Current Students

Cohort 8 (2017-2019)

Name: Angela Melidosian
Hometown: Palm Harbor, Florida.
Education: BA in Sustainability Studies, Minor in Spanish, Minor in Women’s Studies, University of Florida.
Experience: Angela is an alternative sustainability activist and aspiring professor. Her career in alternative sustainability began when she became the first intern for Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, a green cemetery in Gainesville, Florida. PCCC strives to create an alternative death narrative and community that promotes natural burial practices which conserve land and reunite people with the environment. As a professional grave digger, she firmly believes the easiest way to be sustainable is by planning an ecologically sound death. Focusing on both extremes of lifespans within communities, she is also a certified preschool teacher; serving as the Child Care Coordinator at the Civic Media Center, an alternative private library dedicated to progressive grassroots activism, and the Early Education Coordinator for the YMCA. As a teacher and program coordinator she designs programming that fosters biophilia and community empowerment, which she hopes to one day facilitate at the university level. These themes of community and environmental education coalesced in her research under UF’s Dr. Emery which evaluated Terracycle as a sustainable alternative waste system for learning institutions. Her activism spans beyond the career realm, as she is a published zine artist, dancer, and spoken word poet.
Interests: Alternative sustainability, environmental ethics, community development, sustainable communities, social justice, gender & queer empowerment, education, youth development, permaculture, disability empowerment, and Latin America.


Name: Daniela Lizano
 San José, Costa Rica.
Education: BS in Biology, Specialization in Botany, Universidad de Costa Rica.
Experience: Daniela started her career as a botanist, focusing her studies in the Ecology of Lichens. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in 2005, she started working for The Nature Conservancy as a Science Assistant, for the TNC Costa Rica Country Program. It was during this opportunity (4 years) when she found herself working on topics more oriented to conservation area planning, measures of success and information management, finding these topics fascinating and starting a professional and vocational path as a conservation practitioner. During her professional career, in the last 10 years she has collaborated with national NGOs, education centers and international organizations, all based in Costa Rica, working on topics related to agro-biodiversity conservation, protected areas management, environmental awareness, education, community empowerment and information management. Daniela is very passionate about making scientific and conservation information attractive, available and effective to all decision makers and users. She has also participated in projects to measure conservation impact and this has been one of her major interests throughout her career.
Interests: Conservation planning, education, conservation measures, environmental awareness, sustainability, nature, mountaineering, music and meditation.


Name: Daniel Acosta
Education: Industrial Engineer from Universidad del Norte (Colombia).
Hometown: Barranquilla, Colombia.
Experience: Daniel won a full scholarship in Universidad del Norte to become an Industrial Engineer. Due to his passion and dedication he became an undergraduate T.A for 4 different courses: Simulation, Safety and Environmental Management, Logistics and Research of Operations. After completing successfully all of his courses, Daniel worked as an intern in Gecelca as a Risk and Quality analyst. Gecelca is the most important power generating company for Colombia’s Atlantic Coast. After graduation he worked for 2 years as an Estimator for ES-Windows, a company dedicated to the production and commercialization of window systems. In both Gecelca and ES-Windows he excelled and won recognition awards. Due to his excellent academic achievements he won a Loan/Scholarship from Colfuturo for his MDP at the University of Florida.
Interests: Environmental protection, wildlife conservation, ocean conservation, ecotourism, research.



Name: Dylan Rigsby
Education: BA in English, minor in Business Administration, University of Florida.
Hometown: Tampa, Florida.
Experience: Dylan received his BA in English from UF where he studied creative writing and rhetoric while working as a front-end web developer. Upon graduating, he moved to Costa Rica where he volunteered with the non-profit WorldTeach and taught English in a small rural community. Since returning to the States he has worked as a farmhand on an organic farm in Hawthorne, taught H2A migrant workers English, and developed several of UF’s websites. Dylan looks to investigate the intersections of technology and agricultural extension in Latin America in the aim to understand their impacts on issues of food security, education, and resiliency.
Interests:  Sustainable agriculture, food security, resilient communities, emerging technologies and technological adoption, globalization, coffee farming and production, labor economics, branding, communication strategies, and extension education.



