Current Students

Cohort 5 (2014-2016)

Name: Matthew Anderson
Education: BA in Environment, focus in Population and Health, minor in Geography, University of Washington
Experience: Matt has worked for several years in a therapeutic wilderness program and volunteered for the NGO Heal Africa in Goma, DRC. SUWS, the wilderness program was all based outdoors where he had to build new leadership and communication skills. In Goma he managed the construction of two building sites, a learning center and a community for outgoing patients who had undergone fistula repair. He also participated in some community development programs and was able to assist in some health clinic assessments in Goma.
Interests: Water conservation and health, conflict resolution, sustainable building, leadership training, alternative education techniques, what makes certain communities more successful than others.


IrvingName: Irving Chan
Hometown: Veracruz, Mexico
Education: BS in Biology, University of the Americas, Puebla
Experience: Irving studied abroad at the University of Wyoming from 2012 to 2013 where, besides classes, he worked as intern in Bright AgroTech, an aquaponic crop production company. He collaborated with Slow Food Puebla in the development of a hydroponic system in containers as a model for crop production in urban environments and rural communities with extreme weather conditions. He also collaborated with the National Polytechnic Institute in the development of a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action to be applied in different rural forest communities in order to increase carbon sequestration (funded by the UN and the Germany-UK NAMA Facility for developing countries). He also worked with the UF North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, FL to increase organic production in the north Florida area.
Interests: Sustainable business networks that include poverty stricken communities of developing countries as part of the process, synthetic biology, research in crop production, and tutoring of diverse populations of college students.


BenName: Benjamin Christ
Hometown: Imperial, Missouri
Education: B.S., Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Missouri
Experience:  Throughout his undergraduate career, Ben pursued research in avian ecology both in his home state of Missouri and abroad in Mexico and Puerto Rico. After spending his senior year studying in Valparaíso, Chile, Ben moved to São Paulo, Brazil to work as a Business English instructor at various companies, including Starbucks and Honda. During this time, he also volunteered at an NGO called SAVE Brasil (Sociedade para a Conservação das Aves do Brasil), the country’s official BirdLife International representative. At the University of Florida, Ben currently serves as the Graduate Director of Yulee Hall, home of the Global Living Learning Community. He and his team implement programs revolving around the themes of sustainability, multiculturalism and active citizenship for undergraduate residents.
Interests: Biodiversity conservation, deforestation and loss of natural resources, environmental economics, gender in development, governance


Jessica Horwood PICName: Jessica Horwood
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Education: BA in Anthropology and International Development, University of Sussex, UK
Experience: Jessica has worked in Kinshasa, DRC as the project officer for the Salvation Army’s community development projects there. She continued this work in Port au Prince, Haiti after a year and worked as a project officer, coordinating various earthquake-related projects as well as more sustainable and long-term development projects. These included income-generating projects, vocational training projects, community health programs and agricultural projects. She was also responsible for monitoring and evaluating Salvation Army projects and designing proposals for new projects in collaboration with local communities.
Interests: Community development and building the capacity of local NGOs and communities, supporting local entrepreneurs and social businesses that solve problems through innovation, sustainable agriculture and farming techniques that can be implemented at the local level.


