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Meet an Alumnus: Christian Man

Posted by on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 in Alumni, .

I am in the PhD program at Penn State. It’s a dual-title program in Rural Sociology & International Agriculture and Development in the Dept of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education.

1. Just for starters: where are you from originally and what year did you graduate from HOCD/CDA? Any fun facts we should know?

I was born in Vienna, but am a native of Memphis. I graduated from CDA in 2013. My great-great-great-great-great grandfather was the original underwriter of the Man Booker Prize, the international equivalent of the Pulitzer. I just found this out last month and think it is pretty cool.
2. Tell us about your doctoral work: Where are you studying? What year are you? What are you researching?

I am in my second semester at Penn State. My research interests have to do with challenges to smallholder agricultural development in the global South. I have two specific interests right now — informal seed systems, and large-scale land acquisitions. My geographic focus for the time being is Southeast Asia.
3. How did you get involved in this research?

I became interested in agricultural development in college. After college I worked with small farmers in Memphis in a variety of capacities — oral history, food policy, local food distribution, and urban agriculture. I pivoted to international agriculture at Penn State because other cultures interest me, and because some of the world’s most vulnerable populations are found in rural agricultural communities in the global South.
4. Why did you do HOCD and how does it relate to your further research interests?

I came to CDA to become better at community development research and practice. I learned a whole lot from people like Craig Anne Heflinger, Jim Fraser, Doug Perkins, Paul Speer, and Kimberly Bess. They taught me to see research as both critical and applied — inquiry that speaks truth to power, contests injustice, and ultimately seeks to serve people who are oppressed. These lessons helped form the basis of the research program I am putting together at Penn State.
5. What advice would you give to others who want to earn a PhD or work in your field?

One thing I did while applying to PhD programs that seemed to be helpful was getting feedback on my application — specifically my personal statement — from current PhD students. Also, in terms of identifying a potential advisor, skim through their recent publications and then request to have a phone conversation with them. This gives you a feel for their personality and their research interests




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