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Intern Scholars


Eric Heilmann

Shaan Sood portraitEric Heilmann is a recent graduate from UC Berkeley, where he received a BA in Political Science. Eric previously conducted research on the US Food for Peace program and its role in creating dependency on the US in middle- and low-income countries. As an Intern Scholar at the Oakland Institute, Eric is excited to learn more about how neocolonialism participates to global poverty and global inequality. In his free time, Eric likes to read, watch football (the American kind), go to the gym, hang out at cafes, and explore new places.

Isabella Lake

Isabella Lake portraitIsabella is a current senior at UC Berkeley, where she majors in Rhetoric and Legal Studies. At the Oakland Institute, she is interested in studying how modern land acquisitions might constitute a uniquely neoliberal form of what has been known for centuries as conquest. Outside of the office, Isabella researches welfare policy, teaches a student-led course on California homelessness, and edits a political campus publication. She loves backpacking, insects, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Soleil Mousseau

Soleil Mousseau is a sophomore at Head-Royce School in Oakland. She is pursuing her interest in how neocolonialism impacts today’s world through her internship at the Oakland Institute. Soleil is assisting (and learning) through research assignments examining the impact that neocolonial conservation practices have on Indigenous communities in Kenya.

Soleil likes to do community service activities with her friends. She also loves hiking and listening to 80s music!

Shaan Sood

Shaan Sood is a sophomore at an Oakland highschool. In addition to competing on the national parliamentary debate circuit, Shaan works as a research intern for the vice mayor of Santa Rosa. As an Intern Scholar at the Oakland Institute, Shaan is working on taking his skillset of argumentation and research ability and apply them to learning about communities led struggles to create real-world change.

Maya Tsingos

Maya Tsingos portraitMaya Tsingos is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied Biology, and spent much of her time working at the student-run garden and on urban farms. She is interested in climate justice and public health. As well as being an Intern Scholar, Maya is an EMT operating in the Bay Area. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing poetry, and doing arts and crafts.


Arjun Amin

Arjun Amin portraitArjun Amin is currently a junior at The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. Arjun is pursuing his interest in the confluence between neocolonialism and the fight against climate change through his internship at the Oakland Institute. As an Intern Scholar, Arjun has been learning and growing his skills through researching carbon credit schemes and their impacts on communities in East Africa. Arjun is an avid policy debater for his school and enjoys participating in theatre and cooking in his free time.

Soleil Mousseau

Soleil Mousseau is a sophomore at Head-Royce School in Oakland. She is pursuing her interest in how neocolonialism impacts today’s world through her internship at the Oakland Institute. Soleil is assisting (and learning) through research assignments examining the impact that neocolonial conservation practices have on Indigenous communities in Kenya.

Soleil likes to do community service activities with her friends. She also loves hiking and listening to 80s music!

Mirabai Venkatesh

Mirabai Venkatesh portraitMirabai Venkatesh is going into her second year at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies where she is pursuing her masters degree in international relations.

Mira is interested in promoting public education through research and media regarding how various facets of US foreign policy promote global power imbalances between high and middle/low income countries. During her internship at the Oakland Institute, Mira will study GHG emissions of the United States and solution offered to deal with the climate crisis. In her free time, Mira enjoys traveling and writing.

Nadine Zahiruddin

Nadine Zahiruddin portraitNadine Zahiruddin is a senior at Claremont McKenna College, where she is studying International Relations and Public Policy. Interested in the intersection between international affairs, environmental issues and human rights, her studies focus on examining global policies that fail in protecting marginalized communities and the world’s resources, and finding innovative solutions to these problems.

Nadine previously conducted research as a student assistant on the impact of palm oil plantations on Indigenous Dayaks in Indonesia and how encroachment by companies led to land dispossession and the loss of Indigenous cultures and traditions. As an Intern Scholar, Nadine is excited to gain further knowledge, alongside the Oakland Institute’s experts, about Indigenous land rights and advocacy strategies to protect welfare of the people.


