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MPS student reading on bench

Tara Hammonds

  • Name: Tara Hammonds
  • Field of Study: Global Development
  • Hometown: Ossining, NY
  • Fun fact: I love to cook but I refuse to follow recipes. Which can either turn out fantastic or very, very poorly!
  • LinkedIn Profile

Why did you choose to pursue the MPS degree?

The Global Development MPS program at Cornell is essentially the best place to advance professionally in this field, due to the extensive international networks, knowledgeable and passionate professors, transformative courses, and resources related to international development. The program allowed me to balance classroom learning with field experiences to enhance what I was learning. Throughout much of the program I felt like both a student and a professional.

What are your post-MPS plans?

Upon completion of my MPS in December 2018, I began working for the Emerging Markets Program housed within the Dyson School at Cornell. I had become connected with the program through my participation in the Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Teams (SMART) Program during my MPS, and recognized the value of connecting students with prominent issues in developing countries through private sector development. I am now planning to return to East Africa to work with high-impact projects in agricultural development.

What are the strengths of the program, in your opinion?

A strength of the MPS program, especially when compared to other graduate programs, is that there are research and fieldwork components to this coursework based program. This can be incredibly useful to someone who has clearly defined career goals or is early- to mid-career and has identified the areas where they need more training or education.

Additionally, the Global Development MPS program provided connections and networking opportunities within the international development sphere to which I would not have otherwise been exposed and which have been extremely beneficial both to my graduate research and to my career.

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

I would describe the program as engaging, holistic, and exciting. It is a well-rounded program that not only prepares you extensively for your career, but makes you excited about the professional work ahead of you.

What have been some of your most rewarding moments while in your program?

There were two aspects of the program which, beyond coursework, were particularly rewarding for me. One was the social and network-building aspect of the program.  The professors also facilitated this by hosting dinners and barbecues with the students and program staff, which were always very valuable. Cornell truly recognizes the value of international development, and there are many opportunities for student funding for overseas learning and research opportunities.

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

I will be moving to Uganda to work for Technoserve. I will be working on a strategy to communicate the value proposition of a "Village Agent Model" of supply chain development in an effort to help scale the model to the national level.

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

As a function of my specific goals, the courses that made the most impact on me were those that really helped me to develop my desired professional skills. This included Consulting for Government and Nonprofit Organizations (PADM 5900), Managing for Creativity (ILROB 4260), Research and Strategy in Emerging Markets (AEM 4421), and Farmer Centered Research and Extension (IARD 7830). I also love languages, and given that my MPS research was conducted in Kenya, I took advantage of several Swahili courses, which were incredibly helpful and have put me in a competitive position to work in East Africa.

How has your MPS experience changed you, both personally and professionally?

My MPS experience has made me feel much more prepared for my career. It provided me with tools and skills in leadership, evaluation, consulting, and research that I had not even realized throughout most of my undergraduate degree would be necessary for my career. In addition to these skills, the Office of Professional Programs helped me to develop more general and equally necessary career skills. This included everything from networking strategies and resume writing to proper behavior at a business dinner. The program really helped me to feel more confident as a young professional beginning a career in the international development sector.

What student organizations are you involved in?

During my MPS program, I was the Graduate Assistant for the Cornell Humphrey Fellowship Program, which was really exciting. The program invites mid-career professionals from developing countries to spend a year at Cornell in a leadership and professional development program. This was a really exciting opportunity because I got to engage with such interesting people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and acted as their liaison to the United States.