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Cohort 11 (2020-2022)

Name: A.J. Hart

Hometown: Athens, Alabama

Education: BA in History and Sustainability Studies, Auburn University

Experience: AJ has been firsthand impacted by the field of Sustainability due to his close attachment to his birthplace, Flint, Michigan, and its ongoing water crisis.  While in high school he was a member of the FFA Chapter of Tanner High School and worked in landscaping and construction during that period where he gained an understanding of how impactful constructing projects are with the existing environment.  While studying for his BA, which was obtained in the Spring of 2020 during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, AJ relied extensively on his own bicycle for transportation and experienced how impactful poverty and lack of transportation resources are on the local community of Auburn, Alabama.  In addition, he has undergone a variety of activities related to the field of Sustainability including water and waste-cleanup management and reforestation activities with Asheville Greenworks in the Spring of 2019.  He also participated in a tour that focused on Costa Rica’s approach to creating a Sustainable and Ecologically focused tourism economy through it coffee plantations and also assisted in a reforestation effort in Monteverde’s Cloud Forest Preserve.  During his final year at Auburn, AJ blended two projects that focused on Alabama’s water systems and how to ecologically improve the watersheds within the region while raising awareness through a podcast sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, a federally-funded agency that focuses on agricultural and environmental welfare.  This project also allowed him to branch out and expand networking with sustainable-focused organizations elsewhere in the world.

Interests: Sustainable infrastructure, ecologically-based tourism, natural resource management, environmental policy and sustainable development, hiking, travel, gardening, cycling, football, Latin American Studies, history, sustainability.


Name: Ana Yancy Ugalde-Brenes

Hometown: Alajuela, Costa Rica

Education: BS in Customs Administration, Braulio Carrillo University, Costa Rica

Experience: Ana started her professional career in 2006. She has eight years of experience in international logistics of which, the last four she worked with local and multinational companies in supply chains analysis to identify improvement opportunities in manufacturing times and optimization of processes focused in production efficiency. In 2014, Ana moved to the United States with her family, an experience that has allowed her to meet people from other cultures, from diverse backgrounds and that has helped her to understand and value even more the richness of the cultural differences.

In 2019, Ana was part of the project “Women in the woods” of Alachua Conservation Trust as an intern. This is a project focused on providing women with the necessary skills to succeed in the conservation and natural resources management fields. During the internship Ana gained valuable experience in assisting ACT’s staff with land management-related projects on ACT’s preserves. Ana also worked with ACT as a nonprofit operation intern, where she became familiar with the essentials of an accredited land trust and assisting special projects. Those were some of the experiences that inspired her to expand her career path and to focus on sustainability.

Ana’s main goal is to gain valuable experience on sustainable development and the skills necessary to work with a wide variety of organizations in projects to tackle social and environmental issues and together with her background in business, being able to drive the organizational change she is passionate about.

Interests: Corporate social responsibility, sustainable business systems, environmental responsibility, gender equality, supply chain, entrepreneurship, traveling, music, exercising, cooking and reading.


Name: Jennifer Johnson

Hometown: Frederick, Maryland

Education: BA in International Studies, Minor in Spanish, American University

Experience: Jennifer has spent the past six years living in Mexico while working in the communications department of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), where she developed a passion for agricultural research for development and science communications. Through her work at CIMMYT Jennifer was able to work with scientists and farmers on the ground in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where she saw firsthand the power of agricultural research and innovations to change lives, from improved drought tolerant seeds to climate-smart sustainable farming methods. She developed a deeper interest in nutrition and health while covering the launch of zinc biofortified maize in Colombia and Guatemala as well as CIMMYT efforts to help Haiti establish a thriving seed sector and improve nutrition through quality protein maize seed.

Jennifer was selected to attend the UNLEASH Innovation Lab in Singapore in 2018, which brought together 1,000 young people from around the world to develop innovative solutions to contribute to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) where she worked on SDG 2, Zero Hunger. She later helped her organization launch the MAIZE Youth Innovators Awards, which recognize the contributions of young women and men who are implementing innovations in maize-based agri-food systems.

