2018 Future Leaders Forum Participants
Elisabeth Garner is a PhD Candidate seeking a dual-title in Rural Sociology and Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is entering her final year, where her research interests include the adapting livelihood strategies of family farms in changing rural contexts. In her dissertation field research, she interviewed farmers and vendors regarding the social and gender dynamics of market interactions. Her research explores the intersections of gender, markets, water and food/crops influence the flow of goods in regional and local systems in peri-urban areas of the Northern Region of Ghana. Elisabeth also holds a Master’s in Regional Planning from Cornell University, and Bachelor’s Degrees in International Relations and French Language Studies. She has worked in a variety of research and development positions at institutions that include the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, MIT, Habitat for Humanity, and as a planner in the Houston, Texas area.
Armen Ghazaryan is a Ph.D. student and a Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University. He is also a visiting lecturer at the Agribusiness Teaching Center (ATC) in Armenia, which is a collaborative project between Texas A&M University and the Armenian National Agrarian University; and the co-founder of the Agripreneurs Creating Tomorrow project. Prior to becoming a Ph.D. student, he was the first Armenian to become a Muskie Internship Program grantee--allowing him to spend a summer in Washington D.C. working for the Food Safety and Inspection Service-USDA. He is also one of the first two Fulbright Foreign Student Program grantees from Armenia and the first YPARD Country Representative for Armenia.
Susan Karimiha is a PhD Candidate and research assistant in the LSU School of Leadership and Human Resource Development. Susan’s goal is to use her research findings to improve poverty throughout the world, through more effective human resource development. Her research areas include economic development, workforce development, agricultural development, information systems, leadership and human capital. Through effective human resource development research and training for smallholder farmers, she wants to help develop sustainable solutions to peace, global resource security and economic development for future generations. Throughout her graduate school career, Susan has conducted agriculture development assignments in Armenia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Kosovo and Honduras and participated in a Fellowship at the University Grenoble Alps in Grenoble, France.
Getrude Mphwanthe from Malawi is a Borlaug Higher Education for Agriculture Research and Development (BHEARD) scholar, Borlaug summer institute fellow and Ph.D. candidate in Human Nutrition at Michigan State University. In Malawi, she works with Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). Her research interest is on how dietary quality and food systems influence nutrition outcomes (undernutrition, overnutrition and dietary related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes) in rural, peri-urban and urban areas in Malawi.
Deus Mugabe is a Rwandan Fulbright scholar at Washington State University (WSU). He completed his Master of Science in Plant breeding and genetics in Spring 2018, and is now working as a Research assistant at the University. His current research focuses on breeding legumes such as pea, lentil and chickpea for abiotic stress tolerance. Prior to attending graduate school at WSU, Deus earned his Bachelor of Science in Crop Science in the Philippines. He then returned to Rwanda to work for One Acre Fund; an NGO that helps alleviate poverty by supplying agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers in rural Rwanda. He is interested in becoming an expert in breeding and genetics that works with farmers around the world to develop better crop varieties that produce enough food for the rapidly growing global population, given threats such as crop diseases and climate change.
Rael Otuya is an M.S. student in Soil Science, at Texas Tech University. She received her B.S. in Agroecology from the University of Wyoming and a diploma (Associate degree) in Sustainable Agriculture from Manor House Agricultural Center, Kenya. Prior to her studies in the USA, Rael worked with different non-governmental organizations in Kenya and Uganda as an extension officer. Her duties involved training rural famers in Sustainable Agriculture. At Wyoming University, Rael worked as the farm manager of Agricultural Community Resource for Everyday Sustainability (ACRES Students Farm). Her current work focuses on, soil health and microbial community dynamics in sustainable pasture ecosystems. She plans to work in collaboration with international organizations, research institutions and peers in Africa and other parts of the world, to generate new knowledge that will help improve soil productivity and crop yield sustainably. Rael likes travelling and making new friends.