Rugiyatu KaneName: Rugiyatu Kane
Hometown: Dakar, Senegal
Education: BA in Environmental Studies & Environmental Health minor, Spelman College
Experience: Growing up in different countries in Africa, Rugiyatu acquired an appreciation and passion for the conservation of our environment, especially as it relates to human health and well-being. In 2012, she traveled to Ghana as part of the International Environment and Development program at American University and realized three development projects on education, micro-financing for women, and clean water access. The latter inspired her undergraduate research focused on Water Quality of the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, testing for microbial contamination and water quality parameters in order to establish seasonal trends. In 2013, through a summer mentorship program with UCLA, she immersed herself in the study of social sciences in South Africa and Botswana, learning about the important history and the political, economical, educational and cultural challenges faced by its thriving as well still disadvantaged populations. This experience served as a major eye-opener to much of the work that still needs to be done all across the African continent and Third World. Since the beginning of 2014, she has been involved with different projects in Senegal, including working on a Maternity Renovation Project in Dakar, and an African Indigenous Vegetable Project based in Potou, the Millennium Village. She also worked with Let’s Do it Senegal, a civic movement for a clean and green Senegal; and most importantly, she taught environmental science and sustainable development, and mentored students at The Senegalese-American Bilingual School, helping to shape the next generation of Senegal’s leaders and to inspire them to be conscious about sustainability.
Interests: Climate change adaptation and mitigation, water equity, coastal management, women and youth empowerment, maternal and reproductive health, sustainable agriculture, social entrepreneurship, and urban development.


Kristen MarksName: Kristen Marks
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Education: B.S. in Family, Youth and Community Sciences, minors in International Development and Humanitarian Assistance and Business Administration, University of Florida
Experience: After her junior year of college, Kristen interned in Malawi with Children of the Nations, where she worked with orphaned and vulnerable children. She then moved to Orlando after graduating in 2010 to work with Children of the Nations in their Florida office. While in Orlando, Kristen also interned with Africa Windmill Project, an NGO that develops windmill water pumps in Malawi, and worked at a church coordinating programs and writing curriculum for elementary-aged children.
Interests: Child and youth development, education, community development, program management, Sub-Saharan Africa, clean water, agriculture, gender and development, and non-profit management


GabyName: Gabriela Polo
Hometown: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Education: B.A. in International Studies and Economics, DePaul University
Experience: After being awarded a Fulbright Opportunity Scholarship, Gabriela moved to Chicago in 2010 to pursue her B.A. Throughout her undergraduate career, she developed a passion for research that has reflected on her independent research endeavors, assistantships, conference presentations, and internships. During the summer of 2013 she received a research grant that allowed her to travel back to Ecuador to carry out field work for her undergraduate thesis. Her thesis explored the Ecuadorian Yasuní-ITT initiative, which proposed an alternative to oil development within one of the major biodiversity hotspots of the world: The Yasuní Biosphere Reserve. She was thus able to work with a community of scholars, environmental activists, indigenous leaders, and NGOs that have inspired and guided her work.
Interests: sociopolitical and environmental effects of oil extraction in the Amazon, alternatives to extraction, mining, environmental policy, indigenous rights and knowledge, natural resource governance, community-based conservation, climate change and energy, water security.


WhitneyTurientine.MDPPic.9.17.2014Name: Whitney M. Turientine
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
Education: BA in International Studies, specialization in International Development and Latin America, Minor in Spanish, University of Kentucky
Experience: During her undergraduate years Whitney studied and volunteered abroad in Peru, Germany, and Tanzania. In the MDP program at UF, she is interested in exploring the gendered dimensions of international development and climate change in East Africa. She focuses particularly on women’s groups involved in the seaweed industry in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Prior to attending UF she worked in several different sectors including teaching, interpreting/translating, and sales/marketing.
Interests: women’s empowerment, women’s economic development, East Africa


Cohort 6 (2015-2017)


Russell Anderson PicName: Russell Anderson
Home town: Belton, Texas
Education: Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies. Valdosta State University. Florida Master Gardener. Florida Master Naturalist.
Experience: It has been Russell’s opportunity to help cultivate networks of young people, campus organizations, and members of both corporate and “non-profit” communities. Memberships to Steering committee and national coalition advisory boards have previously included: Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), Southern Energy Network, Energy Action Coalition (EAC), Greenpeace USA Student Network, City of Gainesville Beautification Board, and the Alachua County Master Gardener Advisory Board. Russell intends to use my MDP Degree, graduate certificates, and other accreditations to provide domestic and international consulting and project management services related to coastal resource impact mitigation. He hopes that his aptitude towards multi-faceted initiative development will allow him to succeed within the international policy community regarding sustainability research and solutions oriented initiative development.
Interests: Entrepreneurship, agriculture, urban sustainability, integrative horticultural design, philosophy, investment and business management, integrated systems and emerging technologies, current events, Cultural Anthropology, disaster management, wilderness preparedness, fishing, photography, videography production, camping, snorkel, travel, and most outdoor or water recreation.


