2017 ELMO Initiative graduate fellow and grant recipients

2017-2018 ELMO Initiative Graduate Fellow

Travis Benjamin Curtice

Doctoral Student, Political Science Graduate Program

Travis Benjamin Curtice

Travis Benjamin Curtice is a doctoral student in the Political Science graduate program. In August 2017, he worked as an analyst for the Carter Center’s election observation mission in Kenya led by John Kerry and Dr. Aminata Touré.

With experience working in Bosnia, India, Uganda, and Kenya, his research explores several areas of political science and development including such topics as human rights, state repression, conflict, international political economy, and comparative political economy of development. His dissertation project focuses on the challenges of policing in multiethnic societies and how an autocrat’s decision to stack or mix his internal security apparatus affects patterns of targeted and indiscriminate repression.

Before coming to Emory, Curtice taught for two years as a lecturer for the Department of Political Science and the Fulbright College Program in International Relations at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where he received the Wally Cordes Teaching and Faculty Support Center’s New Faculty Commendation for Teaching Commitment. In addition to teaching at the University of Arkansas, he has taught courses in global diplomacy for the Summer College and Academy at Duke University and a seminar on American Politics at John Brown University. While at Emory, he developed and taught a class on Repression and Control under Dictatorships with Jennifer Gandhi.

His research and teaching interests stem from his international work. In 2004, Curtice taught English in Zenica, Bosnia and partnered with local community leaders to rebuild homes for families displaced by the war. While there he had the opportunity to visit several cities that had been designated by the UN during the war as “safe areas” including Sarajevo, Gorazde, Bihac, and Srebrenica. He started working in Uganda in 2007 partnering with local and international non-governmental organizations to provide aid to internally displaced persons. In 2009 funded by the McCaleb Initiative for Peace, Curtice returned to Gulu, Uganda to research the role religious leaders played in pursuing peace and justice in areas impacted by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

His passion in academia is to develop theoretical driven research that employs rigorous quantitative methods and big data to understand and explain political interactions relating to human rights, state repression, and conflict. Curtice is a member of the American Political Science Association, International Studies Association, Midwest Political Science Association, and Peace Science Association. He has served as a reviewer for International Interactions and the Journal of Peace Research.

Summer 2017 ELMO Pre-dissertation Funding Recipients

Anna Grace Tribble

Graduate Student, Master’s in Public Health
Doctoral Student, Anthropology Graduate Program

Anna Grace Tribble

As a recipient of the IDN predissertation funding to use ELMO for field research in summer 2017, Anna Grace Tribble will spend six weeks in Iraqi Kurdistan to research food security and mental health among internally displaced women. The aim of the pilot project is to explore the local food environment, focusing on the prevalence of food insecurity and depression/anxiety among internally displaced Kurdish and Arab women in Slemani, Iraqi Kurdistan. During a trip to Iraq Tribble learned that food access is one key aspect of life that is disrupted for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Tribble notes that currently many NGOs are debating the best way to help IDPs: “food aid or cash.” Tribble also adds that culturally appropriate food aid can act as a buffer, allowing communities to preserve important aspects of their home culture through the day-to-day routines of the kitchen. However, cash aid provides more autonomy for household decision making and encourages displaced people to engage with their new community in the marketplace. Moving forward, Tribble hopes to better understand the specific diet of families receiving these different forms of aid, as well as the impact of those diets on mental and physical health outcomes, specifically among Iraqi Arab and Kurdish women displaced by ISIS.

Tribble’s interest in medical anthropology was sparked during her studies of female community health volunteers' (FCHV) knowledge about tuberculosis in Nepal. She worked in Nepal the summer after her junior year, interviewing FCHVs and surveying the communities with whom they worked. Through this process, Tribble began to consider graduate school rather than an MD. She was interested in questions that focused within medical anthropology, but also recognized that the systemic health changes she was interested in were often facilitated through public health interventions.

Why is this work important to Tribble

“1) Researchers don't work enough in/near conflict zones, so the information and understanding of such places is often filtered through journalism and NGOs. There are ethical questions to consider, but I think that more effort should be made to do and to fund research to better understand what these communities are going through.