Name: Emma Lannon
Hometown: Gainesville, Florida.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Geography, with minors in International Relations and Environmental Studies from the State University of New York at Geneseo.
Experience: Emma is a dual national (United States and Great Britain) and her grandfather grew up in Tanzania. Having relatives in England, France, South Africa, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Singapore and Canada led to an inevitable interest in Geography. Ultimately she traveled out of state to university in Geneseo, New York where she was also a 4-year NCAA volleyball player. During her undergraduate work, Emma assisted with research in the Philippines and volunteered in India with women’s empowerment. In addition, she spent time in Peru working at Abre Puertas, an NGO serving remote Andean children. She learned that children who already understand seasons and day length based on mountain locations are already geographers. Extended post-graduate travel around Oceania and Southeast Asia has encouraged her to consider the potential and motivations of young travelers in development work.
Interests: Voluntourism, East Africa, GIS, spatial distribution of disease, disaster relief and refugees, conflict resolution, public motivation for travel, sport as global language.


Name: Jesse Cosme
Hometown: Hialeah, Florida.
Education: B.S. Sport Management, minor in Business Administration, University of Florida.
Experience: Jesse is a community organizer local to South Florida. Most of his experience has been in the social justice realm and has focused on socio-political aspects that create unsustainable living conditions for marginalized people in the United States more broadly and more specifically in South Florida. Jesse has also worked with unions to ensure that employees are properly represented within the current economic system and to expand the rights they have to provide them with more access to the things they need for their family and for themselves to continue to strive for a better livelihood. This includes access to healthcare, time off, and the appropriate compensation needed to secure healthy food and safe communities. Jesse has also been very involved in the humanitarian and economic crisis in Puerto Rico, participating in and helping host workshops educating people stateside about the issues involving the colonial status of Puerto Rico and its influences on the current crisis of the island.
Interests: Public health, public policy, social economics, food security, community engagement, race/gender/sexual/class equality, community development.


Name: Mary Vasilevsky
Hometown: Palm Coast, Florida.
Education: B.S. in Environmental Science, minors in Sustainability Studies and Agricultural and Natural Resource Law, University of Florida.
Experience: While studying, Mary immersed herself in multicultural organizations, having the opportunity to choreograph dance pieces for the Chinese American Student Association, and serving on the International Month and Executive Boards for the Volunteers for International Student Affairs. Additionally, she worked at the English Language Institute, where she had the opportunity to lead a class of international students that were at UF to learn English. She learned how multifaceted sustainability and natural resource perspectives vary across the world. Furthermore, this opportunity sparked her passion for education and active learning, which she carried into her role as a coordinator of the Student Compost Cooperative. She developed a passion for combating food waste, leading her to interning at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as an Athletics Sustainability Intern to help achieve their Zero Waste goals. In the future, Mary hopes to implement sustainable waste systems using biogas derived from compost and learn how she could help other nations become more sustainable.
Interests: Education, food waste, composting, upcycling, languages, food, communication, gardening, wind energy, environmental education, environmentally-friendly production materials, sustainability, outreach, green building, lesson planning, social and environmental justice, ecotourism, volunteering, cultural studies, and recycling.


Name: Nicholas Diaz
Hometown: Rockledge, Florida.
Education: B.S. Health Science; focus in Exercise Physiology, University of North Florida.
Experience: At the University of North Florida, Nick had several opportunities to explore international involvement and sustainability. Nick has worked with the international refugee community in Jacksonville, teaching an English language course and providing practical skills to individuals from 17 different countries. He then took a leadership position in the same organization, where he was a teaching assistant and discussion facilitator for a group of students. Nick helped to develop and execute an international service project by creating a fundraising plan, implementing it, traveling to Peru, interviewing and evaluating various NGOs, and ultimately awarding a stipend to Awamaki, an organization that empowers Peruvian women by connecting artisan weavers with a global market. His previous two years were focused on cross-sectional, epidemiological research at UNF, where he was exposed to data collection, secondary data analysis, and manuscript writing methods. The subject of his research was the association between various biomarkers of cardiovascular disease and physical activity.
Interests: Public health, humanitarian aid, refugee populations, food security, data analysis, disaster relief, community engagement, peace issues, community development.