Amanda BrintonName: Amanda Brinton
Home town: St. Augustine, Florida
Education: BS in Natural Resource Conservation at the University of Florida
Experience: Amanda received her BS in Natural Resource Conservation at the University of Florida in 2009. After graduation, Amanda began working for the Sierra Club as the Outreach Coordinator for the Washington D.C. Chapter. During her time with the Sierra Club, Amanda managed volunteer outreach and involvement along with campaign support and advising. In early 2012, Amanda joined the U.S. Peace Corps and served in an indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon where she led and assisted with projects primarily focusing on recycling, accessibility to potable water, and environmental education in the schools. During her time in the Peace Corps, Amanda’s professional focus shifted from tropical forestry and indigenous land tenure rights to waste management and recycling in Latin America. After Peace Corps, Amanda wanted to gain experience and knowledge in Brazil and in turn spent the next 6 months teaching at a social business English school in a disadvantaged community in Sao Paulo. While in Brazil, Amanda spent much of her time educating herself about Brazil’s waste management system and volunteering with other social programs.
Interests: recycling, waste management, social entrepreneurship, biodiversity conservation, Latin America


Qwamel HanksName: Qwamel Hanks
Home town: North Augusta, South Carolina
Education: B.S. Food Science and Human Nutrition- Dietetics, Minor in Business Administration, University of Florida
Experience: Qwamel has experience in community health and nutrition education in the Gainesville area. She has worked at a clinical research center for dietetic studies, as well as helped facilitate several different nutrition and cooking classes to under-served populations. She has volunteered in Jamaica and was also a U.S. delegate at an international conference in Canada for global hunger issues. Currently, she works for UF IFAS, where she is a facilitator for a nutrition and cooking class to Alachua county residents that are receiving/eligible for supplemental nutrition assistance (formerly known as food stamps).
Interests: Hunger, nutrition, Sub-Saharan Africa, community development, food system management.




Lacey Harris-CobleName: Lacey Harris-Coble
Home town: Orlando, Florida
Education: BA Environmental Biology, Columbia University
Experience: While juggling classes and swim practices as a student-athlete, Lacey developed a passion for environmental issues. For her senior thesis she spent three months on the North Slope of Alaska conducting field research concerning the impact of climate change on the trophic interactions between aquatic arthropods and songbirds. After college, she wanted to gain a better understanding of environmental issues in agricultural development and joined the NGO 2Seeds Network as a project coordinator. She spent a year living in the village of Kijungumoto in Tanzania where she initiated the development of a business curriculum, home vegetable gardens and beehives to increase the food and income security of the community partners. She also built strong relationships in the community and learned Swahili.
Interests: climate change, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, capacity building, social entrepreneurship, East Africa.


Mars MPD UF2Name: Iliana M. Jaimes
Home town:
Bogotá, Colombia
Bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Sanitary Engineering, University of La Salle, Bogotá, Colombia
Iliana’s first professional experience was as a practitioner in Colombia’s General Accounting Office (CGN), working on the environmental diagnosis of the institution based on the Institutional Environmental Plan (PIGA). Her first work after the Bachelor’s degree was in an environmental laboratory generating water quality reports—fresh water sources, drinking water and waste water analysis—as well as analysis of air quality and solid waste management. Later she worked with an environmental consulting firm advising oil companies on Environmental Impact Studies (EIA), Environmental Management Plans (PMA), Environmental Compliance Reports (ICA) and environmental monitoring, among other studies. Subsequently she worked in an engineering company preparing technical proposals for water and sewage tender improvements bids, as well as in the external evaluation of national infrastructure projects. She also worked with an oil company as Environmental Supervisor of a production field at Yopal (Casanare) and later on with a different oil company at Rubiales (Meta). Most recently she served as comptroller of civil works, on the construction of a wastewater treatment plant, with the military, and also as a consultant and environmental trainer at the School of Professional Soldiers (ESPRO) at Nilo (Cundinamarca).
Sustainable development, green technologies, organic farming, green building / ecological construction, cleaner production, environmental and ecological design, permaculture, and environmental education.