McCoy Cantwell

McCoy Cantwell b&w portraitMcCoy is a senior at UC Berkeley pursuing a BA in Political Economy with a concentration in Latin American Development. Although his studies are multifaceted, he is chiefly interested in the role of agroecological peasant movements as a tool to combat ecological devastation and bring about redistributive justice.

McCoy previously worked with a research team at Berkeley's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment in an effort to build an index measuring the efficacy of national policies as they relate to sustainability, quality of life, and market structures. He believes that with the right mixture of accountable leadership, democratic participation and comprehensive support networks, every person can lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. As an Intern Scholar with the Oakland Institute, McCoy hopes to combat land dispossession, promote environmental welfare and protect the rights of the most vulnerable.

Noah Linde

Noah Linde portraitNoah Linde is an Oakland native currently studying Political Science at UC Santa Barbara. He is returning to school after a year of waiting tables and writing and performing comedy in Chicago. When he isn’t studying or providing editorial support for the Oakland Institute, Noah can usually be found biking or hiking in one of the East Bay Regional Parks.

Ben Reicher

Ben Reicher portraitBen is a senior at Pomona College, majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE), with a minor in Russian and East European Studies. He is especially interested in the economics of international development, and its intersections with human rights and environmental concerns.

In addition to being an Intern Scholar at the Oakland Institute, Ben is an opinions writer for his campus newspaper The Student Life and the policy coordinator of his local chapter of the Sunrise Movement for climate justice. He previously volunteered with a Claremont nonprofit working to make solar energy accessible and affordable for low-income households in California.

Helene Schmutzler

Helene Schmutzler portraitHelene is currently studying a M.Sc. in Sustainable Development at the KU Leuven in Europe. Specializing in the intersection between geography, ecology, and society, her studies focus on environmental justice issues and land contestations. Helene”s own research is about land grabbing in capital-intensive regions in Europe and how these processes can be distinguished from land injustices occurring in the Global South.

In her spare time, Helene is part of an urban gardening group as well as a food saving network that collaborates with various stores in Leuven to collect and distribute otherwise wasted food. She feels most at ease in the midst of a joyful, vibrant street protest, but also enjoys relaxing jam sessions in the park with her friends.

Halsey Smith

Halsey Smith portraitHalsey Smith is pursuing a joint major in Geography and Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. She studies the intersection between place and the people who occupy it. She is also interested in Philosophy and Environmental Studies.

Halsey has social media and communications experience, working with environmental organizations on the campus as well as social justice, specifically migrant farmworker justice organizations. Working as a Social Media Intern Scholar with the Oakland Institute, she is looking forward to promoting and contributing to the advocacy work of the Institute while learning more about Indigenous land rights and the intrinsic link with sustainable agriculture.


Naomi Maisel

Naomi Maisel portraitNaomi graduated at the top of her department from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia with a BA in Anthropology. While there she conducted research with the CDC on food access and diabetes and worked in a Medical Botany lab at the University to study the medicinal properties of plant life in conjunction with traditional knowledge systems.

She later received her MA in Gastronomy from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a focus on Food Anthropology and Diaspora. For her research she spent two months living in a migrant shelter in Tijuana to explore the ways asylum-seekers from different nationalities navigate their collective liminality via food choices.

Her other interests include the creation of diverse, accessible and affordable food systems within large urban cities, the use of biomimicry within engineering to mitigate and build resistance against climate change, and the preservation and integration of traditional ecological knowledge in both rural and urban societies.

Katherine O'Neill

Katherine O'Neill portraitKatherine is currently pursuing a BA in International Relations from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. She also studies French and Arabic. She spent a semester in Amman, Jordan studying Arabic and Geopolitics in the Middle East. She has been recognized for her research on the impact of gender quotas on the role of women in the Mexican government. Katherine has also published an article on the role of education in female labor force participation in Morocco.

