Class of 2012
In her four years at Cornell, Marion Robine ’12—a biology and society major in a program shared by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Human Ecology—managed to pack in an impressive number of internships, externships, service projects, research, and travel while completing a double minor in nutrition and global health.
Cornell gave her so many opportunities, Robine says. And each opportunity was carefully selected to increase her experience in international health as well as nutrition research and development.
For three summers, beginning with her freshman year, Robine worked in Honduras for Salud Juntos, a non-governmental organization that provides medical care and health education to impoverished communities. She helped develop and implement public health programs, conduct dental health school presentations, triage patients, and translate for English-speaking doctors. Another internship took her to Rome for a month to work in a food and agriculture organization affiliated with the United Nations.
In her sophomore year Robine served as the French native speaker for the French floor of the Language House residential hall. In addition to planning weekly dinners and activities, she arranged and raised funds for an educational spring break trip for the 14 residents. Rejecting the idea of taking the group anywhere in her native France—since many had already been, or would eventually go—she chose Morocco as the destination and human rights as the trip’s focus. The College of Human Ecology, Alice Cook House, the Language House, and other departments helped fund the trip.
The seven-day excursion took the students to Marrakech, the capital city Rabat, Fes, and points in between. It included lectures, dinners, museum tours, bazaar haggling in French for rugs, and a visit to an orphanage, where Robine and her dorm-mates arrived bearing coloring books for the children. The group also met with several Fulbright scholars to discuss their research, and with officials at the U.S. Embassy and Amnesty International. “We didn’t sleep,” Robine remembers with a laugh at their packed itinerary.
Robine, who speaks English with the faintest of French accents, moved with her family to the United States from Chatenay-Malabry, France, when she was 12 years old. Since Robine is the eldest of three sisters, when it was time to choose a college, her French-educated mother and father didn’t have much advice to offer. “My parents took me everywhere and learned with me,” she remembers.
Just as she directed her own college search, Robine directed her college career with an unusual degree of independence and self-sufficiency. She was co-head of the international committee of the Cornell Society for Public Health and former co-head of the same organization’s national committee.
“She does not take steps without thinking,” says Pilar Parra, a senior lecturer in the College of Human Ecology with whom Robine has worked.
In anticipation of post-Cornell life, she is a bit nostalgic. Beginning this summer, Robine says she won’t be able to “just walk down the hall to see a friend.” But, Robine is excited to move into her next chapter. She begins work as a clinical research coordinator with HIV/AIDS research in the Division of General Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital in June.
“She took advantage of opportunities here at Cornell big time,” says Parra. “She is fluent in three languages, and she really complemented her experience abroad working with immigrant populations here in the United States. So she had these two worlds—what is happening in the United States and also in the context of her work in Honduras.”
“Working with Marion has been such a pleasure,” says Sera Young, a research scientist in Cornell’s Division of Nutritional Sciences. Robine works for Young, who leads a team that concentrates on issues related to maternal and child nutrition and global health.
Robine worked with Young to analyze data from interviews conducted with HIV-infected mothers in Tororo, Uganda, on the topic of food insecurity and choices the mothers make about feeding their children.
“Her attention to detail, her ability to not just analyze data but also to interpret it. Just the initiative she’s shown, and her ability to draw conclusions from the data, is so helpful to our team,” Young says.
Robine’s attention to detail in her research with Parra allowed her to notice comments that immigrant women made regarding the American diet—especially comments on how their older children did not want to eat their traditional foods. So she decided to develop a pilot study.
Undeterred by the challenges of securing funding, Robine developed the study on the adoption of American cuisine and eating habits among recent immigrant families and qualified for funding through the Cornell Cooperative Extension/College of Human Ecology summer internship, the Institute for Social Sciences’ Immigration Project student research grant, a Human Ecology Alumni Association grant, and the Latino Studies undergraduate research grant.
Robine conducted her study with Mexican immigrant members of a Catholic church in a small, upstate New York town 75 miles from Ithaca. (Coincidentally, the town is called Marion.)
She first convinced the church’s leader that participants in her course would gain valuable knowledge about nutrition and ways to encourage their children to eat healthier snacks. Then she painstakingly prepared and taught, all in Spanish, a four-session nutrition class, with accompanying materials and a survey, for members of the church who had recently immigrated from Mexico.
In 10 years, Robine hopes she will be married with more than one child, working in program development, and traveling the world. When asked what she loves most about Cornell, she says: “The university gave me so many opportunities.”