2) IDPs are not as researched as refugees, for similar reasons as why researchers don't work in conflict. However, they are often more vulnerable in a variety of ways - closer to conflict, potential still as risk of state violence, lower SES (usually), crumbling infrastructure of country at war, etc. There are millions more IDPs now, and understanding their situation and how it differs from refugees will hopefully inform international laws.

3) The Kurds were incredibly welcoming when I visited in 2015, reminding me of the warmth and hospitality of people in Italy or in the Southern US. I'm from GA, so I felt right at home. Thus, as a researcher, I feel really comfortable working there, which is important for long term work.

4) Some of the literature about Iraq speaks from a distance, talking about realities that the authors are inferring. Anthropologists value fieldwork for good reasons. Besides getting to know communities more deeply, you can learn enough to inject nuance into conversations where sweeping generalizations about a richly diverse country can create policy with negative consequences.”

Rukshan Mehta

Doctoral Student, Nutrition and Health Science Graduate Program

Rukshan Mehta

Rukshan Mehta is one of two recipients of IDN predissertation funding to use ELMO for field research in summer 2017. Mehta will spend 10 weeks to research food systems exposure pathways and contamination with mycotoxins (cancer causing fungal toxins) and pesticides in rural Haryana, India. Mehta’s aim is to map exposure routes in local food supplies at the household and community level. ELMO will allow Mehta to use GIS technology to collect epidemiological data to further enhance qualitative work with communities on routes of exposure.

Mehta came to Emory after having spent 5 years working in various sectors and countries, including an assignment with the Hubert Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health. Mehta was based in Bihar, India where she was coordinator for a randomized control trial looking at the program effectiveness of delivering multiple micronutrient powders to children 6-18 months of age with the goal to reduce iron deficiency anemia. That experience inspired her to apply to a PhD in Nutrition and Health Science. Working in rural areas of Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, and also having worked in other low income communities in Kenya and Namibia, previously, it became evident to Mehta that water and sanitation are major issues impacting work on nutrition programs on a global scale. She is therefore particularly interested in looking at the intersection of WASH and nutrition, with the aim to eventually develop and evaluate holistic programs that help communities overcome the infrastructural and implementation challenges at the cross-roads of both sectors. Mehta is also fascinated by the human gut and its role in environmental enteropathy, a sub-clinical condition that leads to poor growth outcomes in children. With the use of ELMO, this summer, Mehta hopes to be able to understand how environmental exposures such as poor WASH, mycotoxins and pesticides which may be ubiquitous in communities and global food supplies, impact infant gut integrity and growth.

Besides Mehta’s experiences in Bihar, she completed a fellowship with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Mehta specifically worked with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in New Delhi, India, between, 2013 and 2014, where she worked on a disability focused project in an urban slum, again coming face to face with WASH related challenges. Mehta also worked in the social service sector in Canada after completing her undergraduate degree in Human Biology and Psychology and Masters in Social Work, both from the University of Toronto. Additionally, Mehta has worked in Kenya with SID Canada, a Toronto based NGO and also completed an internship working with an income generation project for people with disabilities in Namibia.

Why is this work important to Mehta

“With growing industrialization and rapid development in a lot of countries, come a whole host of environmental exposures that have the potential to adversely affect human health. Since everyone across the world consumes food, and many exposures routes are oral, it is apt for us to look at the intersections of environmental exposures and their impact on gut health and growth in children. India has very high levels of stunting, and efforts are being made globally to try and understand what leads to these high rates. This study will add one very small yet important piece of knowledge to our quest to understand why malnutrition continues to plague India. I was born in India, and have likely been exposed to several of these contaminants. It would be an honor and privilege for me to be able to contribute to this growing body of knowledge and evidence and to learn more about the impacts of poor WASH, and environmental contamination on infant gut health and growth in general. The goal would be to take this knowledge and then develop evidence based programs to help countries such as India to combat these mammoth challenges by implementing and evaluating programs and policies that work.”