Katherine's academic interests include female labor force participation, democratic participation, sustainable agriculture, and rural development. She is writing a year-long senior thesis on the origins and effects of gender quotas for women in government in different countries. As an Intern Scholar at the Oakland Institute, Katherine will explore the impact of land titling programs on local and Indigenous smallholder farms that currently use traditional land tenure and stewardship systems.


Jessie Green

Jessie GreenJessie is currently pursuing a BA in Environment and Development with minors in International Development and Social Entrepreneurship at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. She has written for Catalyst — McGill’s International Development Studies online platform for news, features, and opinions in international development.

Jessie’s academic interests include agroecology, food sovereignty, environmental justice, alternative energy, and urban planning. She is passionate about understanding the structural causes of inequality around the world and the ways in which systems, institutions, and globalization perpetuate asymmetric power structures. At the Oakland Institute, Jessie will explore the role of multinational corporations in land grabs that undermine indigenous land rights, local livelihoods, and ecological resiliency.


Hana Bracale

Hana BracaleHana Bracale is an undergraduate at College of the Atlantic (COA) where she majors in Human Ecology and studies a range of issues at the intersection of economy, society, and environment, with a particular focus on Food Systems and Climate Change.

Hana is actively engaged in campaigning for progressive issues, policies and candidates, working within her academic institutions and municipal government to implement sustainable practices locally, as a communications staffer on progressive state and federal election campaigns, and as an organizer and activist for climate justice at the grassroots and within international policy spheres. As an Intern Scholar at the Oakland Institute, Hana is particularly interested in considering the relative impact different methodological approaches, such as research-based advocacy or innovative business initiatives, might have in manifesting a more just and sustainable food system.


Paola Langer

Paola LangerTrained as a sociologist, Paola has spent the last 3 years conducting critical evaluations of Chilean public programs that address inequality in different dimensions, such as pension, pay gaps, access to health and housing, and protection of women under the law. She has also taught historical sociology, introductory sociological theory, and introductory social methodology as adjunct instructor at Chilean University for over five years.

Motivated by the belief that public policy must be informed by evidence-based research in order to create more efficient, effective and ethically responsible programs, Paola is interested in studying social inequality from a global and environmental perspective. During her time at the Oakland Institute, she is interested in studying how the economic development paradigm propagated by International Institutions such as the World Bank in the developing world affect people’s livelihoods and daily well-being.

Josephin Robinette

Josephine RobinetteJosephin Robinette is currently pursuing an MA in Global Studies organized jointly by the University of Freiburg, the University of Cape Town and Chulalongkorn University with a focus on political science and sociology. She has written on human rights in regard to migration and discrimination of LGBTQI, the international refugee regime, changes of the World Bank development discourse from the 1980s until the 2000s and land rights in Madagascar.

Josephin is interested in the links between international institutions, actions of governments, and policy formation and implementation. She sees policy making structures as the starting points in order to change social and economic inequalities, security issues and environmental degradation. Therefore, providing incontestable information to base future actions and policies on, is what Josephin is looking forward to during her time at the Oakland Institute.


Kevin Hull

Kevin Hull is a graduate of San José State University, where he created his own major in order to study music and global development in tandem. Since then, he has worked for a ballet company, an online education startup, and a music school in the Himalayas, and is constantly seeking ways to bridge the arts with development and social justice.

In his work at the Oakland Institute, Kevin will be exploring land rights, and the ways that powerful corporations and governments can undermine not just security and prosperity, but also traditional values and lifestyles. He hopes that his research and advocacy can help preserve the richness and diversity of human societies around the world.

Sasha Kramer

Sasha is pursuing a BA in Environmental Studies with a minor in International and Global Studies at Portland State University. Sasha writes for two student-run newspapers at her University on politics of international aid and development and global environmental issues. She intends to continue her academic career into graduate school.

