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Michal Matejczuk

About Michal

  • Field and focus area of study: Global Development, International Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Hometown: Ogrodnickzi, Poland
  • Fun fact: I’m a spoken word poet. I’ve written a poem about food. I am still afraid of public speaking.
  • View Michal's LinkedIn profile

Why did you choose to pursue the MPS degree program?

I knew that I wanted to attend Cornell University even before I joined the Peace Corps. In fact, the MPS-IARD program was exactly what I needed to tie together all of my worldly experiences and research interests. Not only did it provide me with flexibility in choosing courses specific to my interests, but it also possessed the community, academic rigor, and interdisciplinary approach to help me fulfill my current and future career goals.

What were you doing prior to the MPS degree program?

I finished my Peace Corps service in Uganda as an Agribusiness Development Specialist where I worked across various sectors (agribusiness, health, education) and became involved in many projects concerning food security, household nutrition, environmental conservation, and HIV/AIDS prevention. In addition to working for Olam International, I was also the National Director for the national initiative called “StartUp Uganda” that worked to promote entrepreneurship and youth empowerment throughout rural communities.

What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome in order to participate in the program?

I prioritized academia as a way to rise above my family's economic hardships, domestic violence, and the stigma associated with being a foreign immigrant whose parents never had the ability to seek higher education. Though my culinary journey originated in my grandmother’s root cellar, my tenacious interest in our global food system has taken me from the Culinary Institute of America to professional kitchens with walk-in refrigeration units to the charcoal stoves in many rural communities in Uganda as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I am thrilled that navigating these hurdles led me to Cornell University.

What are the strengths of the MPS program?

Having continuously operated outside of my comfort zone and with others in a culture very different from my own, I view my program at Cornell as a critical step in my academic development. The Global Development program helped me to further my research interests and broadened my understanding of our global food system. The CALS MPS program exceeded my initial expectations and Cornell truly lives by its motto “where any person can find instruction in any study.”

What words would you use to describe the MPS degree program?

Dynamic | Interdisciplinary | Rewarding | Flexible | Challenging | Complex

What have been some of your most rewarding moments at Cornell?

My year in the program has offered many rewarding moments and opportunities. Some standout moments include the award of the James Beard Foundation National Scholar, traveling India and Uganda during the winter intercession, receiving funding from the Institute for African Development and the Henry Luce Scholar award. I cannot begin to express my immense gratitude to Cornell CALS for this past year, and I appreciate how supportive the faculty and staff were throughout my graduate program.

What are your short-term and long-term career goals?

Short-term: Finish my cookbook, take the GRE, apply for a Ph.D. in International Food Science, and breathe.

Long-term: Inspire intergenerational change within emerging economies using my research on village-based food preservation and fortification methods, and bring another World Food Prize to Cornell.

What courses stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals?

Professor Rasmussen’s course on Public Health Nutrition helped me form a much stronger outline for my research. Because I am leading several dietary assessments concerning interventions in household nutrition, her lectures were particularly useful in deciding which type of assessments will be most effective. I also enjoyed her lectures exposing the socio-economic inequalities throughout our healthcare system and in our local and national food system. Overall, this course is not to be missed.

Professor Besharov’s Managing and Leading Social Innovation explores for-profit, non-profit, and hybrid models in an in-depth review of successful and not so successful programs leading social change and innovation throughout the world. Given the chance to critically evaluate each of the case studies, this course shaped my vision on the social innovation I lead by checking off the boxes I need to make it successful.

What advice would you give an undergraduate student considering the program?

If you’re an undergraduate student considering the MPS program, I recommend getting some experience in the field (either domestically or internationally) prior to enrollment. However, do so by maintaining constant communication with the department faculty. They are super helpful in offering advice and can give you ideas on how to focus on your capstone.

How have the faculty supported your educational goals?

The faculty at Cornell are top-notch. Having taken courses across different disciplines, you get to meet a variety of professors who are experts in their respective fields that bring countless years of experience into the classroom. As I began to shape my research and impact projects, the faculty offered their critiques and examples by sharing what they would do in my scenario. Therefore they helped to strengthen my approach and ensure that I didn’t leave something important out.