Sharing Food with Open Arms

Portrait of Christian Trunley
Photo by Phuong Tran, CLAgency student

Communication studies major Christian Trunley is a people person. And nothing brings people together like food.

A transfer student studying communication in the College of Liberal Arts and food systems in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), he’s combined two of his passions to work toward making food more accessible to people who need it. Through his operations internship with Open Arms of Minnesota, Trunley learned about other people, his career potential, and himself.

A Calling in Communication

Trunley knew that the communication field was for him when he took his first COMM course as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

“I declared the communication major probably 30 seconds into the first class,” he says. “I was immediately really excited about everything.”

Trunley soon realized that communication studies wasn’t the only thing that excited him—he also found a passion for food while taking classes in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s (UWM) anthropology program that focused on the topic. “It was super interesting for me to learn what food means to different cultures. I really believe that people connect through food.”

While he loved his classes at UWM, Trunley found that the University of Minnesota offered a way to more effectively study communication and food systems together. 

“As I went through school at UW-Milwaukee, I started to dive into my interests and realized there were really specialized programs here at the U, like the food systems program that I’m in,” Trunley says. “[The U] also has a communication studies program that I was excited about, so I transferred here for school and for a new experience.”

Gaining Hands-on Experience

Last semester, Trunley worked as an operations intern at Open Arms of Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities. 

He found the internship through the University’s GoldPASS site, where companies and organizations who are looking to hire U of M students can post internships and jobs. To support his internship, he received the Barbara Newsome Liberal Arts Internship Scholarship, which gives financial support to students pursuing unpaid internships.

Trunley’s tasks at Open Arms spanned from doing administrative communication work in the office to more hands-on tasks like preparing food, making deliveries, and managing a team of volunteers.

“Sometimes I would go out and deliver [meals] to clients, dropping food off at people’s houses,” he recalls. “Otherwise, I would do administrative stuff—that could be emailing volunteers about how their shift went, calling clients, or organizing client information. I felt like I was getting the best of both worlds.”

Though his internship ended last semester, Trunley has continued working with Open Arms in a part-time position as a communication intern. 

He says, “I bonded with a lot of the people who work there, and I wasn’t ready to end it. I could tell there were a lot more learning and professional connections that could take place. So I thought, ‘why would I stop?’”

His position at Open Arms has not only been fulfilling but has also helped Trunley realize his potential future in the communication field. 

“I never really knew what I wanted to do with communication studies. Now, I’m interested in positions like ‘community outreach manager’ or ‘communications coordinator’—jobs that are actually in the realm of community and communications development. It’s definitely given me a better framework and a better understanding of what kind of positions are out there for me.”

This story was written by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.

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