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2018-19 MPS Cohort

2018-2019 MPS Cohort

Photo Name and Bio
Ashraf Bhuiyan Ashraf Bhuiyan

Ashraf Hossain Bhuiyan is pursuing a professional Master’s degree in International Development in the field of Global Development with focus on Development Economics. Prior to his studies in Cornell, he worked as Assistant Manager at Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), a state-owned financial institution in Bangladesh which works towards implementation of Renewable Energy and Infrastructure projects in rural Bangladesh. As part of the Credit Administration team, Ashraf was involved in administering the total loan portfolio of IDCOL. He had to provide effective and accurate support to the lenders by disbursing the loans while ensuring proper documentation are met as per the company policy. He also made projection of revenues and financing costs during preparing of company budget. Ashraf has interest in doing economic analysis to the problems and challenges faced by less developed countries like Bangladesh. He holds Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from North South University, Dhaka and Master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Gloria Irene Burgoa Gloria Irene Burgoa

Gloria Irene (Ire) Burgoa is a Master´s degree candidate interested in farmer-centered extension approaches and agroforestry systems in the tropics. She leans towards incorporating gender and anthropological perspectives into the integrated management of landscapes. Born and raised in Bolivia, she has carried out on-the-ground development work in rural Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Panama, as well as policy research for UNESCO and the Inter-American Development Bank. During her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama, Ire worked with indigenous, small-scale farmers on the production, pest management and marketing of cacao and/or coffee in agroforestry systems.

Ashley Celestin Ashley Celestin

Master of Professional Studies candidate in International Agriculture and Rural Development. Her areas of concentration involve sustainable agriculture production with linking farmers to foreign markets. After completing her Bachelors degree in Agriculture Business and Food production at SUNY Cobleskill- Her most recent position was at the Hunts Point Produce market in the Bronx, NY, with AJ Trucco, a produce importing company: where she oversaw cargo freight, fruit packaging, and sales. Originally from Haiti, she hopes to return to her home country to work in rural areas supporting farmers, and promoting local production. Ashley is fluent in French, English, and Spanish; enjoys travelling and being outdoors.

Charles Higgenbotham Charles Higgenbotham

Charles Higgenbotham is an MPS candidate in International Agriculture and Rural Development at Cornell University. His research and project interests comprise developing agricultural systems that simultaneously increase food production, restore ecological resilience, and improve economic opportunities for small farmers internationally. He was also awarded the Kirchner Food Fellowship, a lean impact investment program aiming to train the next generation of capital allocators with a focus on socially responsible agriculture-based businesses. Charles is proud to have served as a Sustainable Agriculture Systems Volunteer in the United States Peace Corps, completing his service in the Comarca Embera-Wounaan within the Darien Province of Panama. His primary objective was coffee and cacao agroforestry extension, with a secondary emphasis on HIV education and other public health-related training. Having been deeply impacted by this experience, Charles is dedicated to exploring how conscious enterprise can contribute to addressing the intractable economic, environmental, and socio-cultural problems facing similar isolated indigenous populations throughout the Americas.

Yerlan Issimov Yerlan Issimov

Yerlan has international experience in transportation and logistics for businesses Central Asian.  His research interests are in developing policies and strategies for Kazakhstan in the framework of a Trans-Eurasian trade network. This research will highlight the potential opportunities for maximizing the economic benefit from the Eurasian Land Bridge or the New Silk Road, and the Indian analog of the New Silk road called “North-South”. His research will cover: the revitalized concept of the Silk Road, evaluate the best traditions of the historic Silk Road before colonization, investigate the commodity exchange of Astana International Financial Center territory, digitalize business-processes and usage of large-scale data, examine the Indian trade way project called "North-South" as a counterbalance to the Chinese Silk Road project, and examine infrastructure needs of cities and villages for a revitalized Silk Road. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in State and Local Management at Zhangir khan West Kazakhstan Agrarian-Technical University in Oral, Kazakhstan.  In his spare time, he is interested in the history and culture of the peoples of the Earth.

Luna Lee Luna Lee

Luna Lee is pursuing a MPS in International Agriculture and Rural Development and leads the supply chain human rights work on the social consciousness team at EILEEN FISHER, a women’s clothing and design company. She has extensive volunteer and leadership background in the women’s movement with the YWCA, as well as multistakeholder engagement experience through Social Accountability International, Nest, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Luna is interested in bringing the science of agricultural production together with social, environmental, and economic systems. She would like to further the work upstream into the fibre supply chains and explore potential multistakeholder collaboration between the food and fashion industries at the agriculture level to maximize impact. She holds a BA in Communication from SUNY-Buffalo and is very interested in catalyzing the work through consumer engagement. Originally from Malaysia, Luna speaks Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia, and English. During her spare time, she enjoys plants, cats, and playing the ukulele.