Sasha's academic interests are in cultural and political geography, international relations, development and globalization. She is passionate about human rights, land rights, political and food-based social movements and Latin American history. As an Intern Scholar at Oakland Institute, Sasha hopes to expose the human rights violations associated with land grab schemes perpetuated by multinational corporations.

Anna Peare

Anna Peare is a recent graduate of UC Davis where she studied Community and Regional Development and Spanish. Her senior honors thesis examined the issue of Central American unaccompanied child migration to the United States, specifically focusing on mental health implications on children. She intends to continue her academic career in graduate school and to receive a Masters in Public Health.


Elizabeth Fraser

Elizabeth is currently finishing her Master's of Arts in Global Governance at the University of Waterloo's Balsillie School of International Affairs. Her focus has been on understanding national and international responses to famine. She is interesting in understanding the impact of international food aid and humanitarian interventions in crisis regions, and is examining whether tools such as commodity exchange markets and derivative contracts help or hinder agricultural development in East Africa.

Before her Master's, Elizabeth was the Partnership Manager at Community Food Centres Canada (Toronto) where she worked with communities across Canada to build alternatives to food banks, ensuring people in of all incomes have access to safe, healthy and affordable food. She has also worked as a consultant and program intern with The J. W. McConnell Family Foundation. This included conducting a cross-country scan of community food security initiatives in Canada, which directly led to the creation of a multi-year granting program on sustainable food systems. Her previous work experience has led to a deep passion about food policies that focus on increasing access to food in low-income regions municipally, nationally and internationally.

Elizabeth is an avid cyclist, cook, and gardener, and can be found cycling in the Berkeley Hills each weekend.

Abner Hauge

Abner Hauge is the illustrator of My Home, My Land. He is pursuing a BA in International Studies and a BFA in Fine Arts at CSU East Bay and looking forward to a career in international relations journalism and to combine such work with comic books. He has storyboarded for a film, drafted a textbook proposal, and drawn countless pages of comics in his life as an illustrator.

Abner's academic interests are in international relations, media studies and the advancement of the medium of comics. His work as an Intern Scholar at the Oakland Institute is at the intersection of all three of those fields: developing ways to discuss the truth behind corporate-led development and land-grab crises through the symbiosis of words and pictures.

NaYeon Kim

NaYeon Kim is currently studying Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and works as a research assistant at the Environmental Science Policy Department on the conflict between artisanal and industrial fisheries in Ghana. NaYeon is passionate about promoting sustainable agriculture and is interested in how national agricultural policies are determined.

Through interning at Oakland Institute, NaYeon hopes to better understand the challenges sustainable agriculture faces at the political and social level.

Peiley Lau

Peiley graduated from Stanford University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Economics. During her studies at Stanford, she researched the effects of agricultural subsidies on American corn production and the impact of urban food deserts on African-American health. Peiley has worked on a Midwestern organic family farm implementing sustainable agricultural practices. She currently teaches nutrition and healthful cooking courses to the underserved immigrant community of East Palo Alto.

Peiley's academic interests include the role of sustainable food systems in developing economies, the impact of international aid on agriculture and health, food security, and food sovereignty.

Stephane Nanga

Stephane Nanga is a 4th year undergraduate student majoring in Political Science and minoring in Public Policy at University of California, Berkeley. His interests include land investments in Africa, the politics of development, economic inequality, and international trade policies.

Nanga was a Research Assistant in the Political Science Department of UC Berkeley where he worked on a study that assessed the effectiveness and level of autonomy of anti-corruption agencies in African countries. As an intern at the Oakland Institute, Nanga hopes to refine his understanding of the structural barriers to development in low-income countries, and contribute to the research and advocacy work of the Institute.

