Spring 2012 Officer Elections: Candidate Bios

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See below for nomination information and bios for the candidates in IPID's spring 2012 officer elections. Voting is now closed.


Connor Molloy, MPP candidate

I am concentrating in global policy and interested in working anywhere in the spectrum from the government's diplomatic corps to INGOs.  I have numerous experiences in international development.  I volunteered on a local dairy farm in rural Russia, stayed on a Nagobe reservation in Panama, interned at a sustainable building ranch in Costa Rica, and worked last summer as a youth mentor in Palestine.  These gave me valuable experience in the various sectors and locals of international development, but much more important was building relationships with the people in every country.  These relationships remind me why I care about international development and, in my opinion, are the key to successful development.

Every IPID event I go to leaves me inspired to continue on my career path, but it also makes me think of films and seminars I would love to propose, plan, and host.  I think that IPID has built a really solid base as a student group, which I have found to be unique at the University.  I am in both CHANCE and Common Grounds.  I love CHANCE's mission statement, but I hesitate to take a leadership role (which they asked me to) because I simply don't see how I could add any value to their group because of its structure and the way it operates.  I've realized that Common Grounds may be a great organization but has nothing to do with my interests - if I end up with a leadership role at IPID I would leave Common Grounds to be able to fully commit to IPID.

An interdisciplinary perspective is essential to understanding and approaching problems of international development.  This is because the local needs themselves are never isolated and therefore cannot be addressed by one discipline of study.  Expertise in political science, policy creation, development theory, economics, social work, and social science are all needed to create solutions that are sustainable.  This sustainability has, rightly, become a priority in conceptualizing international development.  Conveniently, the breadth of this expertise is represented by the graduate schools at Minnesota.

Vice President

Syed Ghazi Ghazan Jamal, MPP candidate

Being from one of the most 'underdeveloped' parts of Pakistan, i.e. the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, trying to find sustainable, low cost solutions to some of the most basic human needs has always interested me. With the international community playing an increasingly greater role in Pakistan, due to the country's unfortunate position at the heart of the global war on terror, has added to my interest in international developmental issues. My decision to move from a strictly corporate career to one in the field of development has been fairly recent (sometime over the last 2 years, a year of which I have spent at Humphrey). This, unfortunately, has meant my personal experience in the development field is limited to voluntary work and academia. I did voluntary relief work in the aftermath of the Earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 and then in 2007 volunteered to help manage an event for an NGO, KMT, who run schools with British external exams in remote areas, a luxury only the high income strata of Pakistani society enjoy. After spending seven months in China in 2009, a country progressively becoming more involved in economic and social development projects, not only in Pakistan but in a number of other developing countries across Africa, Asia and now even in Latin America, I worked on a project for three months in 2010 with FATA Development Authority that manages a wide range of development projects (social, political and economic) in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. There has been a new push in the University by in large, and in Humphrey in particular, to diversify. IPID is in a unique position to help have more holistic and focused debates on developing problems in many of the developing countries, something that is lacking in the curriculum at the Humphrey (and from what I know also in many of the other departments at the University). I also feel IPID now is established enough to look towards making connections with people working in developing fields around the world and as Vice President I hope to help take steps in that direction.

Development specialists often seem to forget what development means for the local society they wish to work in. I feel IPID's interdisciplinary lens provides a platform to find solutions around this dichotomous take on development. As the global definition of development (which traditionally has been synonymous with economic development) meets a revived push for upholding cultural and local values in many parts of the world, there is an increasing need for culturally sensitive innovative solutions to developmental problems. Practitioners are increasingly realizing two realities that development theory needs to catch up to. Firstly, locals need to be more involved in the decision making process about projects and their implementation if they are to be successful. Primarily because they have to decide what development means for them. Secondly, projects are increasingly becoming multifaceted because to truly move a region forward only education or industrialization or developing infrastructure is not enough. In reality many of the issues are tied together and to efficiently solve them developing countries would be better off trying to find multifaceted solution with their limited resources.