Michal Matejczuk Michal Matejczuk

Michał (me-how) Matejczuk is pursuing a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in the field International Agriculture and Rural Development. At Cornell University, using his culinary prowess as a catalyst and inspiration for behavior change, he aspires to create better sustainable business models across Africa’s powerful agricultural industry through the use of food preservation models. These methods, employed during dry seasons, can combat global food insecurity and child malnutrition throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer having served in Eastern Uganda, Michał had the privilege of working across various sectors such as agribusiness, health, and education during his two years of service. In addition to working for Olam International within their coffee value chain, he also served as the National Director for the initiative called “StartUp Uganda” that worked to promote entrepreneurship and youth empowerment throughout rural communities which inspired youth to become active citizens in their community. Michał also managed various projects dealing in food security, environmental conservation and HIV/AIDS prevention. Michał holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the Culinary Institute of America, and is this year’s recipient of the 2018 James Beard Foundation National Scholars Award.

Jefferson Mecham Jefferson Mecham

Jeff is an MPS candidate in International Agriculture and Rural Development specializing in forest/land restoration and regenerative enterprise. From 1991-2016 he was engaged as a project coordinator and consultant with indigenous and rural organizations, local governments, foundations, and landowners in Ecuador, with occasional assignments in other Latin American countries, India, and the Philippines. He has extensive experience with integrated conservation and agroforestry projects and recently facilitated the participation of Cornell scientists in the Municipality of Quito’s ‘Andean Bear Corridor’ program and the MOU of Cornell-CALS with the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar.  Jeff’s research is focused on creating applied research, service learning, and economic partnerships with marginalized communities to develop enterprises that improve their lives while reversing deforestation and land degradation. Jeff grew up in the Rocky Mountains and holds undergraduate degrees in Environmental Studies-Forestry and Geography-International Development from Utah State University, and worked as a forest technician, farm hand, and river guide in the western U.S., Mexico, and New Zealand.


Ackson Joseph Mwanza Ackson Joseph Mwanza

Ackson Joseph Mwanza is a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) candidate in International Agriculture and Rural Development (IARD). While at Cornell University, he is focusing on Food and Nutrition Security, Agricultural Innovation, and Systems thinking and strengthening in Agricultural Extension. He works for the Central Government in the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia. He serves as Senior Agricultural Officer (SAO) in Chirundu District, heading the Department of Agriculture in the delivery of extension services to the farming community. His core responsibilities are centered around improving the livelihoods of small scale farmers and rural communities. This is done through the development of successful pluralistic extension management system and promotion of improved agricultural technologies and practices. He conducts monitoring and evaluation, research, supervision and backstopping among other responsibilities. He strives to coordinate extension personnel programs through Results-based management in line with agricultural policies. Ackson is also a Cornell University 2017-2018 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow. He was born and raised in Zambia and he enjoys watching and playing soccer, listening to Zambian music and networking. He lives by a motto which is; - ‘In all things; to seek understanding of systems, love for people and work and be of service to all peoples regardless of background, tribe, race and various elements that divide us.’

Mame Ndaiye Mame Ndiaye

Mame Diara Ndiaye is pursuing a Master of Professional Studies in International Development in the field of Global Development. A major focus of her research is mending the gender gap in education in Sub-Saharan African countries, specifically in Senegal. She specializes in women’s empowerment and her research incorporates areas that address policy, gender inequality, social change, and education reform. Before attending Cornell University, Mame obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from the State University of New York at Cortland. During her undergraduate years, Mame's research interest included war crimes specifically focused on how war crimes could shape society's perception and attitude towards war. In 2016, she studied abroad in Cambodia where she focused on how the Cambodian genocide affected the current state of their education system. As a criminologist, Mame has a background in aiding incarcerated youth by providing a therapeutic and rehabilitative environment for them.  Throughout her career, she has worked at multiple law firms where she pursued her interest in Development Policy. Given her Senegalese background, Mame wishes to provide resources to young women in her home country.  She is an advocate of higher education and wants to help improve the access to education in Sub-Saharan African countries. She loves to spend her time traveling to other countries so that she may gain diverse cultural perspectives. Her favorite quote is by Nelson Mandela which is, “Education is the most powerful lesson which you can use to change the world”.