Grace KihomboName: Grace Alyce Kihombo
Home town:
Morogoro, Tanzania
BA in Education, Specialization in Geography and Swahili, University of Dar es Salaam
Grace is a secondary school education officer by profession. Following her university training, she has been teaching both Swahili and geography, at Wami secondary school for four years and at Mafiga secondary school for three years.

Gender and youth development.



Rosanna KingstonName: Rosanna Kingston
Home town:
Clermont, Florida
Business Administration, University of South Florida
Rosanna’s love affair with the non-profit world began in 2013 when she started a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing backpacks full of school supplies to children in South America. The idea that started on her kitchen table came to benefit over 70,000 impoverished children in 14 countries. During this time she gained experience leading and coordinating humanitarian efforts with other nongovernmental and governmental organizations. Since April of 2011, she has worked with a nonprofit organization called Clean the World which recycles soap from hotels and gives the recycled hygienic products to charities worldwide. Her responsibilities as Resource and Partnership Development Director included building partnerships with nonprofit and for profit organizations, creating internal guidelines and policies, handling gift-in-kind donations, coordinating distributions with other nonprofits, assisting with the development of new programs, and managing corporate donor overseas experience trips.

Building sustainable programs in third world countries that solve issues relating to health, education and economic development. Social entrepreneurship. Water and Sanitation. Global Development Alliance by USAID.  Leveraging private and public sector partnerships. Community development.


Oswaldo MedinaName: Oswaldo Medina-Ramírez
Home town: Loja, Ecuador
Education: BSc in Socioeconomic Development and Environment, Zamorano University, Honduras.
Experience: Oswaldo began his professional life in the Provincial Government of Loja as Director of Production and Trade. Few years later he joined the Department of Agriculture of Ecuador, as National Director of Productive Chain Development and the Vice-Ministry of Rural Development in Quito. He broadened his research and analytical experience further on internship assignments with the World Bank in Honduras, with FAO in Bolivia and as a visiting scholar at North Carolina State University. In these roles he promoted strategies for sustainable agriculture, food security and sustainable rural development, working with small-holders as well as agribusinesses, through political process in his country. Additionally, he has experience in cooperation initiatives with Latin American countries like Honduras, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.
Interests: Socioeconomic development and environment challenges, multidimensional approach to rural and urban development, public administration, public policies, economic development, and international development.


Pilar Morales GinerName: Pilar Morales Giner
Home town: Granada, Spain
Education: Licenciatura (long cycle degree) in Law, Licenciatura (long cycle degree) in Political Science, University of Granada.
Experience: Pilar has been an intern with the Natural Protection Service (SEPRONA) in Granada, Spain, where she developed an interest in sustainability issues. She then worked as an intern at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, which helped cultivate her knowledge of French, improve her archival research skills, and gave her a comprehensive knowledge of the way significant international institutions function. Before moving to the United States, Pilar worked as a pharmaceutical assistant. She has also volunteered for several NGO’s related to immigration and community issues. During 2015, she has been the Co-Coordinator of the Latino Film Festival in Gainesville, FL.
Interests: EU immigration policy, human rights, international law, and the application of sustainable development principles to all three; water conservation; women’s rights and development; and diaspora studies.