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Jennifer interned at the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Fund and the Mexican Embassy in Washington DC, and studied abroad in Puebla, Mexico. Her capstone project focused on how post-NAFTA agricultural policy on maize production affected poverty and migration in Chiapas, Mexico.

Interests: Agriculture, nutrition, migration, food security, women’s empowerment and Latin America


Name: José Alejandro Sánchez (Alejo)

Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

Education: BS in Biology, Minor in Business Management, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia

Experience: Alejandro has a strong passion for the issues that link biodiversity conservation and social development. Coming from the second most biodiverse country in the world, he has had the opportunity to evidence a wide variety of socio-ecological conflicts often related to governmental development strategies. These experiences made him focus his work interests toward sustainable development projects with a strong social focus. A topic that he has explored and developed largely with his work as the head of the environment and sustainable development program of TECHO Colombia (one of the biggest Latin-American NGOs that focus its work to eradicate poverty) where he has been leading the development and execution of projects related to urban agriculture, solid waste management, recycling, circular economy, and climate change mitigation strategies. He is currently working with the Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Latin America and the Caribbean (CODS-LAC) on the formulation of sustainable land use strategies by analyzing ecosystem services trade-off scenarios in the Colombian eastern tropical savanna, a topic which he plans to keep developing in his summer practicum.

Interests: Sustainable land-use transition strategies, community engagement, socio-ecological conflicts, wildlife-agriculture conflict management, biodiversity conservation, tropical ecology, cycling, trail running, camping, hiking, climbing.


Name: Katie Fiorillo

Hometown: Downingtown, PA

Education: BA in Journalism, minor in Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Pennsylvania State University

Experience: Katie has been interested in international development since her internship at Pencils of Promise, an international education nonprofit. After graduating from Penn State, she moved to Tanzania to work at the SEGA Girls Secondary School as the Communications and Development Coordinator. She also designed a female empowerment curriculum and helped the school develop an impact assessment tool to track student progress. She also worked as a member of the New Business Development team at Project Concern International, and worked on public grants through USAID and USDA, including a $30M food security grant. After many years working in fundraising and grant writing, Katie decided to pivot her career to program implementation and field work. She joined the Peace Corps in Uganda as an Agribusiness and Economic Development Coordinator Volunteer in 2018. There, she supported the development of a rural farmers cooperative in Budongo, Uganda. She helped the cooperative address the issues of climate change resiliency and biodiversity conservation through an agroforestry and irrigation project. She was evacuated in March 2020 due to COVID, just under two years into her service. However, she looks forward to continuing this important work in Uganda through her MDP Field Practicum. She has a love for East Africa, and is completing a FLAS Fellowship in Swahili during her Master´s program.

Interests: Opportunities at the intersection of biodiversity conservation, climate change resiliency, and sustainable livelihoods for smallholder farmers, agroforestry, microfinance, human-wildlife conflict, her dog Malaika (a rescue from Uganda), hiking and trekking and all things outdoors, photography, and traveling to new countries.


Name: Medha Prakash

Hometown: Bhopal, India

Education: BS in Environmental Sciences, Emory University

Experience: Medha’s passion for sustainable global development began when she learned about the economic and environmental challenges her country faced. As a high school student, she raised funds for the education of underprivileged children and volunteered to teach at under-funded schools in her city, which gave her an understanding of the hurdles of poverty and discrimination that must be overcome to achieve sustainable development.

While obtaining her BS, Medha explored her interests further by undertaking a variety of coursework with an emphasis on field work, from the geology of the Bahamas to the fishing culture of coastal Georgia, to working in a vector disease ecology research lab. In the summer after her junior year, she worked as an intern for the State Knowledge Management Center on Climate Change (SKMCCC) in Bhopal, where she had the unique opportunity to assist in updating the State Action Plan on Climate Change. During her time at the SKMCCC, Medha researched the potential for solar energy in India among her other duties, and later wrote a research paper on the same topic.

