The Ray Goldberg Fellowship, awarded by the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, supports Harvard students working in the context of global food systems, which may include work related to agricultural systems, food supply chains, farmer and farmworker well-being and equity, agricultural economics, food justice and sovereignty, agricultural processing and industry, food science and nutrition, or food policy. The fellowship is designed to enable students to expose themselves to a wide range of researchers and research approaches, and/or non-profit and private sector organizations, early on in their training before they make their ultimate choice of a research or career topic.
Mia Blakstad, Master of Science in Global Health and Population candidate, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
Molly Leavens, undergraduate candidate, Harvard College
Marena Lin, doctoral candidate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Allyson Perez, undergraduate candidate, Harvard College
Alicia Harley, doctoral candidate in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government
Jessica Newman, Master in Public Policy candidate, Kennedy School of Government
Mia Blakstad is a candidate for the Master of Science in Global Health and Population at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH). She is passionate about global health and nutrition, and views malnutrition as a major underlying cause of systemic poverty. At HSPH, Mia is currently working on an integrated Homestead Agriculture and Nutrition (HANU) intervention to improve dietary diversity and health among rural Tanzanian households. With the support of the Ray Goldberg Fellowship, she will investigate participant perspectives and possible spillover effects of the HANU initiative. The fellowship offers an excellent opportunity for her to develop qualitative research skills and expand the quantitative impact assessment at endline. Mia developed her passion for nutrition during her B.Sc. in Nutritional Science at Cornell University, where she investigated the association between iron fortification and worker productivity in female Indian tea pluckers. Her work at Cornell aimed to demonstrate to policy makers how iron fortification can improve not only population health but also promote economic development. Pursuing more exposure particularly to the later stages of policy development, she carried out more enhanced training and fieldwork in implementation science in Ethiopia. Exploring barriers to implementation of the Ethiopian National Nutrition Programme exposed her to the many contrasting public health perspectives across government sectors and gave her an appreciation for transdisciplinary approaches to implementing global health policies. Through her current and future research, Mia seeks to contribute to bridging scientific evidence with higher-level action at scale to reduce global rates of malnutrition. She aims to build upon the experience in Tanzania to determine the scope and themes of her future doctoral research and beyond. Mia is an inaugural fellow for the Norwegian educational scholarship Aker Scholarship and a recipient of Harvard’s Maternal Health Task Force Grant.
Molly Leavens is an undergraduate at Harvard College, ’19 concentrating in Environmental Science and Public Policy with a focus on food systems. She had been interested in the intersection of food and environment her whole life and is a Food Literacy Project Fellow at Harvard. With the generosity of the Ray Goldberg fellowship, Molly will explore her interests hands-on by spending a month in Guatemala collecting soil samples and interviewing cacao farmers about their input costs, production techniques, and income. She is interested in the connectivity of poverty, resource use, and soil nutrients and will enroll in a supervised research course the following spring to fully analyze her results. From Guatemala, Molly moves to an internship with Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize. This company works to improve the livelihoods of cacao farmers through education and by connecting them with specialty chocolate makers in the US and Europe who are willing to pay a premium for high quality and ethnically and sustainably produced beans. Molly will be working on the company’s non-profit demonstration farm that looks at sustainable cacao growing techniques for Belize’s unique microclimate. Ritual Chocolate, a small bean-to-bar chocolate maker, is located in Molly’s hometown of Park City and purchases beans from Maya Mountain Cacao. She is hoping to lead tours of the production facility while home in December and January to understand the cacao industry from a different point on the supply chain.
Marena Lin is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and studies climate variability and its influence on agricultural productivity. Marena has been passionate about the intersection of climate and food security since her time at Harvard College, where she wrote her thesis on the finding that wheat yields were leveling off in much of Western Europe and in parts of the developing world, inclusive of Bangladesh and India. With an eye toward understanding the social welfare and policy components of food security, she completed a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning degree at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her master’s thesis examined the ability of smallholder farmers in the Uttarakhand Himalayas of India to change their cropping decisions in response to their perceptions of changing climate. She then joined the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at Harvard as a doctoral student, where her first project showed that observed recent global mean temperature trajectories have been consistent with modeled temperature trends. Her two current projects examine the effect of water resources on crop production and food security. In particular, she is studying the changing likelihood of extreme precipitation events during the South Asian monsoon and the effect of drought on precipitating interstate conflict through food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Understanding these mechanisms has the potential to improve forecasting systems, strengthening our ability to meet the challenges of changing climate. The support of the Ray Goldberg Fellowship will facilitate new research collaborations with the Indian academic community and firsthand experiences with meteorological data collection in India. Over the remainder of her time at Harvard, Marena looks forward to contributing to the interdisciplinary conversation on food security, as it relates to climate change, food production, and social welfare.
