Mark Arnoldy, a University of Colorado at Boulder senior set to graduate on Friday, doesn't like peanuts. As a matter of fact he avoids them like the plague because he is highly allergic to them.
Ironically, a project he has been working on for more than two years relies specifically on peanut butter to combat childhood malnutrition in Nepal.
After finishing his junior year at CU-Boulder in 2007, Arnoldy took a year off from school to travel to Nepal where he taught in a school and piloted an education program. One day, he mistakenly ate some food that had peanut sauce in it and started to go into anaphylactic shock. He turned out OK, but the episode had a lasting affect on him.
"It was a very short time after that that I came across some research describing how peanut butter was literally solving the problem of malnutrition around the world," Arnoldy said.
"I came to find out that half-a-million children in Nepal are malnourished. While it seems irrational that someone who is allergic to peanut butter wants to build a project around peanut butter, I just couldn't turn away because it seems like it happened for a reason that is beyond me."
Since that summer he has now been to Nepal five times to lay the groundwork to produce and distribute the peanut butter product called NepalNUTrition. He also traveled to Haiti to study an organization there that uses peanut butter to combat malnutrition. President Bill Clinton featured his project during the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference in 2009.
Arnoldy spent six months in Nepal last year finding a factory location, evaluating distribution chains and working with local partners and government officials to get his program underway.
Then, just a week ago, Arnoldy learned that he had been awarded a Fulbright grant to continue his work in Nepal. He plans to spend the next two years there building the program.
"I'm hoping to build it to such a point that I can leave and it will be run entirely by Nepali staff," he said.
While at CU, Arnoldy said he took full advantage of the numerous opportunities that are available to students to develop his leadership skills. He was a Puksta Scholar and was a member of the Presidents Leadership Class.
"These academic community programs provided not only financial support, but also gave me the connections and training that I needed to really feel confident enough to be able to do something like this," Arnoldy said.
While he will miss a lot of things about CU, Arnoldy says he will miss the energy of the student body most.
"I'm going to miss the energy and the enthusiasm and the desire to make a difference in the world that is found in so many people on this campus," he said. "Not to mention the beautiful setting."
After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Arnoldy also headed-up a campus campaign called "CU Stands With Haiti" that ended up raising more than $100,000 to help the relief efforts.
Arnoldy is graduating with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Once he completes his Fulbright grant, he plans to return to the United States to pursue an MBA and attend medical school.