Cohort 7 (2016-2018)

breton-homewood-picName: Breton Homewood
Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
Education: B.S. History; minor in Math, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff Arizona
Experience: Breton received his degree in History at Northern Arizona University in September of 2012. A month later, Breton was sent to Paraguay to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in agriculture. In Paraguay Breton worked in beekeeping, eco-camps, reforestation, tobacco farming, small animal husbandry, and back-yard gardens. A big highlight of Breton’s first 2 years of service came from planting nearly 3000 native species of tree in his community. After spending 2 years in a community of 100 people, Breton then moved to Paraguay’s capital of Asuncion to extend his service as a 3rd year volunteer coordinator. As a coordinator, Breton was in charge of emotional, physical, and mental support of volunteers from all sectors. Breton had to prepare technical classes for both Paraguayans and volunteers alike, as well as help scout out new sites for incoming volunteers to live in. Swearing out in January of 2016, Breton came back to his hometown of Gainesville, in the United States knowing both Spanish and Guarani, a local Paraguayan language, and is now working with the INGENAES program at UF to help empower women in a US AID “Feed the Future” zone in Honduras. Breton is currently working as the new Campus Peace Corps Recruiter, and will be assisting undergraduates, Gainesville community, and UF in recruiting new volunteers to serve abroad.
Interests: Sustainable farming, beekeeping, reforestation, Latin America, world travel, languages, gender equality, international development.


carlita-fiestas-picName: Carlita Fiestas-Nuñez
Hometown: Callao, Perú
Education: BS in Environmental Science, minor in Sustainability Studies, University of Florida
Experience: Carlita worked for the Cancer & Genetics Research Laboratory and executed an experiment about pine trees and their adaptation for climate change. She acquired several laboratory skills, and worked with RNA extraction, Real Time PCR, and gel electrophoresis. She also worked for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program entering and translating data from Spanish to English in order to assess nutritional workshops delivered to low-income families in Florida. In addition, she volunteered as a coordinator for the Student Compost Cooperative here at the University of Florida and organized and hosted workshops to teach new students about composting. Being a coordinator, she participated in several academic activities around campus in order to increase sustainability awareness. Currently, she is working with the School of Forest Resource and Conservation, under the guidance of Dr. Trevor Caughlin. They are assessing degraded landscapes in developing countries and studying environmental issues such as deforestation. They are using GIS system to digitize trees cover and analyze changes in landscapes in Panama.
Interests: Sustainability, community development, environmental education, conservation biology, deforestation, water conservation, bio-renewable energy, climate change.


christine-mavrick-picName: Christine A. Mavrick
Hometown: Elmhurst, Illinois
Education: BS in Anthropology, Illinois State University; TESOL teaching certificate, M.A., Anthropology, University of West Florida
Experience: Following graduation from Illinois State University with a degree in Anthropology, Christine was awarded a fellowship in a now-defunct program that aimed to make a film documenting the razing of Fort Mohave, a former military outpost that was transformed into a boarding school with the goal of the assimilation of Native American children into European-American culture. It was on the reservation that Christine was first confronted with poverty and the inadequacies of certain types of social programs. In 2002, she earned her TESOL teaching certificate and spent the next 3 years teaching English in Taiwan and Mexico. This experience provided her with her with ample opportunity to travel and meet like-minded individuals. Upon returning to the US, Christine completed her graduate studies in Anthropology at the University of West Florida and began a career in archaeology, working underwater in Florida and terrestrially in the American Southwest. During her time as an archaeologist, she has been put in supervisory positions over four labs and worked to organize three consecutive field schools. Additionally, she spent a considerable amount of time participating in public outreach, including public talks, TV (news) and documentary interviews, Boy Scouts of America badge clinics, and lab tours. She was also the founding president of the Graduate Anthropology Association (GAA). Currently, she is the lab director and principal investigator for an environmental firm in Jacksonville, Florida. Though she followed through on her original career trajectory, she spent her spare time reading and researching topics that her world travels had exposed her to: education, structural violence, and poverty. Her interests led her to the sub-field within anthropology termed Public Anthropology. In her research, she was again confronted with the inefficiencies of many programs and decided she wished to start her own outreach program that could teach aspiring aid workers and anthropologists about the usefulness of ethnography and studies of political economy and history in creating more successful aid programs.
Interests: Structural violence, social justice, humanitarian aid, voluntourism and medical tourism, and public anthropology.