In her last semester as an undergraduate student, Medha worked on a project with Fernbank Forest’s ecologist Eli Dickerson, and Darryl Haddock, director of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, where she researched the public health benefits and carbon sequestration capabilities of urban forests. Medha’s goal is to continue building her skill set and gain valuable experience with the MDP program, and she is excited to see what opportunities lay ahead.

Interests: Sustainable development, renewable energy, urban forests and ecology, agroforestry and regenerative agriculture, sustainable lifestyles, climate action, equal rights, philosophy, history, hiking, photography, traveling, creative writing, knitting, reading.


Name: Octavio Gómez

Hometown: Sarasota, Florida.

Education: BA in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with cognates in International Affairs and Anthropology, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

Experience: Before his undergraduate pursuits, he was involved in various faith-based outreach programs in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas. Among those were Adopt-a-block and Feed my Sheep, which sought to bring food security to disadvantaged communities. He also worked as an intern at Bayside Community Church’s missions department, where he managed budgets and created standard operating procedures for large-scale humanitarian projects. He continued to pursue similar administrative work with Send Me ministries, where he provided vision and direction for global missions projects. There he helped develop training manuals for more sustainable faith-based humanitarian work, and studied the benefits of social capital production in humanitarian work. During his undergraduate studies he led the University of South Florida’s Global Society as that chapter’s president, and was a recipient of the King O’Neil award for academic excellence. He also completed a comparative program evaluation for the Salvation Army of Sarasota and a research study on the social, economic, and religious motivations of faith-based nonprofits.

Interests: International coordination, international resource distribution, sustainable missions, community development, interdisciplinary research, religious studies, ethnography, development economics, needs assessment.


Name: Priya Pershadsingh

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Education: BA in Sustainability Studies, University of Florida

Experience: Originally a journalism major, Priya’s interest in sustainability sparked after attending an Eco-Tourism and Sustainability program in Huatulco, Mexico. After returning home, she started the first sustainability festival at her previous college. The festival is currently an annual event on campus. During the process of organizing this event, she realized she had a passion for educating people on sustainable lifestyles. Later that year, she took an offer to intern with Miami-Dade County’s Office of Resilience for a summer. Her love for sustainability grew after that internship, so Priya decided to switch her major to sustainability studies at the University of Florida. At UF, during one of her last semesters, she took on an internship with Professor Thiele to help enhance the Augmenting Sustainability program at the university. She learned a lot about environmental education and its importance in communities and institutions. Priya hopes to continue building her experience as a graduate student under the MDP program, she’s ready and excited to see what challenges are in store.

Interests: Wildlife conservation, art appreciation, environmental education, hiking, traveling, painting, sketching, reading, eco-tourism, climate action, sea level rise, zero-waste lifestyle, sustainable fashion, equal rights, and youth empowerment.


Cohort 10 (2019-2021)

Name: Amira Mousa Hussein

Hometown: Cairo, Egypt

Education: BS in Civil Engineering- Public Works section, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt

Experience: Amira joins the MDP program at the University of Florida as a Fulbright Scholar. Amira is pursuing her Master’s degree after extensive experience in both the construction and the development sectors. She hopes to integrate the skills she has developed through her professional career in project management, with her experience in and passion for international development, and youth empowerment. Amira had the opportunity to work on public water and sanitation projects at many levels—from sharing responsibility for projects in the MENA region in one of the world’s top 100 engineering firms, to volunteering to help provide access to clean drinking water in slums and villages in Egypt, Uganda, and Niger. While working with ECG engineering consulting firm, Amira participated in providing two million inhabitants a clean environment by means of safe wastewater disposal through managing the civil design contract of the largest wastewater treatment plant in Africa and the Middle East; “Stage II Phase II of Al Gabal AlAsfar Wastewater Treatment Plant”.

Her interest to serve underprivileged communities in Africa and the Middle East led her to tackle a range of issues from water to social entrepreneurship and capacity building. As part of the UNHCR Egypt Program for “Empowering Refugees’ Community Centers in Egypt”, she trained Refugees on social innovation and planning for small-scale ventures.  Later, in Uganda, she trained Ugandan educators on integrating question formulation techniques in a classroom setting. In the future, Amira hopes to work with government and non-governmental agencies on water projects execution and social entrepreneurship to ensure sustainable development and youth empowerment in Africa and the Middle East.

