Prestigious Awards: Michael Johnson on the Boren Fellowship in Mozambique

Visiting a Rural Community to Learn How to Cook Mozambican Cuisine

This a post by guest blogger Michael Johnson (IPED ’18) current recipient of the David L. Boren Fellowship.

In order to build upon my learnings from the Fordham IPED program and my second M.A. in Economics – as well as return to my favorite region of the world – I submitted a proposal to become a David L. Boren Fellow and study Portuguese in Mozambique. I developed an affinity for southern Africa through my two years of Peace Corps service in Namibia, studying emerging markets in South Africa via an IPED exchange program and working on development projects in the region at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Fortunately, I was accepted into the Mozambican Boren program and arrived in the capital city of Maputo in August 2018.

There I began taking language classes at the Universidade de Eduardo Mondlane as well as courses in Mozambican culture and history. Although I had two months of exposure to Portuguese before landing, I was quite linguistically overwhelmed upon arrival. Yet, thanks to my daily four hour intensive language instruction, nightly dinners with my host mother and new found friends at the university, I adapted quickly. Full immersion in Mozambican culture allowed me to complete the first portion of my fellowship and graduate from the university program at an intermediate level.

My Host Mother and I Celebrating at My Graduation

Being back in southern Africa has allowed me to work on projects I am passionate about while pursuing my career in international development. Dr. Bernard Chiwome, a former colleague from Namibia, recruited me to help develop his company AgriProject – an organization working toward regional food security and promoting efficient food production through the modernization of rural farmers. When not studying Portuguese or working in Maputo, I assist the project in business development aspects such as proposal writing, project planning, communications and financial accounting.

Currently, AgriProject acts as a livestock fertility consultant improving the productivity of commercial and small holder farms as well as supports a beekeeping project generating income for women in rural Namibia through honey production. Through our beehives we are also developing a data-based application that tracks colony health in real-time that can be used to not only monitor bees but also to inform decision making around climate change uncertainties. I have made a few trips to Namibia in 2018 and will make a few more throughout the remaining duration of my Boren Fellowship until June.

Dr. Chiwome and I Suited Up for Apiary Inspection in Namibia

Starting this year, my language studies have been reduced to allow me to also work on a USAID project entitled SPEED+ (Supporting the Policy Environment for Economic Development) being implemented by DAI in Maputo. SPEED+ is helping Mozambique create a better business environment to attract investment, expand markets, and reduce costs for businesses and citizens of Mozambique, thus contributing to broad-based and inclusive economic growth. The main targets for improvement are agriculture, trade, power, water supply and biodiversity conservation. The project engages with both the private sector and government entities providing a great opportunity for me to utilize and hone my skills gained from my political economy coursework at Fordham. I will be occupying my time in the office with sector specific economic analysis, project monitoring and evaluation as well as monetizing benefits/impacts to be reported to USAID.

My First Day on the Job at SPEED+ in Maputo

After the fellowship is complete, Boren requires fellows to work for the US Government in their area of expertise. I hope to use this opportunity to work on USG development projects in southern Africa or transition to a domestic career in DC. I highly recommend the David L. Boren Fellowship to all IPED students as its flexibility allows for a personally tailored experience that can be shaped to fit career interests and provides many avenues in government work afterward.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Prestigious Awards

Finance Career Trip 2019

by: Patrick Fernandez ’20

Last January 25, IPED students went on a career trip focused on finance in Manhattan, New York.

The students first went to the US Trust, Bank of America, to meet with Joseph Quinlan ’84 , Managing Director and Chief Market Strategist, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. Mr. Quinlan talked about how the inter-disciplinary nature of his IPED education helped him in his work with international trade, foreign direct investment, and global economic trends. The students also had a discussion with him regarding impact investment, US-China trade war, and emerging markets. An advice that he gave to students in order for them to become excellent analysts, is that they must be able to recognize how things are interconnected, identify the information missing from current analyses, and learn history.

IPED students together with Mr. Quinlan ’84

The students then went to CFA Society of New York to meet with Mario Carias, CFA, Managing Director of Content and Member Services at CFA. Mr. Carias shared about the details of obtaining a CFA, and his experience on the financial sector. He also shared how different CFAs are on different fields including development.