Autumn Durfey, MPH candidate

I have a vested interest in development as it relates to the health of both people and the environment. As nations are becoming more advanced and industrialized, economic incentives outweigh the cost that development is having on people and the environments in which they live. Developing nations lack the regulations and ability to enforce such regulations regarding development. Monetary advancement is winning the battle for worker's rights and environmental sustainability, as it relates to human health and environmental health. Child laborers are a prime example in relation to development because as children may provide a source of monetary income for their families, they forego an education, thus continuing the cycle of poverty. Mine workers in China are also a great example as they work up to 16-17 hour days, receiving minimum compensation, but must work in the anything but optimal conditions in order to provide for their families. Coal factories are rapidly being built in China, yet China lacks envioronmental regulations for pollution and environmental externality costs associated with the abundance of coal factories being built. In addition, international development and public health go hand in hand. The restructuring of Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake, integrates both public health and development concerns and interests. As the local community battles infectious diseases such as cholera, due to unsanitary and unsafe water supplies, developers face great barriers in rebuilding and restructuring the city. Public health experts and development experts collaborate alongside one another to overcome obstacles faced when rebuilding after disasters such as the one in Haiti or by mitigating some of the barriers to supplying the basic needs to developing communities, such as clean drinking water and safe sanitation. There is a paradigm between development and public health that is greatly interrelated and connected and I would like the opportunity to explore this relationship as an IPID at-large member.

I also have an interest in women's role in development. A woman's health and her rights play a major role in the health and validity of her community. Current uprisings, such as the Arab Spring, are possibly opening the door for women in communities where they were previously oppressed. In refugee communities, it is common to place women in charge due to their ability to distribute food equally, reduce rape and violence within the community, and develop systems for education, healthcare, and maternal care. As women are slowly given more rights and freedom, it will be interesting to see what happens in terms of development and health within their communities.

Approaching development utilizing an interdisciplinary perspective allows for a balanced approach when considering international development. International communities, corporations, and organizations must collaborate with one another for sustainable development that will ultimately reduce poverty, hunger, and human inequality. Taking an interdisciplinary perspective will allow for a critical review of current models of development in terms of raising the quality of choices available for human flourishing and making great strides and attempts for conserving the environment. Involving multiple disciplines when considering development will result in a broad undertaking and consideration from a social, cultural, political, health, economic and environmental stance, ensuring development is addressed utilizing several perspectives.


Daniel Backman, MDP candidate

My interest in International Development began during my undergraduate studies at Iowa State University.  With the ability to study and live in Cusco, Peru, I worked with ProPeru, an organization that promoted volunteer opportunities throughout the Urubamba Valley to work on projects such as installation of clean-burning stoves, medical campaigns and reforestation projects.  I was quickly jaded by the approach of ProPeru which largely rested on parading inexperienced Western students and volunteers through impoverished villages as a sort of 'cultural experience' for those with enough money to pay the organization for their time.  While I value my time spent in Peru, I found faults with many of the (primarily Western) approaches to development and aid.  After numerous other international experiences, I decided to invest my time and money into studying Development so that I could hopefully not continue the same tired approaches to development.  The irony that development would likely be best left untouched by Western aid and development workers is not lost on me, and is something that I think should be addressed fully within development circles, such as IPID.  What good can come out of continued involvement of large organizations such as OXFAM, the UN, World Bank, etc.  Where do smaller NGOs and religious organizations fit?  Where does the future of this "industry" lie?

To answer the last question: the future of this interdisciplinary field is murky, at best.  With recent financial turmoil allowing less and less funding for large international development agencies, the field must get smarter.  Through my studies, I find that development will have to involve developing economic opportunities for smaller-scale operations that focus on developing alternate possibilities for improving food security and energy production.  I have found that almost all successful projects need to have workers who are literate in business, finance and economics.  Social entrepreneurship may be a recent fad in the NGO/NPO/Development field, but I think it is of utmost importance for the future of this interdisciplinary field.