Interests: Social entrepreneurship, project management, innovation, water resources, education, sustainability, youth empowerment, capacity building, travel, music, yoga, and swimming.


Name: Ange Asanzi

Hometown: Pretoria, South Africa

Education: BA in Commerce, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, South Africa; MA in Economics, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Experience: In 2014, Ange joined the NGO International Rivers where she worked with dam-affected communities and advocated for free and flowing rivers. The experience at International Rivers helped foster a commitment to ending destructive river projects and strengthening grassroots movements, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), her country of origin. The Congo River and its people lie at the heart of Ange’s passion. She believes with firm conviction in a transformative model of development in favor of local communities, which enables communities to empower themselves to better determine their destiny. During her professional life, Ange has worked closely with Civil Society Organizations, African governments and regional institutions. She has conducted research campaigns on energy infrastructure projects, women’s rights and freshwater ecosystems. In 2015, she contributed to the report “Right Priorities for the Power Sector”, an evaluation of dams under the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). She is fluent in English, French and Portuguese. In her spare time, Ange actively supports women’s movements on climate justice in the DRC. Ange’s long-term goal and desire is to positively contribute towards the existing body of research on natural resource conservation and management.

Interests: Natural resource management, river conservation, community-based conservation, freshwater ecosystems, climate justice, movement building, water diplomacy, women’s empowerment and policy.


Name: Brenda Lugano

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida (Originally from Mombasa, Kenya)

Education: B.S. in Landscape Architecture, University of Florida

Experience: Brenda’s passion for sustainability stems from her upbringing in Nairobi, Kenya. Her major interest as an undergraduate was in urban planning and park design. She conducted research for Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) concerning the Plaza of the Americas located on UF campus and its historical landscaping. Her research on the plaza can now be found in the Library of Congress. Her undergraduate Capstone project focused on the lack of social amenities and proper development plans in the slum areas of Mukuru in Nairobi, Kenya. She utilized her studies to design new amenities for the community and a safer transportation corridor. After her studies she worked with two firms in Gainesville, Florida that expanded her knowledge on residential, commercial and park design. She was fortunate to be a part of designing Depot Park which is located in downtown Gainesville. Brenda further exercised her love for landscaping as an intern with the City Beautification Board of Gainesville which is in charge of acknowledging and rewarding new developments and parks with beautifying the city. In recent years she has been a part of a non-profit organization based in the U.S. whose purpose is to expand the knowledge of systems thinking and empower youth. Her fluency in Swahili has enabled her to be an active participant in the African Foreign Language Initiative (AFLI) program hosted at the University of Florida every summer. She hopes to pursue future research on the Kenyan coast and examine how new development impacts a community, its environment, and methods of how to mitigate those challenges.

Interests: urban planning, ecology, sustainable planning, historical preservation, youth empowerment, singing, ceramics and pottery, painting, and traveling.


Name: Caroline Baylor

Hometown: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Education: BS in Environmental Sciences, Minors in Geography and Hindi-Urdu, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Experience: Caroline was fortunate enough during university to study abroad in India, where her interests in traveling and learning about different cultures and ways of thinking were amplified. Upon finishing her undergraduate studies, she left for Ecuador in 2011 to work for the United States Peace Corps where she spent the first two and half years working in a small coastal town near Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. She and her counterpart Paola collaborated on environmental education classes for students in a local school and also started a recycling project wherein the students would bring in recyclable materials which were sold to a recycling company for added income to the school. Caroline then moved to the Ecuadorian highlands to the city of Loja for a year to fill the role of Peace Corps Volunteer Leader, where she oversaw Peace Corps volunteers in the Southern Region, running meetings and aiding projects. A few years later, she would go to Chitré, Panamá as an Environmental Specialist with the Peace Corps, working for a year with Fundación Ideas Maestras, a local foundation dedicated to environmental education as well as entrepreneurship. She and her counterpart Isibel worked mainly on waste management, bringing a recycling competition to a local high school of 2000 students. The project also promoted volunteerism and youth leadership by incorporating local college students to aid with the recycling events and environmental education classes. When she is not abroad, Caroline enjoys attending trash clean-up events, hiking, playing clarinet with the local community band, and volunteering with a group dedicated to providing assistance to traveling asylum seekers.

