Emily Kovar

MPS, Global Development
  • Hometown: Torrance, Los Angeles, California
  • Colleges attended and degree earned: BS in International Agricultural Development, UC Davis
What are the big challenges you want to tackle in the world?

I want to contribute to ending hunger.

What were you doing before the MPS program?

The same thing most of my cohort was doing — serving in Peace Corps! I was based in Tanzania.

Tell us a fun fact about you.

I am a retired competitive powerlifter.

What does global development mean to you?

Global development to me is the intersection between ending hunger, poverty, injustice and mitigating climate change. Each person's contribution can look different, but overall each approach should be with the intent to remediate our planet and society. It is done with the understanding that at the end of the day we are all connected by where we live- on this planet that has no alternative.

What has been the most memorable or impactful experience of your career so far?

Out of the plethora of significant conversations, meals I didn't know what I was eating, and successful harvests of vegetables, I think the most impactful experience I have had was being told by a colleague that I was a "real Kenyan girl." We were working on a project to improve indigenous vegetable production outside of the town of Eldoret in Western Kenya. After doing some back breaking data collection on low lying vegetables, we had a brief conversation in Kiswahili with sweat still on our foreheads about the crops and my kitenge fabric dress. This is when he dropped the comment that I was now accepted as a real Kenyan girl. In the moment I thought it was a kind sentiment. I had been working with him for months and painstakingly tried to absorb all of the Kiswahili I could, so I naively thought I deserved some recognition for my efforts. But now on reflection after a longer stint of living and working in East Africa, I have much more appreciation of what my Kenyan colleague said. There is nothing trivial about an East African deeming a young, white woman as a "real Kenyan girl." I think about this now. This connection and passion he saw in me, that helped even for our short time working together, to allow us to be related on the grand stage of the globe, not just where we come from or who our ancestors are. It helped him bring me into his sphere and be in the same world together.

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