Graduate student research travel grant

AWARE is built on the belief that focusing on women in agriculture as an underserved majority holds the greatest potential to improve food security, reduce poverty, and positively impact rural development in developing countries.

The AWARE travel grant provides up to $2,500 to support graduate student research within the scope of the AWARE mission. The number and amount of the awards depend on the number of applications and the amount of funding requested. AWARE travel grants are awarded annually, with applications due in fall semester, and awards announced in time to allow travel as soon as the January break, though many students plan their research travel over the summer break.

  • Only available for currently matriculated Cornell University graduate students.
  • Open to graduate students of any kind (e.g., MPS, MSc, MA, PhD), from either academic or professional programs.
  • SMART trip participants are not currently eligible for AWARE travel grant funding.
  • The applicant must submit a letter of no more than 2 pages, with an additional letter of support from their primary advisor
  • Application letter must provide information on the dates, nature, and location of the proposed travel for study, and the value of such study and travel for CALS or the University as well as the applicant
  • Application letter must include a budget reflecting the amount of support being requested and how the funds will be used, as well as any co-funding applied for or secured
  • Applications must make a compelling case for how the applicant’s research fits the mission of AWARE
  • Letters of application are due by October 15th, 2020 to Danielle Poole (dp84 [at], with the subject 'AWARE travel grant application.' Please send both letters (see above) in one email
  • Questions can be addressed to dlj67 [at] (Devon Jenkins).
  • Awards will be announced by November 25, 2020.

Congratulations to the 2019-2020 AWARE travel grant winners!

Tuvshinzaya Amarzaya

Tuvshinzaya Amarzaya is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, and a 2019 National Geographic Explorer. Tuvshinzaya received a B.A. cum laude in psychology from Berea College. Afterwards, she set out on a year-long solo, around-the-world trip to explore martial arts and self-identity as a Thomas Watson (IBM) Fellow. During her travels in 9 countries and 15 cities, she was knocked-out flat when she observed how powerful the physical design of cities and neighborhoods was in shaping people’s behavior and their experiences of life. She then started her pursuit of applying environmental psychology to bring "Better Design for Better Health" through reducing inequality and divide between people. Now with National Geographic’s and AWARE's support, she is studying how affordable housing and neighborhood design can alleviate the stresses of migration for ex-nomadic, agro-pastoralists in Mongolia – especially for women, who disproportionately shoulder daily burdens. She also directed and produced a short-film, "Unlawful in Homeland," on the issue rural migrants are facing in Mongolia after an migration ban, which will be released in June 2020.

Emily Hillenbrand

Emily Hillenbrand is a first-year PhD in Development Sociology, with an MA in Women, Gender and Development from the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands, and a BA in International Studies from Middlebury College. She is interested in the tensions between feminist transformative politics and the framing of gender equality in dominant international development models. For this AWARE study, she is interested in exploring how gender-transformative implementation approaches in the agriculture sector aim to bring a feminist lens to challenging underlying norms and structures of inequality. She will conduct preliminary pre-dissertation research into two gender-transformative agriculture interventions in Burundi and Malawi, with a particular focus on how men have engaged in shifting masculinity norms in response to critical gender dialogue. Her research questions draw on insights from years of experience implementing gender and agriculture interventions in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Gabriella Oluwademilade Otunba-Payne

Gabriella Otunba-Payne is a Master of Professional Studies graduate student in the field of International Development. Gabriella’s research is focused on the involvement of women in the cassava value chain in Oyo State, Southwest Nigeria. The AWARE travel grant funding will help Gabriella qualitatively assess the lack of parity in cassava activities in Nigeria between male and female stakeholders and the challenges women face throughout the value chain in engaging and participating in agricultural labor. Gabriella was also a recipient of the P.E.O International Peace Scholarship in 2019.

