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  • Department of Global Development
  • Agriculture
  • Global Development

Countless communities around the world face complex food insecurity challenges  — challenges made all the more severe by the pandemic. Now, two Peace Corps alumni in the Global Development Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program are pursuing advanced degrees with food security goals firmly in mind as they work to address one of humanity’s greatest issues in the decades ahead.

Max Wohlgemuth and Sage Grasso-Monroe join the Global Development MPS 2020-2021 cohort as awardees of the Paul D. Coverdell Fellowship, which offers financial assistance to returned Peace Corps volunteers. The Coverdell Fellowship is offered at universities around the United States, providing Peace Corps volunteers with an outlet for graduate studies while applying their skills in underserved communities.

“We had a tremendous number of applications from returned volunteers, since all volunteers were evacuated as a result of the pandemic — so this year the competition was fierce,” said professor Lori Leonard, director of the MPS in Global Development and inaugural chair (starting January 1, 2021) of the Department of Global Development. More than 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated from nearly 60 countries due to the coronavirus pandemic, marking the first time the program halted its global operations.

Both of this year’s awardees bring a passion for addressing food security and nutrition as central issues to break cycles of poverty. “More resilient and food secure communities are better prepared for disasters such as conflict, drought or floods,” said Wohlgemuth, who was stationed in Tanzania. “Investment in developing vulnerable communities is critically important.”

Grasso-Monroe, who was stationed in Ethiopia, will focus in part on rural development and community engagement. “My objective is to use this degree to work in an interdisciplinary capacity in order to creatively and effectively face the complex fundamental challenges in food security,” she said.

While the interdisciplinary, specialized format of the MPS degree program allows for a broad understanding of the many issues and advancements in food security, the Coverdell fellows will also refine their skill set through hands-on, applied experience.  In addition to their courses, the Coverdell fellows will serve a community organization in the Ithaca-area through an engaged internship, utilizing and expanding on their expertise.

Meet the Coverdell Fellows

Coverdell Fellow

Max Wohlgemuth: Aspirations for more resilient and food secure communities

"I believe the MPS in Global Development will equip me with the multisectoral tools I need to support development interventions in a cohesive and comprehensive way."

Coverdell Fellow

Sage Grasso-Monroe: A journey to alleviate malnutrition through agriculture

"I envision myself in the career field of international development centered around discovering approaches to sustain and feed a population that continues to grow, with an emphasis on low-income and rural areas."

Group gathers in Tanzania
woman walks in field

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