Interests: Anything and everything environmental (especially waste management), immigration matters, geography, culture, languages (especially Spanish and Hindi), hiking, running, dancing, music, cooking.


Name: Juan Mateo Anhalzer

Hometown: Quito, Ecuador

Education: BA in Political Science and Sustainability Studies, University of Florida

Experience: Juan’s upbringing as a settler in both Ecuador and the united states has left him with a deep-seated sense of duty to take a side with the global majority against the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system which impoverishes the majority of the planet and is pushing us towards extinction. His thus far very humble and limited contribution to this process has been in anti-racist and anti-colonial movements in his adopted hometown of Gainesville (located on Seminole and Timucua land) against prison slavery, a rising far-right, and for the rights of migrants to move freely across colonial borders. He has also worked at Mosswood Farms, an organic agricultural operation located in Micanopy (also on Seminole and Timucua land). Juan sees the restoration of Indigenous sovereignty over land and the adoption of Indigenous and peasant modes of food production as key to not only mitigating but adapting to catastrophic climate change. His future plans include, in the short term, working under the leadership of the Coalition of Imokalee Workers in the intersection of agricultural justice and migrant justice. In the long-term, he plans a return to the land of his birth to work under the leadership of grassroots peasant, Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and labor organizations to struggle for land rights and self-determination for oppressed peoples.

Interests: Decoloniality, (settler-)colonialism, Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, food sovereignty, degrowth, extractivism, North-South relations, revolutionary movements, labor organizing, world-systems theory, languages.


Name: Madison Smith

Hometown: Naples, Florida

Education: BA in Sustainability Studies, Minor in Communication, University of Florida

Experience: During her time as an undergraduate student, Madison found a passion for education and student engagement, having the opportunity to serve as a Preview Staffer for incoming students and as Agency Head of Gators Going Green, a Student Government branch focused on developing campus sustainability initiatives. Additionally, Madison worked as an intern for the UF Office of Sustainability, helping to coordinate campus events such as the Tailgator Gameday Recycling Program, Green and Clean events, and Campus Earth Week. Her mission is to develop world-wide sustainable initiatives and cultivate cultural change by utilizing her strong communication and creativity skills and her passion for enhancing the quality of life for all.

Interests: environmental education and awareness, social and environmental justice, communication and outreach, community engagement, sustainable living, ocean conservation, scuba diving, house plants, travel.


Name: Mary Catherine Hart (Catherine)

Hometown: Bel Air, Maryland

Education: BS in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of North Florida

Experience: Catherine has a passion for health, wellness, and sustainable living. Although she was originally interested in clinical dietetics, she discovered a love for community nutrition while pursuing her BS. She volunteered with organizations like The Bridge of Northeast Florida and Gateway Community Services to provide underserved communities with nutrition education and garden support. This working education equipped her with the skills needed to join the UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program, where she is currently the Public Health Specialist for Northeast Florida. It is a USDA grant-funded organization whose mission is to provide SNAP-eligible residents of Florida with both nutrition education and support for policy, systems, and environmental changes. Catherine focuses on food access, trends in nutritional behavior, and childhood nutrition. Her current projects include building CSA programs with local farmers to allow their clients to pay with EBT and assisting food pantries to become more client-choice based. In the future, she hopes to continue her work of supporting strong communities by incorporating climate change adaptation and sustainable economic growth into future program development.

Interests: nutrition, physical activity, food security, self-efficacy, food access, climate change adaptation, sustainability, local procurement, food preservation, wasted food, agriculture, behavioral economics.


