Twelve Notre Dame students awarded USAID Research and Innovation Fellowships

Author: Joya Helmuth

Partnering with host organizations in Brazil, Colombia, India, and South Africa, twelve Notre Dame students will be completing research projects of varying lengths throughout 2015 and 2016. These students will be receiving financial support through the USAID | Notre Dame Global Development Fellowships, a partnership between universities and the U.S. Global Development Lab to help expand USAID’s Research and Innovation Fellowship Program. Its primary goal is to create a global network of researchers addressing today's most pressing issues in the developing world.

Usaid Lab

Students receiving the USAID | Notre Dame Global Development Fellowship awards are John Dillon, Elisa Ditta, Meghan Gallagher, Craig Iffland, Stefanie Israel, Cecilia Lero, Emily Maiden, Robert McCune, Michael Penta, Annette Ruth, Lucia Tiscornia, and Kelsey Whiting-Jones.

Research sites working with USAID to offer these opportunities are locally based organizations that have applied for graduate level researchers to assist them in growing innovative solutions for globaldevelopment challenges, in the hopes of making a positive impact in communities around the world.

Focus areas of research include science and engineering, physics, geosciences, computer and information science, psychology, and biological and social sciences. Likewise, research topics vary widely among the fellows. Ditta and Whiting-Jones are M.A. students in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and will be working in Colombia and South Africa, respectively. Dillon will be hosted by IBM India’s research facility in Bangalore, focusing on IBM’s Smarter Education Initiative. Ruth, a graduate of the Eck Institute for Global Health's Master of Science in Global Health program, will be researching Trypanosoma cruzi motility.

Penta and Israel will be spending a year working in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil, studying pacification and ethnography of favelas. Lero, Maiden, and Tiscornia have partnered with research sites in Brazil and South Africa to work with the Varieties of Democracy Project. All five of these students are supported in part by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

Three additional students will be conducting their research in South Africa: Iffland will be working in the area of humanitarian law; McCune will focus on big data and access to the internet. Gallagher, a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, will be based in Stellanbosch to work on a mobile technology project.

Alex Ambrose, Dillon's faculty mentor and Professor of Practice and Associate Program Director of the Notre Dame ePortfolio Engagement Program elaborates, "We are excited about this opportunity to send John Dillon to work with the IBM Smarter Education Program in Bangalore, India. A Notebaert fellow in the English Department and Keough-Naughton Institute, he is one of our most promising text mining and educational data analytics scholars. This USAID | ND Global Development Fellowship marks an important collaboration among learning scientists at the Kaneb Center for Teaching Learning, data scientists at iCeNSA, the learning designers at the Office of Digital Learning, the University Writing Center, and the IBM Smarter Education Program. During the fellowship, we will be using pedagogical big data and computational text analysis approaches to solve educational challenges. How do we make learning in traditional and online settings more personalized and engaging? How do we assess learning using big data analytics?  These are some of the questions this collaborative team of scholars and researchers will address."

Theresa Ricke-Kiely, Associate Director of Administration for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and faculty mentor for the program, notes the benefits that the USAID Notre Dame partnership will have. "The USAID | ND Global Development Fellowships provide an opportunity for Kroc students enrolled in the master's program to fulfill the required internship component while working on important peace building research projects in conjunction with the government's leading agency for international development. These fellowships provide a beneficial dimension to the research work and professionalization of our students. The USAID Notre Dame partnership is particularly timely, as it comes at a time when Notre Dame is preparing to open the Keough School of Global Affairs, the first new college or school at Notre Dame in nearly a century. This partnership provides an enriching opportunity for our students, and is valuable for the university as a whole."

The University of Notre Dame is one of six universities selected for a grant awarded by the new U.S. Global Development Lab to offer these fellowships. The Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) is managing the fellowship program for Notre Dame.

Contact: Joya Helmuth, NDIGD Outreach Associate Director,