Sophie Weiss

Sophie Weiss is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, with a degree in Geography focusing on International Development. While in school, Sophiespent a semester working with a Mexican immigrant community to build a community garden in Southern California, and spent six months in Nepal studying language and researching the World Bank's Poverty Alleviation Fund in the middle hill region. At Sarah Lawrence, she researched American urban agriculture as a form of community development and the layered impacts of multiple international aid programs in areas of conflict in Central and East Africa.

Sophie is passionate about international resource and land rights, globalization, local food systems, food security, and state sovereignty. She is a printmaker and vegan cook outside of the Oakland Institute, and enjoys drawing connections between her academic, creative, and culinary projects through themes of community, ecology, and sustainability.


Dylan Farrell-Bryan

Dylan is a recent graduate of Smith College with a dual degree in Sociology and the Study of Women and Gender, with a concentration in sustainable food and globalization.

While in school, she worked as an environmental justice organizer at Nuestras Raices in Massachusetts. Recently, she worked at Observatorio Migrantes del Caribe in the Dominican Republic, where she carried out research on Haitian to Dominican migration, citizenship, and human rights.

Her academic interests include migration, globalization, labor, and access to food and land in Latin America. She plans to pursue her PhD in Sociology.

A recent transplant to the Bay Area, Dylan is looking forward to gardening on the West Coast.

Haley Kaplan

Haley is a rising senior at Emory University majoring in both Anthropology and Psychology.
At Emory she is involved with the International Community School tutoring refugee students and spent the fall of 2013 in Vienna, Austria teaching English to immigrant students from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Haley's academic interests include food sovereignty and understanding the causes of and policies related to food insecurity, as well as education and education policy in both the United States and developing countries. She has taken several classes concentrating on development studies in Africa and plans on focusing on international development after she graduates from Emory.

Faris Mohammed

Faris is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management with a concentration in global environmental politics.

Faris studied global environmental issues to understand the relationship between affluence in some countries and crippling poverty in others. His interests include grassroots organization in developing countries, alternative energy solutions, and environmental justice. Faris came to the Oakland Institute to help build the understanding of the global issues of development through a collective effort. In addition to highlighting the problems of development, Faris is particularly interested in how affected communities respond to and present alternatives to development.

To better understand how he can make a difference, Faris hopes to enter law school and become an advocate for disadvantaged communities in the U.S. and across the globe.

Jettie Word

Jettie recently graduated from the London School of Economics and Sciences Po, Paris, where she received a Masters of Public Administration in Sustainable and International Development. Her academic research focused on land-use policy and took her to Mexico City, where she studied the complexities of agriculture and ecological conservation in a sprawling urban setting. Jettie has also studied domestic agricultural issues, and produced extensive research on the U.S. Farm Bill.

Jettie is interested in global and local trends in agriculture and conservation, and how the complexities of globalization interact with local initiatives.


Melanie Berkowitz

Melanie is a 2012 graduate of Brown University with an undergraduate degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Her academic interests include international agricultural trade, labor rights, rising food prices, and supply chain transparency.

Melanie has worked to improve employment conditions and living wages for workers across the food supply chain. As a paralegal at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP, she helped represent restaurant employees in New York City who were victims of wage theft and discrimination. She has also advocated alongside the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to pressure supermarkets into signing a fair food agreement that would improve working conditions in Florida's tomato fields. Melanie is passionate about exploring the interconnectedness between international trade, access to food, food aid, and land rights.

Borghild Bråtveit

Borghild is currently studying for a master of science degree in Globalization, Global Politics, and Culture at the Norwegian University of Technology and Science. Her academic interests include global food systems, understanding large scale land investments, food aid and development assistance policies, industrial versus organic farming practices and land rights issues.

Borghild is passionate about climate change and sustainability, and through her involvement with the non-governmental organization Future in Our Hands, she works towards changing the notion that individuals are powerless in today’s globalized world. She is driven by the belief that the choices we make every day matter, and together we are able to build a better, more sustainable world for all.