Name: Maurine Andia Akifuma (Andia)

Hometown: Kitale, Kenya

Education: BSc. in Economics and Finance

Experience: Immediately after completing her coursework at Kenyatta university Andia joined Population Service Kenya (PSK) as an educator on a project titled Kitu ni kukachora where she taught high school and college students about sexual reproductive health. This is where she started her professional journey and interest on matters to do with sustainable development. She later joined Sense International, Kenya as a researcher on a project in Nairobi, Kenya where she helped to identify children with sensory impairments and thereafter give them the corresponding healthcare intervention. Andia has participated in several microfinance activities with various women’s groups in her hometown and hopes to gain the academic knowledge to help them to be more sustainable and to develop one another and empower more women.

Andia is a soprano singer performing with several groups in Kenya and in Gainesville. She is a lover of microfinance activities—something she has participated in for several years with her mom’s guidance. She is fluent in both Swahili and English but still a French Student.

Interests: women’s empowerment, microfinance and global health.


Name: Nikki Picon

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Education: BS in Plant Science, University of Florida

Experience: Driven by deep curiosity and respect for the people and places experienced, primarily with smallholder farmers, Nikki is interested in how and why rural people make livelihood decisions. While her past field work has mainly focused on the tropics and draws from an interdisciplinary background in the quantitative social and natural sciences, she is interested in integrated interventions that work with agriculture, nutrition, and related systems. Most recently, Nikki has worked at a global demonstration farm, ECHO, where she researched and implemented projects that considered the needs of resource-limited small scale farmers with the aim to trial best agricultural practices. Additionally, she has conducted agroecology research at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida where she has worked alongside natural scientists to survey farmers and community members to assess the local food landscape and create a needs assessment. Her long-term goal is to become a research-practitioner, implementing evidence-based interventions and community outreach in a relevant manner to sustain and support positive health and overall livelihoods for communities.

Interests: Food security, livelihoods, global public health, nutrition, conservation, sustainable agriculture, human behavior.


Name: Raine Donohue

Hometown: Helena, Montana

Education: BA in International Studies, minor in Environmental Studies, Seattle University

Experience: Stemming from a profound appreciation for the outdoors and an interest in other cultures, Raine dedicates her time to help create socially and environmentally responsible development initiatives. She has spent the past five years working for a non-profit organization that provides assistance to small-holder farmers in the Amazon region of Ecuador. The organization collaborates with local partners to create sustainable community enterprises based on local agricultural production. Her experience ranges from managing Fair Trade and Organic Certification practices, facilitating community workshops, and implementing reforestation projects, to financial reporting and project evaluation. Her experience has furthered her interest in sustainability and how local economies can change when farmers are empowered to use the knowledge they have, along with improved technical assistance and access to international markets. Not only can this help diversify and improve livelihoods, but it can also play a crucial role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Raine hopes to continue working with stakeholders in Latin America to improve local livelihoods and find new solutions to climate change.

Interests: sustainability, value-added agricultural supply chains, product certifications, livelihood diversification, natural resource conservation, climate change mitigation.


Name: Sarah Strohminger

Hometown: Hastings, Florida

Education: BA in Liberal Arts with concentrations in Political Science, Economics and Philosophy; Minor in Environmental Science, Flagler College

Experience: Sarah studied many different areas while earning her Bachelor’s, but her curriculum surrounded the concepts of environmental sustainability, food security, and social justice. Growing up in a small farming community, Sarah was exposed to the paradox of rural food deserts early on. She volunteered with many non-profit organizations such as the Farm to Family Mobile Farmer’s Market, the Betty Griffin Center and the St. Johns County Homeless Coalition throughout her adolescence. She originally planned to study law but after certain exposures in college, Sarah switched her path to focus on the many aspects of food justice. After graduating, Sarah joined FoodCorps, where she gained the opportunity to be a garden and nutrition advocate at a native Hawaiian school. Upon returning to Florida, she took on the role of campaign manager for a local politician running for the Florida House of Representatives.

Interests: Food security, community gardening, politics, international economics, international financial institutions, local agriculture, traveling, self sufficiency, place-based environmental education.