dan-sarafan-picName: Daniel Sarafan
Hometown: Weston, Florida
Education: BA in Anthropology, Minors in Theatre; International Development and Humanitarian Assistance, Current J.D. Candidate, University of Florida
Experience: Like many students, Dan started his undergraduate career at the University of Florida thinking that he would become a doctor. Dan first learned about compassionate care-giving through volunteering with Streetlight, a peer support program for critically and chronically ill adolescents at the UFHealth Shands Hospital. He then had the opportunity to practice this overseas when, during spring break of his junior year, he traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to volunteer in an HIV/TB ward operating out of the general hospital. Dan has since returned to Haiti frequently, participating in and leading trips with focuses ranging from teacher conferences to microcredit-assisted business seminars. His community development interests have expanded locally as well, particularly when, after graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Dan spent a year interning with Greenhouse Church in Gainesville to develop school and neighborhood outreach programs. Now recognizing the need for development professionals from a variety of disciplines, Dan has enrolled at the University of Florida Levin College of Law with hopes of pursuing a career in advocacy, specifically as practiced in the context of the developing world.
Interests: Sustainable development, international human rights, rule of law, community empowerment, stringed instruments.


fiona-hogan-picName: Fiona Hogan
Hometown: San Diego, California
Education: BA in Linguistics, minor in African Studies; University of Florida
Experience: Fiona grew up in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Gaborone, Botswana; and Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. This background had her involved in the global development field from a young age as well as sparked an all-consuming passion for travel and linguistics. After moving to Gainesville, FL for university, she worked for Southern Economic Development Organization, a burgeoning NGO founded by Levy Odera and his wife, Erica Odera, an alumna of the MDP program (Cohort 1). Fiona worked as a communications and public relations intern. This position allowed her to work on-site for several months in Homa Bay, Kenya to work on a chicken farming project designed to help empower and educate women in the area. She also studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain where she volunteered working with West African refugees in the area. More recently, she has been working the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at UF as a fiscal assistant managing purchasing, travel, and grant awards for the department.
Interests: West Africa, sociolinguistics, gender equality, community development, multi-dimensional program and non-profit management.


maria-waked-picName: María Rocio Waked
Hometown: Tunja, Colombia
Education: Bachelor of History, Javeriana University; Master in Anthropology, Los Andes University, Bogotá, Colombia.
Experience: Maria is a native of Colombia and has lived in Gainesville, FL since 10 months ago. Since 2005, Maria has been professor of History and Anthropology in schools and universities and also she has been working with NGOs as a leader of projects related to food, education and environment for local farmer communities in Latin America. In the last few months, Maria had the opportunity to volunteer for IEFTZ, a US non-profit organization that works with indigenous communities in Tanzania.
Interests: Environmental anthropology, education for sustainability, women’s empowerment, food security, agroecology.