Luis Flores

Luis is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with undergraduate degrees in Political Economy and History. His academic interests include postcolonialism, international development, the political economy of higher education, and institutional change. His writing has been published in the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, the Berkeley Political Review, the Daily Californian, and the Berkeley Planning Journal. A recipient of the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate Prize, Luis will spend the 2013-14 school year along the US-Mexico border exploring the relationship between transnational credit dependence, Mexican structural adjustment, and immigration policy in the context of the Great Recession.

Luis is committed to producing research that not only addresses the needs of the marginalized but is also generated with these communities.

Graham Savio

Graham is a graduate student at UC Davis, where he is completing dual Masters degrees in International Agricultural Development and Agricultural and Resource Economics. Prior to his graduate studies, Graham worked in Uganda with a fair trade cocoa and vanilla company, and spent the summer of 2012 facilitating needs assessments among the company’s smallholder producers in eastern DR Congo. He currently works on the UC Davis Student Farm and is collaborating with a Ugandan research institute on a participatory plant-breeding project through USAID’s Horticulture CRSP program.

His interests lie at the confluence of smallholder production and international agricultural trade, and include the role of agroforestry, agroecology, and producer certification schemes in agricultural production systems.

Brittany Young

Brittany is a 2013 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she studied Africa, English literature, and anthropology. Her thesis on customary land grabs in South Africa won the Nnamdi Azikiwe Prize at Penn. Her research interests include rural social transformations, global neoliberal politics, structures of inequality, and land grabs in African countries. She plans to pursue her PhD in anthropology.

Since 2007, Brittany has been the president of A Spring of Hope, an NGO that partners with rural South African schools to provide clean drinking water and economic development projects. Before the Oakland Institute, she interned at the Bureau of African Affairs in the US Department of State and at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy. In spring 2013, she was a guest faculty member at the Drexel University School of Public Health, lecturing online on the global water crisis and its impact on education.


Khalid Mwakoba

Khalid Mwakoba has a bachelors degree in Geography and Environmental Studies and is currently working on his master's thesis in natural resources management and assessment at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Khalid is also a distance-based master's student in Geographical Information System at Lund University, Sweden.

As an undergraduate, Khalid was an environmental education volunteer for Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, a local leading environmental body reaching communities through radio programs and on-site visits. At present, he is a part-time language and cross-cultural facilitator for US Peace Corps Tanzania, training the volunteers in community-based training sites.

Khalid's interests are biodiversity, agriculture, land rights, cultural matters, climate change, human rights, and globalization.


Agazit Abate

Agazit received her BA in International Development Studies and MA in African Studies from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Her academic interests included African cinema, cultural production, and narratives of resistance. She currently works at UCLA's Center for World Languages in the International Institute and is a research associate for an urban agriculture non-profit in Los Angeles.

Her areas of interest include food sovereignty, farmers’ rights, land rights and land grab, climate change, sustainable development and social justice.

Caroline Bergdolt

Caroline completed nearly 10 years of business-to-business research in the US and France. She is now pursuing her interests in social and environmental justice. She is currently completing a Master’s in Cultural and Social Anthropology at CIIS in San Francisco. Her academic work focuses on environmental injustice and biodiversity loss, especially in the context of land grabs from traditional/ indigenous farmers. She has spent time in the field, building alliances and conducting research in both the West Bank and Ecuador.

Areas of interest: globalization, land rights and displacement, small-scale agriculture, indigenous rights, climate change, and biodiversity.

Grace Phillips

Grace Phillips is a Morehead Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Environmental Geography with focus on theories of value, knowledge, existence, as well as spatial distribution patterns of biota. She hopes to unite these disciplines in her interest in conceptions of land use and ownership and it's translation into resource management policy.

Grace has spent time working with indigenous and impoverished populations in Guatemala, Madagascar, Mongolia and North Carolina. These experiences inform her interests in globalization, autonomy, food sovereignty, climate change, sustainable food systems, and international trade.