From Williamsburg to the world: AidData Summer Fellows launch their journey

Announcing the Summer Fellows Class of 2017, and a new gift to support international experiential learning and research.

June 9, 2017

This June, ten host organizations around the world welcomed twelve undergraduate and graduate students to serve as AidData Summer Fellows for 2017. Funded through AidData’s five-year partnership with USAID, the program continues to provide opportunities for future leaders in the field of international development to gain hands-on experience abroad, having matched 87 students with fellowships in ten countries since 2013.

With backgrounds in fields from international relations and government to biology and public health, these students bring a diverse mix of academic disciplines to a global focus. After a competitive nominating process with 89 applications, Fellows were chosen from four universities in the US and the UK, and will spend ten weeks working with host organizations in Uganda, Peru, the Philippines, and Nepal promoting data literacy and building organizational capacity to use subnational data and geospatial analysis in decision making.

A new gift to support international experiential learning and research

As the Summer Fellows Program begins its fifth and final year of funding through the USAID partnership, we are excited to announce the transition of this program into the ITPIR Summer Fellows Program. William & Mary alumni Bob Trice ’68 and Susan Saulmon Trice ’68 have made a generous million-dollar gift to fund endowments, internships, and fellowships at the Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations (ITPIR), AidData’s parent organization, and at William & Mary’s Public Policy Program.

The Trice gift will provide for six William & Mary students a year to pursue summer fellowships abroad through AidData and other ITPIR projects, such as the Center for African Development. Next summer, these Trice Fellows will represent the inaugural cohort of an expanded ITPIR Summer Fellows Program. Two AidData Summer Fellows this year are funded by the Trice gift: Brittany Parowski and Will Sheahan will be working with Right to Play in Uganda and Nepal Monitor, respectively. 

“I am so grateful to the Trices for their support of the Summer Fellows Program. This is such a unique opportunity for undergraduates, and I think it will really give William & Mary students an edge that sets them apart from other people their age,” said Sheahan. “Working in developing contexts is one of the most important things that any aspiring development or public health worker can do to gain a true appreciation for their field, and that is exactly what this program gives to students.”

Tools for data and discovery

To help smoothly transition into their summer positions and hit the ground running, Fellows participated in a “bootcamp” in late May at AidData’s headquarters in Williamsburg, VA.

The intensive, weeklong orientation and training sessions, led by AidData staff, briefed the Fellows on data management and manipulation, geospatial analysis, GIS applications, and important travel and safety tips from William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies. These Fellows are well-equipped to live and work abroad, and have the tools to develop data-driven analyses and recommendations for their host organizations.

Host organizations this year include USAID Missions in Nepal, Peru, the Philippines and Uganda, and a diverse arrays of development organizations and NGOs such as the Women of Uganda Network and the Open Sustainability Institute.

Throughout the summer, you can stay updated on the program’s activities by reading reflections from the Fellows on AidData’s Medium feed and The First Tranche blog, and following AidData on Facebook and Twitter.

Meet the Fellows

Nepal

Nirav Ilango is an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia, majoring in geography, computer science, and statistics. His background in geospatial analysis includes a previous position at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, where he helped clean and standardize GIS data for UNOCHA, and a current position in the UGA Small Satellite Research Laboratory, where he is a team lead on UGA's inaugural effort to launch two environmental monitoring nanosatellites. Nirav's areas of interest include the use of spatial data in emergency response and disaster management, open-source mapping platforms, and imagery analysis. He will be working this summer at USAID/Nepal to apply advanced geospatial and data science processes to USAID/Nepal’s uptake of development aid.

Will Sheahan is a rising senior studying Biology and Public Health at William & Mary. Over the last year, he has worked for AidData as a Research Assistant on the Geocoding team, and as a Senior Research Assistant on the Policy Team. In this capacity, Will collaborated with two other students to produce an innovative Social Vulnerability Index at the subnational scale in Colombia, and he is excited to continue using his interests in GIS and statistical analysis techniques to support making foreign aid practices more transparent and efficient. Will will be working at Nepal Monitor this summer to provide GIS support and training, as well as to contribute to geospatial analysis of data on human rights and security incidents.

Peru

Kevin Strybos is an undergraduate student in the Geography Department at The University of Texas at Austin. His focus is on Geographic Information Systems and their use in analyzing data related to demographics and sustainable development. He has previously researched climate change and conservation politics in Botswana. Among other interests, Kevin enjoys learning about the factors that determine the varying cultural norms in human populations. Kevin will be working with the Monitoring & Evaluation group at USAID/Peru to increase GIS capacity, facilitate trainings, and provide analysis assistance.