nazmi-ahmed-picName: Nazmi Ahmed
Hometown: Boca Raton, Florida
Education: BA in Sustainability Studies, minor in International Development and Humanitarian Assistance, University of Florida
Experience: Nazmi’s passion for sustainability and acquiring social equity was furthered by international travels and her undergraduate studies. Being an involved undergraduate student, she participated in several cultural activities around campus and promoted them to be sustainable and increased carbon footprint awareness amongst multiple student organizations, with the Office of Sustainability. Throughout her study abroad initiatives, Nazmi has travelled to North Queensland, Australia (May 2015) and Costa Rica (March 2016) studying humans and their sustaining environments as well as ecotourism. She also was the Conservation Outreach Intern for the Conservation Trust for Florida (Spring 2016) and helped devise the CTF ambassador program, a college- centric outreach program, and still continues to help raise awareness for how humans can help with land maintenance. She discovered her passion for working with women and children when she was the first undergraduate teaching assistant for the Women Studies department of the University of Florida, teaching the Humanities Perspective on Gender and Sexuality. She recently returned from Belize (May 2016) where she held the position of field assistant studying the Effects of Human Disturbance on the Biodiversity and Abundance of Terrestrial Mammals in a Jaguar Conservation Landscape in Southern Belize. From her fieldwork and time researching during her undergraduate career, Nazmi became heavily interested in the notion of sustainable efforts to provide basic needs to communities in need. By pursuing the Master of Sustainable Development Practice degree at the University of Florida in Fall 2016 for the next 2 years, Nazmi hopes to help areas in the world that are in need and will be thoroughly exploring ways to combat climate change and environmental, social, and economic destruction.
Interests: Education, international studies, sustainability, community development, environmental education, conservation biology, deforestation, water conservation, water pollution, renewable energy, climate change, women’s rights, gender equality, racial equality, social justice, international development, alternative energy, ecotourism, dancing, choreographing, hammocking, biking, animals, eating, traveling and reading, experiencing different cultures and religions.


nicole-yohe-picName: Nicole Yohe
Hometown: Sprinfield, Virginia
Education: BA in Political Science, Minors in Africana Studies and Women and Gender Studies, James Madison University
Experience: Throughout her academic career, Nicole has immersed herself in African cultures, communities, language study, and coursework to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges inherent in promoting sustainable human and social development for women across developing countries. In 2013, while studying abroad in Ghana, Nicole was a volunteer tutor for the GLONA charity school. Through her experience interacting with students and the community, she witnessed the glaring inequality between boys and girls in the classroom. Continuing her commitment to gender equality across Africa, she sought out an internship with the 2Seeds Network, a non-profit organization that focused on food security and agricultural development in Tanzania, East Africa. Her experience as an intern for 2Seeds Network, led her to understand the important role women have in the field of agriculture. After years of hard work and dedication, the Political Science Department at JMU awarded Nicole a scholarship to travel to Bandung, Indonesia, as the U.S. Student Delegate for the 2015 International Student Conference on Global Citizenship. Determined to understand gender inequality from a cultural perspective, Nicole studied Swahili for four consecutive years. She was later awarded the David L. Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program, where studied Swahili and Human Trafficking in Tanzania for one academic year. In addition, Nicole participated in an internship with the Maasai Women’s Development Organization (MWEDO), where she assisted in the improvement of access to education, health services, and enterprise development for women and girls of the Maasai community. Nicole is driven by her past experiences and is looking to expand her skillset through the MDP program at the University of Florida.
Interests: Women and gender studies, human rights, East Africa, Swahili, sustainable development, cultural studies, foreign policy, peace studies, conflict resolution, environmental issues, food security.


nyokabi-maingi-picName: Sheila Nyokabi Maingi
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Education: BA Double major in Psychology/Literature, minor in Political Science, University of Nairobi Kenya. Diploma in Mass Communication, Zetech University
Experience: Nyokabi’s interest in Sustainable Development is inspired by her longtime passion for charity work and empowerment of women and children. In 2012, while still pursuing her undergraduate studies, she founded The Zion Kenya Initiative aimed at uplifting the lives of orphaned children living in orphanages in Nairobi. Some of the roles she undertook in this position include planning, fundraising, resource mobilization and event organization. In 2014, she co-founded The Atieno Project that works to empower Kenyan women with information on policies, legislation (Bills) and other information such as sexual and reproductive health, that directly impact the lives of women. Some of the skills she has acquired in this position are training and organizing. In 2015, she was hired by Mzalendo Trust, a parliamentary watch initiative, to research and write a report on the contributions of Kenya’s Women Parliamentarians and the way forward. The report has been adopted in numerous spaces in assessing political affirmative action for women. Her travels to Senegal have nurtured an interest in development efforts in Francophone Africa as well. She has also worked as a radio presenter.
Interests: Sub-Saharan Africa, gender development & women’s studies, data analysis, education, economic empowerment of marginalized groups, food security, rural development, non-profits, aid and languages.