing up I was a competitive figure skater and woke up many mornings at 4AM to go to practice before school resulting in notoriously long naps during the afternoon. My friends have now become desensitized to long text response times and have resorted to calling me before our scheduled meals together to make sure I'm up. It also doesn't help that one of my friend's favorite nickname for me is "Princess" too.