Evania Robles is a recent graduate from Texas A&M University where she received a Masters of International Affairs focusing on conflict and development. As a fully-funded fellow, she researched food insecurity in conflict-regions within Eastern and Central Africa, Central America, and the Levant. This year she has worked on a USAID feasibility study of national maize flour fortification as a means of improving maternal and child malnutrition in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2015, she received a Bachelor of Science in International Agricultural Development from the University of California Davis. There she worked on the effects of drought on seed bank composition and rural families. For the last seven years, she has worked and interned with several agricultural and rural development organizations including USAID Bureau of Africa, Freedom from Hunger, Center on Conflict and Development, California Center of Cooperative Development, and the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute
Genna Tesdall is a globally minded Iowan studying for a Master of Science at Penn State University. Her degree in Plant Pathology and International Agriculture and Development focuses on the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, which threatens large and small production of bananas world-wide. She sees the banana’s relevance to food security, which was a cornerstone of her bachelor studies in Global Resource Systems and Biology at Iowa State University. However, her love of languages makes her a unique scientist. Through experiences at the CGIAR International Potato Center in Peru, she learned Spanish and fell in love with Peruvian culture while understanding the operations of an international genebank. In addition, she relishes partnership and strategy building from her year as President of the NGO the International Association of Agriculture and Related Sciences Students (IAAS) based in Belgium and study abroad, including studies of German, at the University of Hohenheim in Germany.
Sharon Tusiime is completing a Ph.D. in Horticulture with a minor in Seed Science at Iowa State University. Her Ph.D. work is aimed at improving tomato seed systems in Uganda. She obtained a MS in Horticulture and her research assisted farmers of Uganda in identifying horticultural practices for successful tomato production. Her research experience was supplemented through internships with the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services. As a teaching assistant, Ms. Tusiime co-lead 6 service-learning, study abroad programs in Uganda impacting over 150 students from Iowa State and Makerere Universities, and providing them the opportunity to work in bi-national teams in development programs. Ms. Tusiime was appointed to represent graduate students on the Dean’s Global Advisory Committee. After her doctorate degree, Ms. Tusiime hopes to work with vegetable seed systems and value chains and extend this knowledge to small-land holder farmers.
Alexis Villacís is a Ph.D. student in Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech. His current doctoral research focuses on production economics and international development. Alexis has a strong interest in interdisciplinary, applied research with a specific emphasis on poverty reduction in developing countries. Some of his previous work has involved determining the economic impact of agricultural research programs in El Salvador. Before joining Virginia Tech, Alexis earned his master’s in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University and worked at the Department of Agriculture of Ecuador. He also worked as fellow researcher at the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, China. After graduation, he intends to continue working in international and rural development as a researcher in a land grant university or international agencies.
Tegan Walker graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics in 2012. While at Virginia Tech she took part in a semester long study abroad program in Costa Rica focusing on sustainability of natural resources. In 2014 she graduated from Texas A&M University with a master’s degree in International Agricultural Development. While at Texas A&M she coordinated a faculty and student study away trip to Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados focusing on food security and childhood obesity. Ms. Walker served in the US Peace Corps in Panama from 2014-2017 has a sustainable agricultural systems volunteer. During her service she worked closely with local farmers to improve their production, farm management skills, and post-harvest management technologies. Currently Ms. Walker is a Ph.D. student at Auburn University studying agricultural education and international development.
Anna Waller is a Ph.D. Student/Predoctoral Fellow of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She works in Dr. Juan Andrade’s global nutrition technology laboratory, which focuses on developing solutions to micronutrient deficiencies in vulnerable populations. As part of her Ph.D. work, she designs and develops simple paper-based assays to determine micronutrient content in fortified foods. Her technologies are capable of coupling with a smartphone and align with the World Health Organization's ASSURED guidelines for diagnostic tools in low-income countries. The intended use is to help improve the success of global food fortification nutrition strategies. She was recently awarded a Fulbright research fellowship to validate her technology in Mexico in 2019. Additionally, her research efforts have taken her to Singapore, India and Tanzania. Outside of her academic work, Anna is an intern for Abbott Nutrition and enjoys hiking, cooking, and visiting family and friends in Minnesota.