July NelsonName: July Dayane Nelson
Home town: Pétion-Ville, Haiti
Education: BA in Economic Sciences, Université Quisqueya, Haiti
Experience: July worked with several local and international organizations progressing in the development field for the past 8 years in Haiti. In Fall 2006, she was offered an internship at Banque de la République d’Haïti (BRH), the Central Bank of the country, for a 4-month-period. This experience was decisive in her career choice, given the opportunity she had to reinforce her background in economic policies towards national development. From 2008 to 2009, she worked for the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as Coordinator of the Support Center for Small and Medium Enterprises(SME). This position helped her understand the daily socio-economic issues that women from the informal sector face. In Summer 2009, she participated with Strategic Management Group (SMG), a private local firm, in an important survey on the Microfinance sector in Haiti. July also worked as Project Officer/Deputy Advisor for the Economic Cooperation at the Embassy of Japan in Haiti, from 2010 to 2014. She worked there on various projects centered on infrastructure development and community development through entities such as non-profit organizations, local government institutions and NGOs. Since 2014, July’s been working as an M&E Consultant for the Agence Locale pour le Développement Intégral des Jeunes (ALDIJ), a local organization involved in youth development. July’s most relevant volunteer experiences include working as an instructor for the Adult Literacy classes from high school through college.
Interests: International cooperation, international development, social change, advanced monitoring and evaluation, development aid, governance development, community empowerment, public/private partnerships targeting development, socioeconomic development and sustainable agriculture.


Eunmi SongName: Eunmi Song
Home town: Gangneung, South Korea
Education: Bachelors in Social Welfare, Counseling Psychology, Handong Global University, South Korea
Experience: Eunmi completed a double major in social welfare and counseling psychology in Korea. In Handong Center for International Area Studies (CIAS), she was a student researcher. She has been to many foreign countries and these research and volunteer trips have been the best way to practice her innate adventure and adaptability skills. By being in Jordan, Syria, Canada, Lebanon, and New Zealand, she could improve herself. Her volunteer work in Uganda was, above all, the most significant experience for her in terms of obtaining practical knowledge about people in need and broadening her horizons. She also tried to understand more about poverty as well as various societal efforts to address these problems throughout various social work classes and study groups. By pursuing the master degree at the University of Florida, she wants to prepare herself for the global issues as a practical researcher. After the master degree, she would like to continue with a doctorate degree for further professional preparation.
Interests: Development of social research methodology based on the local community; empowerment models; detailed assessments for appropriate analysis, planning, intervention, reinforcement of vulnerable points; cooperation and exchange between the local community and the industrial sectors; self-sufficient society; field research; holistic development; Christian community; cultures and religions; East Africa; reading and writing poetry.


Rebecca Starkman


Name: Rebecca Starkman
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Education: B.A. in International Business and Finance, University of South Florida
Experience: Rebecca spent the beginning of her childhood in Bogota, Colombia and Honduras. During her undergraduate career at the University of South Florida, Rebecca studied international economics, business implementation, and social development. She worked as a committee chair member for the International Business Board (IBB) on project proposals for Going Green. She also worked for Cargo Honduras Inc. international freight shipping company, based out of Miami and Central America. Rebecca helped coordinate relief efforts to local regions of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. In 2012, she spent the summer in Honduras volunteering and helping to distribute the shipments of supplies and materials those local areas. Rebecca also studied abroad in Europe in 2013 and visited areas throughout Spain, France, and Switzerland.
Interests: Trade facilitation and financing related to development and GDP, economic production and resourcing, income disparities, international policy.


