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  • Department of Global Development

Each year, mid-career professionals from around the world come to Cornell as part of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, building on their skills as leaders in public service within agriculture, rural development and natural resources management.  Each Fellow in the program is paired with a Friendship Partner. 

Friendship Partners are families and individuals in the Ithaca community who graciously volunteer to support Fellows as they integrate into US cultures and experiences. Many of the local partners are Cornell University faculty and staff members. These warm and kind individuals offer their time and friendship to Fellows to help them with everything from moving into their new Ithaca-based homes to exploring the local outdoors to experiencing US holidays and celebrations. And when harder challenges in life have struck our Fellows, Friendship Partners have been some of the most generous contributors of comfort and steady support to the Fellows. Our Fellows often consider their Friendship Partners to be extensions of their own family by the end of the fellowship program.

In this piece, Edson Carneiro, a 2021-22 Humphrey Fellow, reflects on time spent with the Miller family as he adjusted to life at Cornell.

When I first arrived in Ithaca in August 2021, I hadn’t secured an apartment. It took me about a week to find one. As I was looking for my new home, my Friendship Partners, the Miller family, kindly opened their home to me for a few days. The Miller family was a culturally rich and diverse family with family members from the USA, South America, and India. I felt so welcomed at their home that, from those days onward, I felt that I was also one of the Millers. 

After I found an apartment, Jay Miller generously offered his pick-up truck to help me move my furniture and get settled in my new home. Jay became a great friend who also taught me new and insightful perspectives about biodiversity conservation. His views opened my eyes to new concepts of licensed hunting as a form of animal population control in the Ithaca area.  When we weren’t talking science, Jay would take me out to  kayak on Cayuga Creek, a small stream in western New York.


I have fond memories of the Sunday afternoons that I used to spend in the Miller’s home. Deborah Miller used to prepare delicious ecclectic meals that we would share with her Big Family (her daughters, sons, and grandchildren) while having conversations about subjects ranging from faith to American politics, economy, culture, and cuisine.

As part of the Cornell Humphrey Fellowship program, fellows are connected with locals in the community who volunteer to help fellows integrate into US cultures. We call these generous people our Friendship Partners.”

As Christmas rolled around last year, I found myself saddened as I realized my family could not visit me in Ithaca due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Upon knowing this, the Millers invited me to spend Christmas with them. That Christmas, I was pleased to meet Deborah’s 95-year-old father, a retired Agronomy professor. I was amazed by his sharp memory and his ability to recall vivid stories from his childhood at his father's farm in upstate New York. My first Christmas in the USA was remarkable and unforgettable.

When my family was finally able to come to the USA in January 2022, Deborah helped my wife enroll in a local English club and taught her new recipes and cooking styles. My 3-year-old son, Ryan, enjoyed spending time with the Millers’ grandchildren such that he would cry if we went a weekend without visiting them.

Thanks to Deborah Miller, I had the unique opportunity to interact with students from a local high school. These were students who knew very little about Africa and never heard of my home country of Mozambique. Some of them had never even left New York State. I enjoyed chatting with them and answering the many questions they had about my professional journey and my country. I was grateful to learn from them and to help them broaden their perspectives about Africa and the world.

If I were asked to summarize my experience with the Millers, I would say the Millers provided me with family, food, fun, and a rewarding fellowship. They really enriched my experience during my Humphrey year and helped me to build a cultural bridge with American families, international students, and families in Ithaca with whom I have been able to cultivate genuine bonds, unique memories, and life-long friendships. 

Fellow Spotlight

Humphrey Fellow, 2021-22

Edson Carneiro

  • Home country: Mozambique
  • College and degree: Graduate course in Agriculture, Federal University of Lavras; Bachelors in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Africa University
  • Current career: Senior Sustainable development Manager at Gorongosa Project
  • Specialization: Sustainable development, natural resources management, agribusiness
Edson Carneiro headshot

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