Global Studies Senior Cayla McCoy Translates Human Sciences Education into International Practice

Charlotte Tuggle | Communications Editor

Cayla McCoy headshot

Cayla McCoy, graduating senior in Global Studies in Human Sciences.

Cayla McCoy has been on the front lines of humanitarian work, both at home and abroad. After graduating this May with her Global Studies in Human Sciences degree, she hopes to take what she knows about sustainability, hunger relief, and international aid to the next level.

McCoy originally enrolled in biomedical sciences, but after a transformative experience abroad, moved to Global Studies in Human Sciences to pursue humanitarian work. This passion was first sparked during an overseas trip with her church, where McCoy worked with the nonprofit organization Hope for MENA (Middle East and North Africa), teaching Sudanese refugee children and preparing them to reenter school.

“When they arrive to their new city, oftentimes they can’t enroll into a school because they’re really far behind,” McCoy said. “The kids I was working with, their government was bombing their villages, and so nowhere was safe. So, they got relocated to somewhere else in North Africa and I was doing an intermediary program that supplemented their education and paid for them to go to school once they were up to level. That’s where I learned that this is what I’m passionate about, this is where my heart is.”

As many humanitarian organizations are nonprofit, McCoy also pursued a Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies minor to complement her Global Studies education. And when a study abroad opportunity arose that combined those studies, McCoy was one of the first to enroll.

The pilot program, Sustainability in Action: Mexico, was organized before COVID-19. On that trip, McCoy furthered her understanding of sustainable food sources and how that could tie into her future humanitarian efforts.

“As someone who knows basically nothing about agriculture, I thought I was in way over my head, but it was a great learning experience. The refugee community is an area I want to focus on and serve, and with that program, we talked about a specific plant, that you can process and sustain animals with, that can grow in the desert,” McCoy said. “You could possibly utilize that plant to supplement nutrition for animals, then you have this sustained food source for people struggling with hunger, which is an issue in a lot of refugee camps. It all comes full circle.”

On campus, McCoy has served as both a participant and officer in the International Buddy Program, which pairs domestic and international students to build friendships and support the transition to Auburn. McCoy has also served as an Auburn Abroad intern and a peer advisor for the College of Human Sciences, helping connect students to their own study abroad experiences and academic success, and with Auburn Global to bridge cross-cultural gaps through interpersonal interactions with international students.

To complete her practicum as part of the Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies minor, McCoy chose to work with the Hunger Solutions Institute, which leverages multilevel partnerships to fight hunger. She serves HSI as the Hunger Dialogues Coordinator for Universities Fighting World Hunger, an initiative that supports engagement from higher education to address and implement plans to alleviate food insecurity.

“UFWH is fighting world hunger and that’s what I’ve been exposed to, so I felt a personal connection to the mission. Essentially, hunger dialogues is how we encourage universities and communities to have an open conversation about hunger,” McCoy said. “We don’t say that hunger is this massive problem that we’re detached from and can’t tackle. We want to break it down into how it affects us and how we can use our resources to start addressing it.”

In that role, McCoy got the chance to explore what Auburn is doing to end hunger and create a training manual to serve the organization this summer. As her time at Auburn comes to an end and she starts to search for positions at humanitarian organizations that work abroad, McCoy urges prospective students to walk their own path with an open mind and an eye toward involvement.

“When you enter Global Studies, you’re going to be taught a whole different frame of thinking, and that’s really unique to the program. That’s also probably everyone’s favorite part,” McCoy said. “You learn how to interact with people and forge connections with people totally different from you through a common thread of: we’re humans. I have empathy, you have empathy, where can we connect? That is what enables you to identify and pursue what you’re passionate about. In Global Studies, the world is yours to capture.”

Get more information on Global Studies in Human Sciences.