Rachel VelezName:
Rachel Velez
Home town: Orlando, Florida
Education: BA Anthropology, minor in African Studies, University of Florida
Experience: Having always been fascinated with Africa, Rachel enrolled at the University of Florida to become part of its Center for African studies. It was here she was able to immerse herself in coursework focusing on the cultural and social aspects of the Swahili coast. Rachel’s mentor, Dr. Rose Lugano, inspired her to learn Swahili, and she soon became a Swahili tutor for the university. As a freshman, she began her quest for international advocacy as a community development volunteer with Highland Support Project in Chichi, Guatemala. Following this project, Rachel was chosen to be a graduate assistant and worked closely with a PhD student researching the levels of agency in the ministries of agriculture in West Africa. However, it was only after graduating that she was able to fulfill her dream of seeing the Swahili Coast. Rachel earned her TEFL certificate while working as a teacher in Dandora, Kenya. It was during her time living in East Africa that she discovered the overwhelming physiological issues associated with the lack of water sanitation and management in Kenya. Upon returning to the states, Rachel has dedicated her time and energy to understanding the effects of fluoride overexposure on early childhood development in areas of East Africa. She has joined UF’s MDP program in hopes of exploring sustainable methods to address this lack of water management in Kenya and other tropical zones.
Interests: East Africa, Swahili, water management in tropical zones, effects of overexposure to fluoride on early childhood development.


Sarah Anne WardName: Sarah Anne Ward
Home town:
Dayton, Virginia
Education: B.S. in Geographic Science (concentration in Environment, Conservation, Sustainability, and Development), James Madison University.
Experience: Sarah, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from JMU, has broad experience in community development and organizing. She served in 2012 as in intern with Organizing for America, the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama, where she organized volunteers across Virginia. She also served in a leadership capacity with the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, where she managed data, wrote press releases and organized regional environmental education events. Sarah gained significant experience in sustainable agriculture as in international intern with SNV Netherlands Development Group in Accra, Ghana. With SNV she provided administrative support to clean water projects, mapped ongoing agricultural initiatives, and contributed to grant proposals for USGBC LEED certified building projects. As a geographer, Sarah’s primary focus has been on human-environment interactions, especially those that involve agricultural and water systems, in Sub-Saharan Africa, with experience in mapping systems including ArcGIS as well as data analysis techniques such as environmental life cycle assessment and geographic impact (I-PATS) assessment.
Interests: Professionally, Sarah is interested in sustainable agriculture, the empowerment of women in agrarian communities, development issues in the Third World, human geography and the human dimensions of climate change, and the applications of geographic science techniques in tropical regions. In her leisure, Sarah is an accomplished equestrian who has competed and excelled at the state and national levels. A member of the United States Equestrian Federation, she was an All-Conference Scholar Athlete.


Zotha ZunguName: Zotha Zungu
Home town: Durban, South Africa
Education: BA International Relations and Diplomacy (University of South Africa/UNISA), Certificate in Project Management (UNISA) and Certificate in Africa & International Trade (Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute/UNISA).
Experience: Zotha has worked with local government (eThekwini Municipality in Durban) in various administration positions. She had the privilege to be seconded to eThekwini Municipality’s International Relations Department as a project officer in their International and Donor Relations Unit for over a year. She was tasked with assisting in coordinating +/- 10 sister city partnerships with Durban to strengthen strategic international relations and enhance the city’s integrated development plan. Projects with these international sister cities were focused on development and environmental sustainability. She also had the privilege to see and be part of memorandums of understanding that the city signed with some of the +/- 10 sister cities. She handled the incoming and outgoing  group of  +/- 12 students in the Welwarts Volunteers Program (volunteers from Bremen in Germany), the program allowed these students to assist in the different projects the city embarked on which ranged from climate change projects, urban planning projects, children orphaned through HIV/AIDS projects, sports and youth development projects, social upliftment and development projects, arts, culture and tourism as well as skills exchange projects with city officials traveling abroad and the city receiving council officials from abroad. Part of her duties also included planning official welcome receptions where the eThekwini Mayor would receive counterparts from other countries. Her highlight was being part of the local organizing committee for logistics in the 2013 BRICS Conference in March 2013 as well as the BRICS Urbanisation and Local Government Conference in November 2013.
Interests: International Development, International Cooperation (Africa in International Trade), Women Empowerment, Public/Private Partnerships for Development, Alternative Energy Sources.