Current students

Rebecca Minardi, PhD. Student

Rebecca is a doctoral student in the Department of Community Sustainability and is specializing in Environmental Science and Policy. She received her BA in International Affairs and History from Marshall University in West Virginia and her Master of Public Health from Des Moines University in Iowa. She is part of the  multi-disciplinary team researching the impacts of dam construction on human communities and the environment in the Brazilian Amazon Basin. She is interested in pursuing research on how communities fare after being resettled following dam reservoir construction. She will look at current compensation schemes utilized by the Brazilian government to understand how these help or hinder a resettled community's social cohesion and individual success.

Andrew Gerard, PhD. Student

Andrew is a doctoral student and studies institutional and economic issues related to sustainable international agricultural production. He is interested in influences on farmer decision-making, the agricultural and environmental policy development process, and economic transactions in the absence of enforceable contracts. Andrew works with MSU's African Great Lakes Coffee Support Program on coffee policy research in Rwanda and Burundi. Prior to coming to MSU, Andrew was a Senior Program Officer at the Global Knowledge Initiative, a non-profit international development organization based in Washington, DC. There he built collaborative networks and supported policy and strategy efforts in East and Southern Africa. 

Laura Castro-Diaz, PhD. Student

Laura is a doctoral student at the Department of Community Sustainability.
She is interested in studying coupled human-environment interactions of fishing communities in Latin America. Laura received a B.S in Ecology from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia and a MSc from the Department of Community Sustainability at MSU. In her master's thesis, under the supervision of Dr. Lopez, Laura explored the impacts generated by the Belo Monte Hydroelectric dam on the lives and livelihoods of fishers in a riverine community in the Amazon basin. In her research, she is currently exploring energy justice and compensation mechanisms.  Laura has experience working with indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in Colombia, rural mestizo communities in Peru and riverine communities in Brazil. 

           Maria Alejandra Garcia, PhD. Student


Maria Alejandra is a doctoral student at the Department of Community Sustainability. She received a B.S and a MSc in Sociology from Universidad del Valle, Cali-Colombia. She is interested in understanding how social differences, specifically those based on gender, can affect the implementation of agricultural innovations; and how the introduction of technologies in agricultural settings impact women's and men's lives. She is also interested in identifying women's contribution to agriculture and analyzing women's empowerment in rural areas. She uses multiple methodological approaches, including qualitative and quantitative methods. Maria Alejandra has worked with Latin American  smallholders in Colombia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

        Rachel Nanteza, MSc Student

Rachel is a Masters’ student in the Department of Community Sustainability with a focus on natural resource management and policy. Her research explores the socio- economic and political factors influencing access to water in low income communities of Kampala, Uganda. She is interested in understanding how perceptions of access to water as a human right and/or as a service among stakeholders (consumers, utility companies, policy makers and NGOs) effects access. Findings from her work will inform collaboration efforts among stakeholders to improve the distributive justice and access to water especially in low income communities. Rachel received a Bachelors degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability with a minor in Geographic Informations Sciences (GIS) at Michigan State University.

Samyuktha Iyer, Undergrad Student

Samyuktha is an undergraduate student majoring in economics with minors in mathematics and data science analytics. She is part of a team conducting research on hydroelectric dams in developing countries and their impact on affected communities – specifically with resettlement and compensation. Her work includes assisting in creating a codebook with social science variables to be used in coding existing literature so the data can later be compiled and analyzed for a meta-analysis paper

Former Students

Natalia Ocampo Diaz, 2018

Master's degree from the Department of Community Sustainability.

"Collective titling and decentralized governance: the case of Black Communities in the Colombian Pacific Region".

Natalia finished her Master's degree in the summer of 2018. Her master's thesis studies the institutional change that occurred after the titling process in the Pacific coast of Colombia. Natalia is a human ecologist with a B.S. in Ecology from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. She has experience working in different areas of Colombia, such as the Amazon, Pacific, Orinoquia, and Andean Regions. Her research experience focuses on topics such as community-based management of natural resources, insights from local and traditional knowledge for public policy, the relation between local livelihoods and ecosystems, as well as bird ecology.

Sara Torres, 2016

Master's degree from the Department of Community Sustainability.

"The effects on Values, Beliefs and Norms of Payments for Environmental Services: evidence from a PES program in Colombia".

Sara finished her Master's degree in May 2016. Her interests are focused on the way perceptions affect how people interact with policy. Her Master’s thesis was focused on pro-environmental behavior and applying Values-Beliefs-Norms theory to a payment for environmental services program with cattle ranchers in rural Colombia. Sara received her B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she studied how perceptions of scarcity of a resource affect how individuals know and follow the rules that protect said resource.

Maneth La, 2015.

Master's degree from the Department of Community Sustainability.

"An Evaluation of the Land Use Planning Process in Cambodia within the Current Climate Change Context."