2016 Global Research Trips
A generous gift from the Friends of Stanford University Foundation in Taiwan enabled SGS to award 21 "Global Perspectives" grants to fund graduate student research abroad. Read about their experiences below:
Feasibility of Digital Textbook Adoption in Schools & Libraries in Ghana
Ethan Hamilton, David Jonason, and Nadia Anggraini
For their research, Hamilton, Jonason and Anggraini travelled to Ghana to meet with key stakeholders in the education sector as part of a project to advocate for the institutionalization of e-readers in schools and libraries throughout the country. The team met with a variety of figures, ranging from the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service, to textbook publishers and printers, as well as education nonprofits and multilateral organizations. "Through candid conversations, we were able to obtain a rich understanding of the country’s education landscape, priorities and challenges," they reported. Additionally, the team was able to visit two primary schools and two libraries in the Accra area. "Through these visits, we were able to judge for ourselves the feasibility of implementing e-readers in schools and libraries in Ghana, given the infrastructural and capacity contexts of these institutions," the students wrote. They were also able to speak with principals, teachers, and librarians to gather their opinions on implementing e-reader technologies in their institutions. "Overall, the trip was a fantastic experience for the team, and we believe it will go a long way in helping us produce a more nuanced and realistic deliverable for our client. Policy recommendations should never be made in a vacuum – even a vacuum as hallowed as the walls of Stanford University – and we are grateful to SGS for providing us the opportunity to conduct on-the-ground research to inform our final recommendations."
Identifying Fragile States for Nuru International’s Expansion
Emma traveled to Isebania, Kenya, for research she conducted on behalf of her practicum project client, Nuru International, which is a U.S. based social venture that equips the poor living in remote, rural areas to end extreme poverty in their communities. "This travel provided an opportunity to better understand Nuru’s model and integrate those insights into our recommendations for expansion," Kelsey wrote. During this visit, she was able to meet with Nuru leadership based in both the U.S. and Kenya, as well as local staff on the ground managing operations in the areas of agriculture, health, and education, as well as functional roles in monitoring and evaluation, data analytics, and human resources. She spent three full days on the ground with Nuru, spending one day each with their agriculture, education, and health teams, as they went into the field and met with the populations that they serve. "These field visits were incredibly helpful for understanding how Nuru has developed its model and how they might replicate in the new environments that we are recommending," she said. "This research has allowed us to produce a report that better suits Nuru’s needs, and it is my hope that the report will serve Nuru well in their goal of ending extreme poverty."
Governance and Land Reform in Sub-Saharan Africa
David Lee, Rui Du, Swain Uber, Leah Nosal
Du, Lee, Nosal and Uber traveled to Tanzania to research land tenure and climate change and how it affects women in the country. "Fieldwork was so crucial for our project to see what was happening on the ground. Moreover, as gendered land tenure issues are becoming more visible in developing countries, we hope that potential lessons learned in Tanzania can be applied in other countries interested in changing policy to help women vis-à-vis land tenure." The team met with government officials, multilateral agencies, local NGOs, international NGOs, businesses, research centers, and farmers both in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. After meeting with these various stakeholders, a clear takeaway was that policies from Dodoma, the capital, often get lost in the implementation stage. "Now, our team is looking at design options for something like localized implementation centers, which can be monitored by local officials, where policies can be streamlined and implemented in an efficient and accurate manner." Another big trend that came out from their meetings was the need for technology to play a role in mitigating climate change. "We found that farmers need more accurate and timely weather data, as weather patterns are beginning to change (especially in Northern Tanzania), so that farmers can possibly change crops that can handle large influxes in weather patterns. We also found that there was a big need for accurate and timely market price data for crops," they wrote. "We are currently looking at previous agricultural mobile tech used in Tanzania (with help from Technoserve) and its neighbors to see if we can build on top of existing programs, or create new ones going forward."
Russian Investment in Solar Energy
McGinnity conducted research in Yerevan, Armenia for his capstone project in the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, which analyzes recent Russian investment in and development of solar technology by governmental, corporate, and educational sectors. In his research, he examines how Russia’s current political and economic situation has spurred interest in non-petroleum based energy sources, and will explore potential markets for Russian solar technology. He finds that Armenia is the most likely destination for Russian solar technology, due to geographical proximity, weighted Russian influence in Armenia’s government and economy, and the Armenian government’s codified commitment to developing renewable energy technology.
"Understanding Russia’s desire to develop and export solar panels only addresses the supply side of the equation. It was therefore necessary to discuss the demand side of renewable energy technology in Armenia, including governmental renewable policy, infrastructural feasibility, and funding mechanisms with experts in the field," he wrote. From December 10 to December 21, 2015, he interviewed members of government, think tank, international finance, and educational sectors to discuss the validity of his research topic.
Understanding Chinese Censorship Through the WeChat Platform
During his trip to Beijing, China, over the winter break, Mian Luo furthered his experiment on the WeChat blog platform to understand how censorship in China allows government complaints, but removes criticism.
Based at the Stanford Center at Peking University, he hired two research assistants from Peking University to help sift through data, and two coders to read and rate each blog article to determine why some were censored while others were not. "The grant from Stanford Global Studies greatly advanced my thesis research in progress of analyzing my data collected in the Chinese Internet," he wrote. "I am now in the process of writing my thesis based on the results of the analysis on the data. My thesis will be completed in the Spring quarter and I will send it to be reviewed by top peer-review journals."