DeFreese headshot

Leland Fellow

Michelle DeFreese

8th Class, 2015-2017

Michelle received her BSc degree in Anthropology at Rutgers University and studied abroad at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She completed an MA in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), University of Geneva in Switzerland. During her postgraduate studies, she completed internships at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome and the Permanent Mission of Timor-Leste to the United Nations in Geneva. Following her studies, Michelle was based at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico and traveled to document project activities, organize stakeholder focus groups, and carry out interviews of smallholder farmers and farmer cooperatives in Africa and Asia. Originally from New Jersey, Michelle is a polyglot and is looking forward to learning Swahili during her field placement.

Policy Placement: Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU); Washington, DC

At APLU, Michelle was based in the International Programs unit to develop evidence-based, data-driven, and policy-relevant research on the impact of USG expenditures on higher education in developing countries. She supported the formalization of strategic partnerships and Memorandums of Understanding with institutions of higher education in Latin America and South Asia. As part of APLU’s Knowledge Center, Michelle worked to develop advocacy-related research, conduct policy analysis, and develop position papers that support APLU’s mission of strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Within the international programs unit, she was also responsible for identifying and promoting opportunities for US universities to work with higher education partners in developing countries.

Field Placement: Innovative Agricultural Research Iniative (iAGRI); Morogoro, Tanzania

Michelle worked with the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI) at Sokoine Agricultural University in Morogoro, Tanzania. As a Partnerships and Program Manager, she worked with the Innovation Portfolio, which promotes new approaches to the needs of smallholder farmers through postharvest technologies and mechanization strategies and addresses food security challenges through nutrition-focused interventions. Michelle facilitated partnerships between iAGRI and the private sector, NGOs and university partners. She also collaborated with students and researchers to leverage new technologies produced through agricultural research and introduce innovative projects to markets and to smallholder farmers. Finally, Michelle supported the sustainability of iAGRI’s research streams by linking novel approaches to commodity production, irrigation technologies, and grain processing with small and medium-sized entities to promote the distribution of agricultural inputs, tools, and technical services.

Publications & Blog Posts