IPED students with Mr. Carias

Leave a Comment

Filed under Trips

Prestigious Awards: Robyn J Emory-Murray on the Boren Fellowship in China

A guest post by Robyn Emory-Murray ’18

Robyn and husband (Kenny) with Golden Week Crowds at the Leshan Giant Buddha

What has your language learning been like (inside and outside the classroom )?

My immersion into the language has been total. While I only attend 18 hours per week of class, I live in an area with no foreigners. I purposely chose to live off-campus so that I would not have an option to revert to English. Beyond classwork I also read books in Mandarin and watch Mandarin TV shows.

The real test of my language has been the move to Kunming itself. When my husband and I moved here I had to complete the transition solely in Mandarin, which included opening bank accounts, finding and negotiating an apartment, setting up phones and WiFi, among other things. It was quite the gauntlet, to say the least, but it was also a big confidence boost.

Robyn at Milk Lake in Yading

Cultural immersion–what have been some highlights of being in China this time around? Challenges?

The biggest highlight has been my travels within China, specifically to Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve (稻城亚丁风景区) in Western Sichuan Province. Yading is the Shangri-La (香格里拉) featured in the July 1931 issue of National Geographic. Yading is famous for its soaring peaks, high altitude lakes, and expansive grasslands, all lying at above 12000 feet. Yading is remote, so the ability to communicate in Mandarin made it possible for me to go there without assistance. It is always challenging to venture out on my own, especially to areas where I cannot count on anyone to speak English, but it was definitely worth it.

Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve (稻城亚丁风景区) in Western Sichuan Province

How do you expect this experience with Boren to impact your career moving forward?

I hope to work with the government in a role that uses Mandarin on a daily basis, which the Boren specifically will prepare me for. The Boren also has a government service component, and a whole team focused on making sure Fellows find a position which fulfills the requirement. As a Boren Fellow, I am more prepared for and have more support to achieve my career goals.

Robyn at Yunnan Normal University, Kunming

Any connections with your work at IPED that stand out?

Another part of the Boren Fellowship is a research component. I chose my research topic based on my studies within IPED. While there are no Chinese studies specific courses, I was able to turn all the topics from each class to include China or the influence of Beijing. My current research which studies the manipulation of collective memory by the Chinese media found its basis in a paper I wrote for Conflict Resolution and the feedback I received from Dr. Labonte. I owe so much of my success to IPED and the support that I received from the staff and professors, but that support is not limited to the IPED network, it also includes the development of your work and research in the classes you take and the direction you follow with the help of your professors.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Prestigious Awards

CRA at a Crossroads: Understanding the Impact and Ensuring the Future of the CRA

by: Donovan Hotz ’19

On October 29th 2018, Fordham IPED along with the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, Enterprise Community Partners, and University Neighborhood Housing Program sponsored the CRA at a Crossroads Forum: Understanding the Impact and Ensuring the Future of the Community Reinvestment Act. The event, held at Fordham’s Lincoln Center Campus included an array of speakers including two IPED alumni: Elizabeth Strojan, VP for Government Affairs for the NYC Housing Development Corporation and Department of Housing Preservation and Development (IPED ‘13) and Will Spisak, Director of Programs at Chhaya CDC (IPED ‘14).

Following IPED Director and University Neighborhood Housing Program Vice President, Dr. Henry Schwalbenberg’s opening remarks, Martin J. Greunberg (Member of the Board of Directors, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) gave a speech entitled The Community Reinvestment Act: Its Origins, Evolution, and Future. In it he discussed the changes to the Community Reinvestment Act since its enactment in 1977 and its goal of fighting against the effects of redlining and disinvestment by obligating banks to meet local needs. Panelists included the aforementioned IPED alumni along with Jaime Weisberg, (Senior Campaign Analyst at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development) and Jim Buckley (Executive Director of University Neighborhood Housing Program).

Martin J. Gruenberg. Member of the Board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), giving the keynote address

Weisberg discussed ANHD’s work on preserving and improving the CRA. ANHD conducts research on the “State of Bank Reinvestment in NYC”, regularly comments on CRA exams, and advocates for banks to have “forward-looking CRA plans”. ANHD works towards addressing the “predatory equity” crisis and advocating for banks to engage in responsible multifamily lending to ensure that their loans do not lead to more displacement in the city.