Philippines

Sarah Harmon is a rising junior at William & Mary majoring in International Relations with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. She has worked as a Senior Research Assistant at AidData to track unreported international DFI finances as well as Syrian refugee migration patterns. She is a current Research Intern with the Project on International Peace and Security at William & Mary and is interested in pursuing a career in human rights or security issues in the Middle East. Sarah will be working with USAID/Philippines this summer to process new and existing datasets in ArcGIS and provide basic GIS training to mission staff and implementing partners.

Jack Zhang is an undergraduate student at William & Mary majoring in Government and Marketing. He has previously served as a research assistant on the Geocoding, Policy, and Survey Practice teams at AidData. During the past year, Jack has worked on projects such as Including Disabilities in U.S. Foreign Policy and the Diplomacy Lab Projects for the U.S. State Department. He participated in ITPIR’s "Shark Tank" competition in which he and two other students developed and carried out a project creating a Social Vulnerability Index for Colombia that identifies at a subnational level those populations most often left behind. Jack will be working with Map the Philippines to provide trainings in OpenStreeMap across Manila and promote youth involvement in mapping.

Uganda

Daniel Aboagye is studying international development as a Master of Public Policy student at William & Mary. He has a keen interest in the relationship between corruption, rent-seeking and foreign direct investment. Recently, Daniel has been working on research related to transparency and accountability in the 2016 general elections for Uganda. In the future, he hopes to apply an econometric approach to a career in advocating for good governance in the developing world. He will be working with Katherine Whitton at the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) to train staff on geocoding and spatial analysis processes and produce reports on development aid in the health, agriculture, and education sectors.

Hina Acharya is a first-year Master’s student at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. She is in the Global Policy Studies program with policy interests in International Development and regional interests in South Asia and Africa. Prior to graduate school, Hina served as an English teacher in Nepal and as a student advocate for a non-profit in Omaha, Nebraska. Hina will be working with Paul Kuhne at the Open Sustainability Institute (OSI) to produce geocoded data on projects and interventions and train OSI staff and students on geospatial analysis.

Allison Bowers is a rising junior at William & Mary. She is double majoring in Government and Kinesiology and Health Sciences with a concentration in Public Health. Allison’s primary interests within these fields are global health, international development, and geographic information systems. This summer she will be working at the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) to map target district progress in areas of operations, update existing databases, and run training sessions on mapping and data analysis.

Brittany Parowski is a 2017 graduate from William & Mary with a degree in International Relations. Previously she has worked as a research assistant in William & Mary's Government Department and as an intern at the Department of State's Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Brittany will be working to evaluate Right to Play’s programs in schools across Uganda through on-site data collection and analysis.

Paul Kuhne is a first year Global Policy Studies student at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in International Development. He has seven years experience in the nonprofit sector and received his BA in Political Science and Spanish from Temple University. At LBJ, he has focused on the Innovations for Peace and Development program, supporting their Data4Peace Colombia Hackathon, and cleaning data for a variety of projects. He’s interested in learning how to deploy data more effectively and transparently in order to help improve evaluation and program design in developing countries. Paul will be working with Hina Acharya at the Open Sustainability Institute (OSI) to produce geocoded data on projects and interventions and train OSI staff and students on geospatial analysis.

Katherine Whitton is a first year Masters of Global Policy Studies at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. There she studies the intersection of International Development and Governance and works with Innovations for Peace and Development. Prior to LBJ, Katherine was a Peace Corps Education Volunteer in Ethiopia ('13-'15). She will be working with Daniel Aboagye at the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) to train staff on geocoding and spatial analysis processes and produce reports on development aid in the health, agriculture, and education sectors.

Kerry Wong is a PhD candidate at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Her research focuses on the socio-spatial inequality of health service provision and healthcare utilization in low- and middle-income countries. Before her PhD, Kerry gained a Master's degree in biostatistics from the University of Melbourne. She has also worked in different organizations, including the LSHTM and the WHO. Kerry’s main focus is data management and statistical analysis of secondary data to monitor progress towards health-related developmental goals. She has a keen interest in identifying opportunities to generate and apply geospatial data and tools to study international development and population health in low- and middle-income countries. This summer she will be working at USAID/Uganda where she will be working to provide GIS assistance across units and provide research assistance for the Mission’s Health team and public-health implementing partners.

Bon voyage and congratulations to the 2017 AidData Summer Fellows! Earlier this month the Fellows scattered out to NGOs across the globe. Photo by Morgan Goad for AidData.