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, IN
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 4 (2013-2015)


MariaName: Maria F. Checa
Home town: Ecuador
Education: B.A. Biology, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador; M.S. Entomology and Netamology, University of Florida
Experience: Maria is currently pursuing a joint degree as a PhD student in ecology and conservation, and a Master student in the MDP program. She is a field biologist, and her former research has focused on analyzing effects of climate and habitat change on biodiversity. She has researched butterfly communities for several years in priority areas for conservation in Ecuador such as the Amazonia and coastal wet forests from the Chocó Region. Maria has been committed to education and outreach to enhance public appreciation for biodiversity, and promote scientific research and conservation. As a result, she has been actively involved in teaching at the Catholic University of Ecuador, mentoring Bachelor students and training local people. Moreover, Maria has published two books and several scientific and non-scientific writings. In order to face the multidisciplinary challenges of biodiversity conservation in her home country, Ecuador, Maria is pursuing the MDP program and researching about initiatives (such as butterfly farming) to reconcile biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in Western Ecuador.
Interests: Biodiversity conservation, social entrepreneurship, community-based initiatives, ecotourism, women empowerment, capacity building, environmental education, climate change.


Samantha Davis

Name: Samantha Davis
Home town: Orlando, Florida
Education: B.A., International Studies with Spanish minor, University of North Florida
Experience: Samantha has studied abroad in over twelve countries around the world. In 2011, she participated in the Semester At Sea study abroad program and, in 2012, Samantha traveled to Ghana with Engineers Without Borders, where she and her team successfully implemented a water sanitation system for a local orphanage. Additionally in 2012, she completed a dual-internship in Washington, DC, as she worked for a non-profit organization that helped promote healthcare throughout Latin America while also working for the Washington, DC Veterans’ Affairs Clinic. Samantha is very involved in the sport of swimming. She teaches both children and adults how to swim and believes in the importance of water-safety worldwide.
Interests: Public health, gender empowerment and equality, healthcare accessibility, economic development, governance

HansName: Hans Goertz

Home town: Tucson, Arizona
Education: B.A., International Relations, Lewis & Clark College
Experience: Hans served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique, where he taught English, art and IT classes to secondary students. He was also involved in an agricultural extension project, setting up several model permaculture gardens. After returning from the Peace Corps, Hans worked for the International Organization for Migration in Haiti – first in the post-earthquake capital of Port-au-Prince, and then in a regional office in Les Cayes. During his tenure in Haiti, he worked on a wide range of activities, including community infrastructure development, watershed management, shelter construction, cholera prevention and hurricane preparedness and relief.
Interests: Environmental education, natural resource management, sustainable agriculture



Name: Antonieta Eguren Ibacache
Home town: Viña del Mar, Chile
Education: B.S. in Veterinary and Animal Sciencies, University of Chile. Professional degree of Veterinary, University of Chile.
Experience: Since her graduation in 2009 Antonieta has been working in the field of wildlife conservation research. She has served as field assistant, project coordinator and investigator in several projects with private and public entities in Chile, studying endangered species (mostly carnivores). In the last two years, her main focus has been the human dimension of wildlife conservation, and she has participated in the collection of data about the conflict between rural communities and wild carnivores in the south of Chile.
Interests: Wildlife conservation, community-based initiatives, natural resource management, women empowerment, interdisciplinary approaches to development, environmental education, international cooperation


Jeremy Lambeth 
Home town: North Pole, Alaska 
Education: Bachelor of Business Administration – Management & Organizations, University of Alaska Fairbanks 
Experience: Previously employed at the Emerging Pathogens Institute, Jeremy’s career interests include improving knowledge management systems, researching urban sustainability, and mentoring youth entrepreneurship programs. As a 2010 NEURUS fellow, he worked for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and created e-learning methodologies and GIS tools at the International Centre for Science and High Technology. Recently, he assessed a distance education platform for a USAID/HAITI agricultural training center, established internet service for malaria/cholera researchers at a public health field laboratory, and designed an internal network for a contractor improving rural health infrastructure. Jeremy has conducted focus group surveys in Amman, Jordan for the Water and Livelihoods Initiative, participated in study tours of Indonesia, and returned from Port-au-Prince as an NSEP Boren Fellow. 
Interests: ICT4D, nonprofit organizational leadership, and international scholarly exchange in small island developing states


Liz Poulsen
Home town: Lodi, NY
Education: B.A., International Studies, Dickinson College
Experience: Liz participated in community service initiatives throughout her undergrad years, leading Alternative Spring Break trips to the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in Arizona, and performing local community service with Alpha Phi Omega, ESL classes, and a mentoring program for immigrant youth. She studied abroad in Costa Rica in high school, and in college studied in Spain, China, and Ghana. After undergrad, Liz served in the Peace Corps for five months in Niger and three years in Guatemala, where she worked in the Youth Development program. She implemented a Life Skills curriculum in middle schools, conducted teacher trainings, built computer labs, taught sex education to students and teachers, developed and utilized M&E instruments, and led workshops with parents of adolescents. During her last year in Guatemala, Liz worked with a Guatemalan NGO (PIES de Occidente) as project manager of a comprehensive sex education program for adolescents.
Interests: Sexual and reproductive health, research, monitoring and evaluation, population growth


AlexName: Alexandra Sprague

Home town: Framingham, Massachusetts
Education: B.S., Biology, B.A., Anthropology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Experience: In high school and college, Alex spent two summers volunteering on community-based conservation and development projects in the Peruvian rainforest. After that, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Mongolia for a semester, where she researched community-based conservation efforts with nomadic herders on the steppe. Just before graduating, Alex was able to pursue a side interest in disease ecology by participating in a summer internship with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. After graduating from college, Alex taught English in China for a semester, and then moved to Mongolia on a Fulbright research grant. As a Fulbright scholar, she designed and put into practice the first mobile gardening project in Mongolia: Nomadic Gardens.
Interests: Program evaluation, community-based conservation, problem solving and innovations in development, ecotourism, nomadic pastoralists, human ecology, k-12 science education


Christa Roberts
Home town: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Education: B.B.A. International Business and Marketing; minor in Spanish, University of Oklahoma
Experience: Having always been fascinated by Latin American culture, Christa completed an undergraduate study abroad program in Guadalajara, Mexico. After graduation, Christa worked for 3½ years as a consultant to individuals and small business owners where she designed and implemented financial strategies. In combining her educational and professional experiences, Christa became interested in the benefits of pairing business principles and social ventures. In 2011, Christa accepted an opportunity to join UF as an employee and pursue her graduate degree concurrently. Christa currently serves as the Business Manager for the Department of Environmental and Global Health at the University of Florida.
Interests: Social entrepreneurship, small business development, family and development, community initiatives, conditional cash transfer programs, upcycling, and cultural heritage.