Buckley discussed how organizers and Bronx tenants in the 1970s were able to use the CRA to improve housing conditions and in have continued to use it as a means of aligning banks with their community development efforts. Currently, UNHP promotes further improvements in financial services for Bronx residents and for targeted private investment in the area. Some of their recent work can be found and the following links: CRA’s Bronx Impact, The Bronx Banking Guide, Bronx Financial Services Survey, improved financial access for immigrants, and the impact of alternative financial services.

Conference Panelists (L-R) Elizabeth Strojan (IPED ’13), Jim Buckley, Will Spisak (IPED ’14), and Jaime Weisberg discussing the impact and future of CRA

Strojan discussed the role of the CRA in affordable housing preservation in NYC and how it leverages bank loan investments for affordable housing and allows the City’s investments to have a more meaningful impact.

Spisak discussed the benefits of the CRA for immigrant communities, especially the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities that Chhya represents in Queens. Additionally, he touched on the importance of working towards providing more banking and loan services for small businesses.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

IPED Career Trip in Washington D.C.

by: Patrick Fernandez ’20

Last November 15-16, the 2020 IPED cohort went to Washington DC for meetings with different government agencies and non-profit organizations. The trip started with a meeting with Tracy O’Heir ’06 and Sarah Weber ’05 who are working at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). They shared about the type of work that they do in USAID, as well as the trajectory of their careers so far. They also gave tips to IPED students on what they need to focus on if they want to work for government organizations such as USAID that is involved in international development work. They particularly advised the students to be able to develop critical thinking, and writing skills. They also recommended students to study French which is useful for international development work. They shared how their work in the government helps them to balance their work and personal lives.

Tracy O’Heir ’06 (left) and Sarah Weber ’05 (right) sharing their experiences with first-year IPED students

The students then had lunch at the Department of Agriculture’s cafeteria. They then met with Brian Dutoi ’14, Jane Wilkins ’05, and Matthew Pavone ’07 who are working at the Department of Agriculture. They discussed about the different aspects of work that the department is doing, as well as its impact on the American people. They shared how their work relies heavily on economics but having a background in political science helped them in their work in the government – an advantage that IPED students get in their studies. Many students were also particularly interested in the foreign agricultural service of USDA.


First year IPED students at the Department of Agriculture

After a day of meetings, the students went to Tortilla Coast for an alumni dinner event. Several alumni who are working in Washington DC came to the dinner. The alumni shared conversations with the students especially about their time with IPED, and their professional careers. It was a night filled with overflowing food, fun, and conversations.

The next day, the students went to see Cameron Hinkson ’13 from Chemonics. Chemonics is a private international development company that works in 150 countries for government agencies and nonprofits. Most of their projects are funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Mr. Hinkson shared about the impact that they’ve done in developing countries. He also shared how he was able to shift his career to the development sector through Chemonics.

Cameron Hinkson ’13 sharing his experience working for Chemonics

First year IPED students at Chemonics


After a stop at the White House, the students went to the Elephant and Castle Restaurant to have lunch and to meet with Constance Handley ’97 and Patrick O’Connor  ’09 who are working at the Department of Commerce. They shared about the role that they play for the government as well as how it affects American traders. They particularly highlighted how IPED students can utilize both their skills in economics and political science in the government. They also shared how their work is quantitative heavy and the importance of SAS to analyze data. Samantha Kinney ’18 was also there to share her experience working for the government while being a Presidential Management Fellow. She shared her experience, and some tips, for applying to the Presidential Management Fellowship. They shared the different avenues on how students can apply for a government job like applying through the portal. They particularly recommended though, to apply to the Presidential Management Fellowship if the students really want to work for the government.

Constance Handley ’97 (top), Patrick O’Connor ’09 (middle), and Samantha Kinney ’18 (bottom) speaking to IPED students about their work in the government


IPED students having lunch with alumni

The students ended their trip with a tour of the US Capitol courtesy of the office of Senator Chuck Schumer.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Trips