Name: Yeyetsi F. Maldonado Caballero

Hometown: Morelia, Mexico

Education: BA in Biology, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo, Morelia, Mexico; MS in Natural Resources Management, Xalapa, Mexico

Experience: During the Bachelor program, Yeyetsi worked with the taxonomy of fungi. This experience started her interest in mushrooms as an alternative source of nutrition and income for rural communities. For her Masters, she worked with wild edible mushrooms in a Christmas tree plantation. Parallel to her academic career, she worked at an ecological park as an environmental guide. She developed different types of activities including environmental interpretation tours, talks about echo techniques, team building activities, and environmental awareness talks. This park hosted groups of different ages and school levels (kindergarten to college). Yeyetsi has participated and organized multiple activities in different science dissemination projects such as science fairs and programs to promote interest in science careers among children and young people. Merging her experiences in science dissemination, environmental education and academia, Yeyetsi developed her interest in non-timber forest products and community based management.

Interests: Non-timber forest products, fungi, community-based management, sustainable development, science dissemination, environmental education.


Cohort 9 (2018-2020)

Name: Colleen Abel
Lakeland, Florida.
BA in Spanish, Minor in Latin American Studies, Florida Southern College.

During her undergraduate studies, Colleen was the volunteer coordinator for a monthly legal clinic that provided free legal services to immigrants below the poverty level. During her time with the clinic she served as an interpreter between volunteers and clients, scheduled volunteers, and did community outreach. Colleen’s desire to address the root causes of migration grew as she heard the stories of the clients from the legal clinic. Additionally, Colleen has been involved with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their campaigns to bring Chipotle (joined 2012), Wendy’s, and Publix (ongoing campaigns) to support the farmworkers by joining the Fair Food Program. She has spent time in Guatemala studying Spanish and learning about the culture and history as well as hiking and rock climbing in the mountains. During her time at Eckerd College, Colleen worked in the International Education office helping to plan study abroad trips around the world. Additionally she consulted with several students who had interest in traveling to Guatemala on their own. Colleen wants to work on compassionate immigration reform and with returned migrants reintegrating into their communities after deportation.

Outdoor adventures, rock climbing, natural resource preservation and access, language acquisition, travel, immigration reform, farmworker justice, social justice, gender equality, women’s empowerment, LGBT+ equality, Latin America, refugees, migration, fair trade, community radio, cooking, and cats.

Name: Pierre William Blanc
Pétion-Ville, Haiti.
BS in Electronics Engineering, Faculty of Science, State University of Haiti.
As an Electronical Engineer, Will has an extensive 10-year career in mobile telecommunication. His first contact with the telecommunication industry was an internship in Summer 2007 as a Network Operation Agent in the transit center for international calls at TELECO (the former national landline telephone company in Haiti which became NATCOM in 2011). Three months later, he moved on to his first official job as Customer Care Representative at VOILA (a former mobile communication company in Haiti) for one year. Will was promoted to the Revenue Assurance Analyst position in the Finance department of VOILA where he worked for four years and moved up to become a Senior Revenue Assurance Analyst. In 2012, VOILA was acquired by DIGICEL (a mobile company established in several Caribbean countries), where Will assumed the position of Senior Business Risk Executive for three years. During his work experience in the telecommunications industry in Haiti, he participated in and led Revenue Assurance and Fraud Management workshops in the USA, Jamaica, Panama and Guyana. Will also developed a productive partnership experience on Project Management for two years, with the Telecommunications Regulator in the Republic of Congo and the Police Force in the Republic of Uganda. More recently, in October 2017, Will led a weather station programming workshop for “Appui à la Recherche et au Development Agricole (AREA)”, a USAID-funded “Feed the Future” project in Haiti, which is coordinated by UF-IFAS.
Telecommunications and technological innovations, sustainable rural development, decentralization and public service administration, mass education, environmental protection, farming, food security and supply chain management, data mining and information management, monitoring and evaluation, human rights and social justice, Haitian creole language and cultures, health, wellness and fitness, spirituality, beach vacations.