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The start of a new year, 2019-2010

As the new academic year begins, Interim Director Jessica Leino gives an update on the King Center.
Jessica Leino
Jessica Leino

As the autumn quarter starts at Stanford, I’m energized by the enthusiasm and dedication of our faculty and students, and thankful for your continued support of the Stanford King Center on Global Development.

I would also like to warmly thank Grant Miller who concluded his five-year term as director on August 31. I am honored to serve as the King Center’s interim director for the coming year while Pascaline Dupas, who will become the center’s director in September 2020, is on sabbatical.

We look forward to another busy and productive year filled with faculty and student programs, engagement with policy-makers and other decision-makers, and impactful events.

Increasing collaboration across disciplines

The King Center continues to support faculty-led, multi-disciplinary initiatives with sustained global development and poverty alleviation research agendas. This past year, in addition to the three ongoing initiatives on big data for development, firms and global productivity, and urbanization in Africa, the center added three new initiatives on conflict and polarization, migration and development, and reducing lead exposure.

With a focus on Bangladesh, the latter initiative, “Improving Health, Intelligence and Economic Growth by Reducing Lead Exposure,” identifies leverage points for key sources of lead in the environment, such as acid battery recycling, and developing solutions that are better for businesses, consumers, the environment, and the public. Professor of Medicine Stephen Luby, a center faculty affiliate, leads a team from the Graduate School of Business, Stanford ChangeLabs, and the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences in this effort. We look forward to sharing emerging insights from all our initiatives with you.

Building a community

We just wrapped up the second annual Stanford China Economic Forum, where a range of notable scholars, business leaders, and policymakers spoke about how the U.S. and China can promote business, foster innovation, and pursue sound economic policies that spur growth and development around the globe. It was a terrific and educational day of rigorous debate and thoughtful discussions.

We have several upcoming “Speaker Series” talks this autumn and winter with Gita Gopinath, Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund, Abhijit Banerjee, co-founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, and Penny Goldberg, Chief Economist of the World Bank Group. We hope to connect with you at these and other events!

Expanding Our Faculty and Student Programs

Last year, the center announced a new program to support building research capacity in low- and middle-income countries and engagement with policymakers. With the help of one of our first awards, two PhDs candidates, Andrea Lund and Rebecca Wall, traveled to Mali to share results of their work on a potential new mechanism for combating schistosomiasis, a disease transmitted by parasitic worms and common in the Senegal River basin. After connecting with local researchers, public health officials, and river basin managers, Andrea and Rebecca are now revising their model to incorporate critical insights regarding tradeoffs between food, energy, water, and public health.

As this program continues, we look forward to sharing more about how our faculty and students are using this unique funding by involving local scholars and policymakers to further their research impact.

Providing experiential learning for undergraduate and graduate students

The center’s Journeys of Inquiry program continues to provide students firsthand learning and engagement opportunities in low- and middle-income countries, as well as an introduction into conducting field research. This September, Stanford Graduate School of Business Assistant Professor Stephen Anderson led a trip to Rwanda and Kenya focused on innovations in the small-scale retail sector. Students met with local entrepreneurs, officials, business leaders, and policymakers to understand the challenges and potential in this sector.

Over the past few months, a record 19 undergraduate students participated in the center’s Summer Undergraduate Field Research Assistant Program. This opportunity provides field research experience in a low- or middle-income country to undergraduate students interested in global poverty and development. This summer, students conducted research in Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, Thailand, and Uganda.

This past year, 26 Stanford graduate students received research funding and fellowships from the center. This multidisciplinary cohort of young scholars is conducting research on a wide breadth of topics related to global development, from the effects of regulatory food labelling in Chile to gender discrimination in Ghana to urbanization affecting democratic competition in India.

Shreya Kankanhalli, a graduate research funding recipient and PhD candidate in quantitative marketing, is studying how small businesses in Guadalajara, Mexico, are managing recent pushes by policymakers to go cashless and adopt e-payment technology to better understand what hinders the adoption of e-payment technology.

The King Center is expanding its on-campus student opportunities by supporting two new global development-focused student groups. The first is the King International Development Association, an undergraduate student organization that fosters collaboration and community among young leaders committed to addressing international development challenges. The second is a graduate student group that focuses on economic development in Africa. A core tenant of the King Center is supporting students in their research, both in-the-field and on campus, so we are delighted to engage with these two dynamic student groups.

Welcoming new colleagues and friends

We are happy to welcome Seema Jayachandran, a professor of economics at Northwestern University, as the 2019 - 2020 Noosheen Hashemi Visiting Scholar. We are also pleased to welcome Postdoctoral Fellows Brandon de La Cuesta and Sara Lowes this academic year. Both Brandon and Sara are already remarkable researchers and we’re very happy to have them join the center and engage with the larger Stanford community over the next year.

As we continue to grow and develop new opportunities for students and faculty, in addition to building our engagement with donors and policymakers, we are grateful for your interest in and support of the Stanford King Center. I look forward to seeing you at our events this autumn, and please reach out with any questions or suggestions.

Warm regards,

Jessica Leino, PhD
Interim Director
Stanford King Center on Global Development

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