Leala Rosen

Leala Rosen is a Master’s of Professional Studies (MPS) candidate in Global Development, where she focuses on international agriculture and rural development, gender, and community-based natural resource management. She is interested in local governance, gender equity and social inclusion, natural resource management, migration, climate change adaptation, and conservation agriculture for smallholder farmers. She will use the AWARE travel grant to study food security-forest linkages among female-headed households in the mid-hills of Western Nepal. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, she worked as a health volunteer on a food security project, where she collaborated with her USAID field office counterpart, health post staff, and community members to develop and implement menstruation workshops, facilitate nutrition-sensitive agriculture trainings, and assist with trauma-informed play therapy trainings for public school teachers following the aftermath of a series of earthquakes in 2015. During this time, she also served as the interim Gender & Development (GAD) Chairwoman. Leala is a 2019 Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow, studying Advanced Nepali. She also has significant program management experience in food systems/farming, working with immigrants and refugees, gender-sensitive program design, education and youth development in the U.S. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology/Anthropology with a concentration in Environmental Studies from Hendrix College, cum laude.

Palashi Vaghela

Palashi Vaghela is a PhD student in the Department of Information Sciences at Cornell. Previously, she worked both as a computing professional and a feminist activist/social worker for 3 years in India. Her research interests lie at the intersection of development studies, feminist theory and computing. Her dissertation research is on diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs in rural and urban computing cultures of India, where she is asking how the computationally empowered woman is being imagined and constructed. With AWARE, she is researching digital literacy and digitally enabled livelihoods programs for women in rural Varanasi as a part of her longer dissertation work.

Previous AWARE travel grant winners

Aubryn Sidle

Aubryn Sidle is a third-year PhD student in Development Sociology, studying the impact of local organizations on the life and livelihood outcomes of adolescent girls in East Africa. She is currently partnering with AMPLIFY – a network of 18 community based organizations in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda – to understand the collective effect of these organizations on girls’ agency and economic empowerment. She is interested in challenging traditional understandings of scale and using her research to offer viable strategies for accelerating the pace of girls’ empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa in ways that respect the nuance of ‘place’ and empower local actors. Aubryn is a 2018 Fulbright-Hays Fellow, and a 2017 Engaged Cornell Graduate Student Fellow. From 2010-2016 Aubryn served as the Executive Director of AGE Africa, where she built an innovative soft skills program aimed at improving girls' retention and achievement in secondary school in Malawi. She earned her Master of Science in Development Management at the London School of Economics and a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University in Anthropology and Africana Studies, magna cum laude.

Kathleen Hefferon

Kathleen Hefferon completed her PhD from University of Toronto and her postdoctoral studies from the Department of Food Sciences, Cornell University. She was the Fulbright Canada Research Chair of Global Food Security at the University of Guelph, Canada, in 2018. She is currently developing assessment tools for a large undergraduate STEM course at Cornell University and is writing a second edition to her book “Biopharmaceuticals in Plants.” Kathleen is an editor of the Encyclopedia on Food Security and Sustainability for Elsevier Press, and is now an editor for Frontier’s Journal of Nutrition. Kathleen is a member of the W.E. Cornell cohort and is investigating a novel approach for repurposing food waste. Kathleen has a continued interest in how agricultural biotechnology will shape the next generation of female scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs and leaders. Her research interests include the relationship of biotechnology to food and energy security as well as its impact on global public health. 

Karla Peña

Karla Peña is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Development Sociology, where she researches contemporary struggles for land and territorial rights in Ecuador. With funding from the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, Karla is currently in Ecuador conducting over twelve months of ethnographic and archival research for her dissertation. Previously, she researched how social movements institutionalized food sovereignty in Ecuador, and now explores how the state redistributes land and how indigenous and peasant organizations make claims to such lands. The AWARE grant sponsors a photovoice project she will carry-out with her research collaborators, the Coordinadora Nacional Campesina - "Eloy Alfaro” (National Agrarian Coordinator - “Eloy Alfaro”) and the Instituto de Estudios Ecuatorianos (Institute for Ecuadorian Studies).

Graciela Reyes Retana

Graciela Reyes-Retana is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Natural Resources, studying environmental policy under David R. Lee from the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Her research is focused on the intersection between natural resources management and socio-economic development in developing countries. Her current research seeks to identify the factors which influence communities’ decisions to participate in forest management incentive programs in Mexico, as well as to analyze the perceived and observed environmental and socio-economic outcomes of those programs.

Jenna Marie Golan

Jenna Maire Golan is a PhD student in the Program in International Nutrition (PIN), in the Division of Nutritional Sciences. Her research, in Ethiopia, involves collaborating with the Ethiopia Strategic Support Program division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on their work with the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP).