Allyson Perez is an undergraduate at Harvard College, ‘17 and is a Quincy House Social Studies Concentrator focusing in food systems and policy in the Americas. She is an undergraduate associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. She has studied and worked in food systems, economics, and international relations in both Cuba and Mexico during her time as an undergraduate, and is passionate about the involvement of the United States in Latin America. She has also gained experience working in the food industry as the Manager of Quincy Grille, a student-run fast food restaurant on campus. Thanks to the generosity of the Ray Goldberg Fellowship, she will be conducting research in the United States and in Cuba on the agricultural trade relationship between the two countries for her senior honors thesis in Social Studies. Since 2000, the United States and Cuba have engaged in agricultural trade, with the United States exporting foodstuffs such as rice, beans, meat, and other food staples. With changing political and economic climates in the two countries, as the United States warms up to the possibility of lifting its Embargo and Cuban agriculture increasingly utilizes market structures, now is a very interesting time to gauge where this relationship could go in the future. Through a series of policy interviews with influencers in the US Government, a series of interviews with Cuban farmers gauging their thoughts and desires, and archival research on the historical nature of the relationship between the two countries, she hopes to gain an understanding of the realities of the US-Cuba agricultural trade relationship as it effects both parties, and gauge opportunities for the future development of this relationship.
Alicia Harley is a doctoral candidate in Public Policy and a Doctoral Research Fellow in the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is also a graduate student associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She studies innovation in agriculture systems, specifically her work aims to improve our understanding of how to govern innovation to improve the well-being of small and marginal farmers. She uses a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, relying heavily on organizational behavior and institutional approaches in political science. Her research expands the literature in innovation studies to include a greater focus on the particular challenges of innovation to meet the needs of the poor. Alicia’s research is a multi-level analysis of agriculture innovation policy in Bihar. Through a village level analysis, she is evaluating the impacts a wide range of policies to support agriculture knowledge and technology adoption had on small and marginal farmers in selected villages in Bihar. By tracing macro-level policies onto the experience of specific villages, her research is developing insights into the mechanisms through which innovation policy differentially impacts farmers across socioeconomic and caste spectrums. Alicia also works on several other projects including: a randomized control field trial testing different institutional approaches for supporting small and marginal farmers in adoption of solar powered irrigation pumps in Nepal; a cross-state comparison of subsidy policies to promote drip irrigation adoption in India; and a cross national study of policies to promote solar powered irrigation across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Alicia received her BA in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College in 2008. Alicia is a recipient of a Switzer Fellowship (2015), a Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellowship in Sustainability Science (2014), and a Fulbright scholarship to Egypt (2009).
Jessica Newman is a Master in Public Policy student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she is honored to be a Dubin Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. She is also pursuing a dual Master of Business Administration from the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Jessica has been passionate about the intersection of environment, food, and business since her time at Harvard College, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2010 with a degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy. She has worked on payments for ecosystem services at the CGIAR’s Challenge Program on Climate Change in East Africa; European water governance at the Ecologic Institute in Germany; and automotive/industrial consulting at Booz & Company in the United States. Her most recent position was with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, where she worked on organizational capacity development for farmers’ cooperatives in Bangladesh. She believes that environmentally- and socially-conscious leaders are a necessity within the private sector, and intends to work for organizations that connect smallholders to the global economy sustainably. Since returning to Harvard, Jessica has become involved in food activities across campus. In March 2015, she organized the first Food+ Research Symposium on the nexus of food, agriculture, environment, health, and society. This brought together more than 20 faculty members from 8 schools and 12 departments to give speed presentations on their current food+ research. Over her remaining two years in Cambridge, Jessica will help support this vibrant, interdisciplinary community of food academics.