Eric Peffley, JD candidate

I entered law school intending to focus on International law and human rights. I see IPID as a way to not only set myself up for future work in such a capacity, but also as a means to continue working with and discussing pressing global concerns. My past proves me as a person of action; one who has not only engaged in difficult conversations regarding international issues and development but also as one who has personally gotten involved with addressing such issues. I worked as a Tactical Psychological Operations Team Leader for the US Army in Baghdad, Iraq in 2008 allowing me to work directly with the Iraqi people, both regular citizens and leadership and Military, to find ways to improve their dire situation. My job involved persuading Iraqis to support their government rather than radical militia groups, impeding progress in their country. I did so by building relationships, learning their culture and mindsets, and doing my part to attend to their needs, which often included petitioning for a different operational procedure within the US military. I learned valuable skills in operating within differing cultures and working in leadership positions to accomplish our overall objectives of building peace and prosperity in a troubled nation. This experience drives me to continue working in regions of the world (including areas in the United States) which desperately need their justice systems to work on their behalf. I have seen the desperation of those without such a benefit, and that is why I am at the University of Minnesota Law School now.

I have already been involved with IPID this past year, attending discussions and also speaking about my experience in Iraq in 2003 and 2008 at the IPID Student Speakers Conference. I am focusing on International Law at the Law School, and will be a legal intern at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in Tanzania this summer. I greatly look forward to incorporating these new experiences into the IPID group and discussion. I would be honored to serve as Member-At Large and be able to assist in the IPID mission wherever and whenever possible.

I strongly believe in the importance of relationships, dialogue, and the value of differing perspectives in addressing the world's most challenging problems, and IPID embodies such beliefs. No matter how many things one person experiences, they simply cannot experience everything. Often it is extremely difficult to see any situation from outside the subjective lens of one's own world view. This view is valuable, but so is everyone else's, and I deeply believe we need the perspectives of others who have had unique experiences and view the world in a different light in order to truly make progress in our complex, ever shrinking world. Trying to see international development through the perspective of another - from someone with a different cultural background or simply someone from a different educational discipline and focus - and fusing those perspectives with one's own allows a new world of possibilities to open up. The world progresses through diverse relationships, and IPID encourages this to take place.

Information Technology/Communications Committee Chair

Chris Swanson, MDP candidate

I have a particular interest in small NGO's specializing in east Africa and Asia, particularly in the field of education development. While working in Japan from 2006-2009, I worked for a small NGO, Everest of Apples, that funded and co-managed a primary and middles school in rural Nepal. After organizing and managing several fundraising events for the organization, I became director of the charity in 2008. In this capacity, I worked closely with our in-country partner to plan and implement various projects to help the school grow and achieve financial self-sufficiency. My work with Everest of Apples is what sparked my interest in international development. I hope to use my experience to help IPID grow and expand its outreach and visibility campus-wide.

An interdisciplinary approach to international development is crucial to success in any developing country. Historically, development experts have specialized in fields such as economics, education, public health, and environmental science. Such narrow specialization hinders collaboration and can be detrimental to the ultimate objectives of development by preventing development experts from planning coherent comprehensive plans that incorporate all fields of development required for success. An interdisciplinary approach, on the other hand, encourages collaboration across fields, brings more stakeholders together, and addresses the needs of developing countries more comprehensively.

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I completely agree that the basic step in establishing worldwide reputation of the particular institution you are part of, is founding relationships with different countries. The internationally-based feedback is important resource when it comes to vast and major developement. As part of the insights of the mechanism you have no correct and objective idea about its efficiency. The vision and the assessment of the external obejct could show you the particular weaknesses and help you surmount them.

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This page contains a single entry by wuxxx917 published on March 28, 2012 11:19 AM.

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