Kalenga Banda

Kalenga Banda is a PhD candidate in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Sciences. Her research is focused on postharvest quality and shelf life of sweet potato cultivars as affected by curing efficiency that can be applied directly to farmers who struggle to make a living growing sweet potatoes in Zambia. AWARE travel grant funding will help Kalenga visit International Potato Center (CIP) scientists in East Africa to further refine her research protocol, visit research sites, and attend the annual 'Sweet Potato for Profit and Health' technical meeting.

Gargi Wable

Gargi’s research focuses on women’s nutrition in rural Bangladesh, where lower status among women negatively impacts maternal and child nutrition. She has analyzed diets of women of reproductive age using data from the ‘Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey, 2011-12, and with the AWARE grant, she will qualitatively assess a recent randomized control trial focused on improving maternal nutrition in northern Bangladesh. Through this field study, Gargi aims to reveal the barriers and facilitators in the provision and utilization of nutrition interventions targeted at women before and in-between pregnancies. Gargi is a PhD candidate in International Nutritional.

Marianne "Vicky" Santoso

Vicky’s research examines whether a participatory agroecology intervention in Singida, Tanzania can improve intra-household gender equity and how gender equity would modify the project’s impact on child nutrition. This research is part of Singida Nutrition and Agroecology Project (SNAP), a participatory research project engaging farmers in Singida, Tanzania in sustainable agriculture practices (agroecology), nutrition, and gender roles. Participatory approaches in agriculture education hold potential as a unique platform to address gender inequalities within households since participatory education naturally engages not only women but also men in identifying solutions for food security and nutrition. With the AWARE grant, Vicky will be comparing male and female farmers’ decision making power, views on division of labor, attitude towards and experience with domestic violence, dietary diversity, and time use. Vicky is a PhD candidate in International Nutrition.

Hilary Olivia Faxon

Hilary's current research investigates how and in what ways Myanmar women practice in struggles over land access and control, and what women and men of different ethnic groups and social positions stand to lost and gain both materially and politically in the process of formalizing land governance. The answers to these questions have implications not only for the lives of rural women, local agricultural productivity, and national food security, but also for the country's political transition and for scholarly understanding of resource governance and social movements. Hilary is an MS / PhD candidate in Development Sociology at Cornell University.

Shoshana Perry

Shoshana is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow who has field research experience in tropical ecology, agroecological farming with peer-to-peer family farmers, and youth education opportunities. Her master’s thesis work investigates the transitions of agrobiodiversity, seed conservation and links to traditional culinary knowledge in indigenous communities of the Chinantla region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Shoshana is an MS / PhD candidate in Development Sociology at Cornell University.

​Ewan Robinson

Ewan’s research focuses on how relationships between development organizations, government agencies, and private sector institutions shape the implementation of agricultural development programs and policies in East Africa. Before coming to Cornell, Ewan worked for four years as a research and communication professional at the Institute of Development Studies, UK, where he oversaw projects on food systems, agricultural value chains, and human nutrition. He has carried out research and policy engagement in Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania. Ewan holds an MA and a BSc from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ewan is an MS / PhD candidate in Development Sociology at Cornell University

​Jeffrey Wall

"Ethnosciences such as ethnobotany, ethno-ornithology, and others have the power to conceive knowledge in an egalitarian framework. It is instinctual for the vast majority of western developed epistemology to demote and/or delegitimize other ways of knowing. However, the magnitude and time-sensitive nature of humanity's environmental challenges today, not to mention modern common sense morality, require alliances where there have historically been exploitative knowledge relations. I believe the ethnosciences are a bridge for the sciences to cross over the river of colonial tendencies into a modernity in which countless ways of knowing are engaged in humanity's struggles." Jeffrey received an MPS in International Agriculture and Rural Development at Cornell University, and is currently a PhD candidate in Natural Resources, also at Cornell University.

Xin Gao

Xin's current research focuses on the role of solidary groups in providing public goods in rural China. After the elimination of rural tax, local governments lost a major source for public projects funding. Solidary groups, especially voluntary groups led by women (church/temple groups, lineage groups, female self-help groups, etc.), have become active in building public infrastructure and providing public services. Xin's study aims to reveal their economic motivation, their behavior patterns, and their contribution to local economic development and women empowerment.

