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By Kelly Merchan
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  • CALS Global Fellows Program
  • Department of Global Development
  • Agriculture
  • Global Development
Global Development students devoted their summers to immersive learning in and with real-world environments — from supporting refugee farmers in upstate New York to facilitating dialogues for women’s empowerment in India.

Central to the Global Development undergraduate major is an eight-week, field-based internship that empowers students to address a global development challenge. Each year, more than 50 students journey to over 19 countries and across the United States, honing their skills in driving meaningful social change.

“Development challenges don’t only exist internationally, but in our own backyard, too,” said Julie Ficarra, associate professor of the practice in Global Development. “We encourage our students to engage meaningfully with communities, whether they be on the other side of the globe or rural New York.”

During the summer field experience, each student gains practical knowledge in a realm of global development that resonates with their individual interests, whether it involves engaging youth in urban farming or developing environmentally friendly practices to reduce pollution. During the fall term, students take a critical reflection course centered on their engaged experiences: this course guides students through a process of reflection on their actions, contemplating how their global development training informed their internship, and examining how that professional experience informs their worldview and career trajectory.

Learn where Global Development students went this summer and what they took away from their experiences.  

Northern Uganda & Kenya

Jeff Kang’acha ‘24: Laidlaw scholar

This summer, Jeff explored how mobile-based platforms can facilitate access to farm inputs to amplify regenerative agriculture among smallholder farmers in East Africa. Mentored by Ed Mabaya, he had the opportunity to collaborate with two social enterprises in East Africa: Sparky Dryer (Kenya & Northern Uganda) and Sanergy Collaborative (Kenya). With a double major in International Agriculture and Rural Development and Information Science, Jeff hopes to develop digital agriculture tools that can support smallholder farmer communities in East Africa and beyond.

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Patrick Kuehl ’24: Intern, International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Working within the IRC’s Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration unit, Patrick supported direct client services by finding housing, doing fieldwork, and communicating with doctors about refugee clients in the Atlanta area. “This experience has given me the opportunity to work directly with clients and gain hands-on practical knowledge about the systems of refugee settlement in the United States,” Patrick said. “I would like to study and work in policy, and I feel it is really important to connect with those on the ground to be truly able to understand the issues with the system.”

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Meghan Barr ’26: Lund Fellow for Regenerative Agriculture, Red Hook Farms

Meghan entered her internship with little experience and understanding of urban farming, but was quickly drawn to the impact Red Hook Farms has on not just food, but its community, too. “I never considered that a farm could develop a model and mission in which it could reject the idea that a farm had to be a business first,” Meghan said. This summer Meghan learned that a farm extends beyond the land: a farm is also its community. “My experience at Red Hook Farms has redefined my very idea of a farm and has profoundly changed my understanding of what farms are meant to do,” she said. 

“Certainly, production and the crop are a focus; however, at Red Hook farms, every task that we work on, from weeding to transplanting, extends far beyond caring for the plants and producing a crop; it is the physical embodiment of a community fighting back against centuries of systemic injustices, advocating for youth empowerment, and fostering a deeper connection to the earth and our resources,” Meghan added.

 

Ithaca, New York

Sepehra Azami ’25: Manager, Dilmun Hill Student Farm 

As a manager at the Dilmun Hill Student Farm, Sepehra supported the farm’s operations in tasks such as planting vegetables organically, conducting harvests, tending to perennial plantings, performing maintenance and mulching. She also had the opportunity to making informed decisions, and actively contribute to the development of the farm’s forthcoming strategies. “My time at Dilmun Hill afforded me a valuable chance to put into action particular agricultural and farming insights I've learned from my classes,” she shared. Sepehra came to Cornell from the Asian University for Women to continue her education after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021. “This summer not only allowed me to deepen my knowledge of small-scale farming and its challenges, but also to engage with my peers and the local community in a new and meaningful way.”

Kisumu, Kenya

Eli Newell ’24: Laidlaw scholar

Partnering with Poverty & Health Integrated Solutions (PHIS), Eli worked to recycle nutrients from human and agricultural waste into fertilizer, with the ultimate goal to reduce pollution, improve sanitation, and promote food security. Under the umbrella of “circular bionutrient economy” research, Eli, his Cornell mentor Rebecca Nelson, and the team in Kenya are studying pollution in Lake Victoria and pathways to divert the waste streams and transform them for agricultural use in fertilizers and feeds. “The interdisciplinarity of these challenges presents a distinct kind of complexity in global development: fostering collaboration among varied fields. For me, this aspect is equally exhilarating as the actual issues we are addressing,” Eli shared.

San Francisco, California, USA

Farzan Hussainzada ’25: Intern, Project Anar

With a passion for international immigration and immigration policy, Farzan Hussainzada ’25 spent the summer with Project Anar, a nonprofit that provides pro bono legal services for Afghan immigrants in the United States. As a legal intern, he worked closely with immigration attorneys, assisting them with client cases and organizing clinical workshops to provide immigration assistance and legal consultation for new Afghan immigrants. “I want to study law after college and am especially interested in immigration law,” Farzan said. “I believe that in areas such as immigration, combining the development mindset with legal work will help us tackle challenges more effectively.”

Haryana, India

Sushmi Majumder ’25: CALS Global Fellow, S M Sehgal Foundation

Sushmi envisions new possibilities for community-based empowerment with solutions at the nexus of communication and global development. As a CALS Global Fellow, she implemented a storytelling initiative that empowered local women in political and civic engagement in Haryana, India. With a commitment to inclusive, culturally sensitive communication, Sushmi believes in an approach to development that not only values local voices, but encourages their leadership. “Growing up as an Indian-American has often made it difficult to ‘fit’ in either side of my identity,” Sushmi said. ”Immersing myself by connecting with locals, navigating the villages, etc., has really shown me the beauty in every corner. I think the open-mindedness I’m gaining from this experience will be pivotal as I navigate the rest of my academic journey and the workforce.”

Syracuse, New York, USA

Gio Rodriguez ‘26Lund Fellow for Regenerative Agriculture, Syracuse Refugee Agricultural Program

Gio is passionate about finding intersectionalities between agriculture and migrant communities in order to promote opportunities for BIPOC people interested in agricultural endeavors. As a Lund Fellow for Regenerative Agriculture, Gio worked with the Syracuse Refugee Agricultural Program, which seeks to provide New Americans with the resources and education required to grow and acquire foods in Central NY that are relevant to their own cultures. “Cross-cultural communication and cultural diverse learning have been the two most important skills that I developed as a result of this amazing opportunity with SyRAP,” Gio said. “This summer helped me comprehend the extent to which development interventions make a positive impact, including the strengths and limitations from an NGO perspective.”

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