Fiona Rodgerson Fiona Rodgerson
Fiona Rodgerson is an MPS candidate in Global development, with a focus in International Agriculture and Rural Development. She is passionate about working at the intersection of smallholder livelihoods and conservation in Latin America. She focuses on the human dimension of Agroforestry/Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives, and how to manage the multi-stakeholder relationships involved in complex and integrated programs. Specifically, she studies the role of Agriculture Extension in the context of Agroforestry projects. She comes to the Masters program with diverse experiences in Latin America, from project coordination and public policy research at a Chilean educational nonprofit, to work with small dairy farmers in Ecuador and Colombia.
Kasim Saiyyad Kasim Saiyyad

Kasim Saiyyad is a candidate for a professional master’s degree in International Development, with a concentration in development policy.  Through this program, Kasim wants to explore the factors associated with poverty and their effects on food choices and nutrition, particularly in developing countries. Kasim is having more than eight years of experience in project management, monitoring and evaluation, MIS, and human resource management in the field of agriculture, livelihood, health and nutrition, water and sanitation. Prior to his studies at Cornell, Kasim was working with Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI) and was leading a community-based flour fortification program. It is a multi-partner, intervention-based nutrition research program in the State of Gujarat, India, mainly focusing on the reduction of micronutrient deficient anemia among the tribal population and empowering tribal women Self Help Groups by providing them livelihood activities. Kasim also worked as a Chief Administrative Officer in a health-based NGO in India. Kasim is a Master of Business Administration with dual specialization in Marketing and Finance. He has also pursued research-based online courses on primary health care, nutrition, and social behavior change communication from premier academic institutions in India and abroad.

Karuna Salve Karuna Salve
Karuna is a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) student in International Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Cornell University. She also holds a master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, India. Before joining Cornell University, Karuna has worked with TISS and Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI). She was part of a team who designed a case study on BAIF Development Research Foundation - one of the largest organizations working in the field of agriculture and livelihood. This case study is published on Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society ( As a Program Officer in TCI, she was associated with the community-based flour fortification program running in Gujarat state in India. She was actively involved in the capacity building of the stakeholders involved, awareness campaigns, and data management of the program. Karuna has extensively worked with women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs). She is also interested in studying the linkages between the women empowerment and the household level nutrition status among the marginalized communities.   
Laura Simmons-Stern Laura Simmons-Stern
Laura Simmons-Stern is a Masters of Professional Studies candidate in International Development, with a focus in sustainable rural development and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. She comes to Cornell from an international sustainability consulting firm in her hometown of Boston. Previously Laura managed the Environmental Education Department for a state environment protection agency in Mexico as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2015-2017, and later developed and led technical trainings for Peace Corps Timor-Leste trainees. Prior to her Peace Corps experience, she worked with various NGOs in Uganda, Ghana, and Zambia in water sanitation, e-learning, and cash-grants for women's empowerment. Laura holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies, a certificate from the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, and a minor in Psychology from Connecticut College.
Yunqing Tian Yunqing Tian
Yunqing Tian is a Master of Professional Studies candidate in International Development, with a focus in Climate Smart Agriculture and Food Security. She comes to Cornell from the World Bank where she worked as a program assistant in the area of Agriculture and Rural Development supporting the agriculture portfolio in the China Office. There she was involved in project missions traveling to many rural areas of China, as well as technical meetings of poverty reduction, food security, and climate smart agriculture projects. Previously she worked at the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. analyzing projects in their Climate Smart Agriculture portfolio.
Vy Vuong Vy Vuong

Thao-Vy Vuong is a Master of Professional Studies candidate in International Development with a focus in food-based interventions in disease prevention and treatment for poor people while protecting the environment where food is grown or raised. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Prior coming to Cornell, she has worked for the development sector for more than five years, among that, three years as a grants coordinator at LIN Center for Community Development. She managed a community fund called Narrow the Gap which pools local resources (e.g. finance, human capital, infrastructures, etc.) to support local nonprofit organizations (NPOs) in Vietnam. With that position, she had a chance to work with NPOs that address a wide variety of local issues, from which she has special interest in working to provide low-income people with healthy and medicinal vegetables. She continued to build up her interest in the area by working on a book project which gave her an opportunity to learn about how the current cooking and eating behaviors have an impact on soil, land and sea. With all these inspirations, she aspires to find a way to ensure access to a healthy and adequate food supply that both improve human health and reduce our environmental footprint.

Gretchen Worth Gretchen Worth
Gretchen is an MPS candidate in Global Development, focusing on community engagement and heritage conservation in under-served communities. She has returned to academia after many years working in China and Southeast Asia, where she was a founder and CEO of a regional media company. As a volunteer, she worked on heritage conservation projects in India, Mongolia, Nepal and Armenia. Today, she serves on the board of Restoration Works International, an organization that partners with communities to restore their important historic sites. It is these experiences that brought her to Cornell, where, over the last two years, she has completed coursework for an MA in historic preservation planning. She is most interested in the social and economic benefits that can be realized locally through community-based conservation of buildings and sites. Upon completion of her degrees, Gretchen plans to return to Asia to expand the work of Restoration Works International.