Katie Rainwater

Katie's research examines the relationship between export-driven aquaculture and well-being through a study of workers and farmers engaged in major segments (processing, fry collection, and cultivation) of Bangladesh's shrimp and prawn value chains. While export-driven aquaculture is often credited with creating earning opportunities for smallholders and landless workers, critics of export-driven shrimp aquaculture suggest that earnings for the mostly-female processing workforce are so low that the attainment of a decent livelihood, including access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food, is precluded. Katie will assess the state of well-being of shrimp and prawn processing workers and analyze the extent to which these workers share in the benefits of export-driven shrimp and prawn aquaculture.

Divya Sharma

Divya's research examines the emergent efforts to shift toward ecologically sustainable farming practices by farmers in the Malwa region of Punjab in India. Punjab has been the hub of state-driven modernization of agriculture through the adoption of high-yield seed varieties, chemical inputs, and machinery known as the "Green Revolution" since the 1960s. While food grain production increased significantly, small and medium cultivators are in the midst of a socio-ecological crisis, faced with rising indebtedness and increasing costs of inputs, as well as ecological degradation in the form of falling ground-water tables and poor human and soil health. Divya investigates whether ecologically sustainable farming practices that are being developed through active collaborations among farmers can be a critical pathway for improving wellbeing and secure livelihoods. In particular, she focuses on women’s efforts to grow vegetables organically on homestead plots for household consumption among landed and landless households and how they are becoming a strategic resource to initiate restructuring of farming practices on a wider scale. This is significant, as "Green Revolution" practices initiated by state extension agencies excluded women from the labor process on the farms and reinforced gendered inequities in access to resources and decision-making.

Amit Anshumali

Using aggregate data compiled by the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) from six villages in Hyderabad, India, Amit empirically examines the effect of men’s off-farm employment on women’s changing economic roles in rural India, as mediated by class, caste, and patriarchy. One of the preliminary findings of his study is that the share of women cultivators grew from 29% to 45% between 1975 and 2010. Amit’s research has implications for understanding the transformation of social structure in villages and the ways in which household livelihoods have becomes increasingly stretched across time and space in rural India. Amit Anshumali is a PhD candidate in Development Sociology at Cornell University. Amit obtained an MS in Environmental Sciences and Agricultural Economics from The Ohio State University and a BS in Mathematics and Chemical Technology in India.

​Colleen Anunu

Colleen is a Master’s candidate in International Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Her interest is in vertical coordination in high-value coffee commodity chains, with a focus on pre-competitive, Public Private Partnership strategies for impact, capacity building, and resilience. She is the Director of Coffee for Ithaca, NY-based Gimme! Coffee, Roast Magazine’s 2013 Roaster of the Year, serves on the Specialty Coffee Association of America's Roasters' Guild Executive Council, and is a licensed Q grader with the Coffee Quality Institute.

​Youjin Brigitte Chung

In the wake of the food crisis of 2007/8, there has been a phenomenal rush for farmland in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Referred to by some as a “global land grab,” or the “new enclosures,” a wide range of investors have rushed to acquire land for the purposes of producing agricultural commodities. In Tanzania, the national state has been at the forefront of promoting large-scale land deals through public-private partnerships (PPPs) to achieve agriculture-led growth and development. Youjin's dissertation examines the gender dimensions and implications of one particular PPP for industrial sugarcane production in Bagamoyo District, Coast (Pwani) Region of Tanzania. Youjin is a PhD candidate in Development Sociology at Cornell University.

​Angela Siele

Women and children in developing countries remain the most vulnerable population in the world when it comes to hunger and food insecurity. Each year over 9.5 million preschool children die of hunger and malnutrition. Malnutrition manifests itself throughout the life cycle and perpetuates across generations with many wide-ranging repercussions unless the depicted cycle is broken. Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Episcopal Relief and Development, are therefore collaborating, through a student-led research. It is expected that the information from the research will impact the recognition of indicators that are necessary in designing processes for evaluating the impact of program activities on household food security and nutrition, that are both agricultural focused and nutrition-sensitive. Angele is a Master's student in Global Development with the International Agriculture and Rural Development MPS program at Cornell University.