Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Hartz, MAIS ’10

I began my career in finance and banking before finally listening to the voice in my head imploring me to look for something more. As I was finishing a two year stint in Peace Corps Ghana I knew that a graduate degree was the next step in my career transition. One of the difficulties I faced was deciding which type of degree to seek and where. I discovered that USF was inaugurating a MAIS program and, fortunately for me, I was accepted into the first cohort.

Visiting artisan workshop in Mozambique
Dan at an artisan workshop in Mozambique.

Were it not for the individual, close relationships that MAIS faculty fostered with each of us students I’m not sure where I would be right now. As it happened, one professor introduced me to a USF graduate who founded a small investment firm that at the time was working on a unique agriculture investment in Ghana. It was a perfect fit and my internship with Golden Mean Capital Partners (GMCP) began almost immediately. The MAIS coursework helped me bring a different perspective to a GMCP team that was made up exclusively of finance professionals. In turn, the work we undertook in Ghana informed and shaped my graduate thesis: Integrating Venture & Philanthropic Capital in sub-Saharan Africa’s Agriculture Sector.

My MAIS internship, which became a full-time job after graduation, has taken me back to Ghana several times as well as Zambia, Mozambique, Mauritius and South Africa. For the past two and a half years I have been working with the Sustainable Cotton Cluster in South Africa to help provide unique financial solutions for revitalizing the country’s cotton sector. I also helped to found and grow the African Diaspora Network, a non-profit dedicated to furthering economic and social development across the continent.

Inspecting artisanal products in Mozambique
Inspecting artisanal products in Mozambique.

I think it says a lot about USF that both of the ventures I am involved in – each focused on inclusive growth and positive social impact – were founded by and include multiple team members that are graduates. I believe there is a shared sense that together we can do more. And it all began at USF.


Alumni Spotlight: Andrew Shaffer, MAIS ’12

“…the study habits I learned from MAIS faculty, the research skills I learned from seminars, the knowledge I gained from course readings, and the friendships I made with other students and staff have helped me at every step of the way.”

Shortly after graduating from MAIS, I started working for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), a San Francisco based nonprofit that provides legal training and advocacy for immigrant rights. My position there required extensive writing and editing, as well as managing fundraising events. At the ILRC I quickly realized how lucky I was to have received such excellent training in writing and research from MAIS faculty. Their feedback helped to hone my writing skills, and my boss later told me that my ability to write succinctly and persuasively helped me land the job. Additionally, keeping on top of the research that led up to my final thesis helped prepare me for managing events at the ILRC, developing my competence in handling competing priorities and rigid deadlines.

Now, as a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin, I am so grateful for the classes I took at USF and the continued mentorship of MAIS faculty. Dr. Kaiser was incredibly helpful in selecting and completing a final thesis project, even after my original plan imploded a few weeks into fieldwork. The research I did for my MAIS thesis on LGBTQ rights in Argentina helped lay a lot of the groundwork for my dissertation, which looks at changes in LGBTQ spaces in San Francisco. Even more importantly, the study habits I learned from MAIS faculty, the research skills I learned from seminars, the knowledge I gained from course readings, and the friendships I made with other students and staff have helped me at every step of the way. I couldn’t have known where I would end up while I was still in MAIS, but the experiences I had at USF have served me well in a wide variety of environments.

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Can GM crops help African farmers?

Written by Professor Brian Dowd-Uribe

Since serving in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa, I have been very interested in schemes to improve food security in rural Africa. One of the most promoted schemes is the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops. Proponents like Robert Paarlberg and Calestous Juma claim that they are needed technologies to boost agricultural productivity and address regional food insecurities. Moreover they claim there is a moral imperative to make these useful technologies available to poor farmers. If they are good for Global North productivity, why can’t they help African productivity? On the other hand, opponents such as Vandana Shiva and a host of non-governmental organizations claim they will primarily benefit the relatively rich at the expense of poor peasant farmers.

Before diving in to the debate, we should first explore whether GM crops have been adopted in Africa, and what we know about their performance. To date, only two GM crops – insect-resistant forms of cotton and maize – have made it into the hands of African farmers. Of these, GM cotton has the longest empirical track record, having been the first GM crop ever introduced in Africa, and the only one that has been grown in multiple countries – first South Africa, then Burkina Faso. The performance of this crop has received intense scrutiny, as it offers the best indication of how the suite of other GM crops slated for commercial approval may perform across the continent.


In 2003, Burkina Faso, in partnership with Monsanto, became one of the first African countries to begin field trials of Bt cotton, the most commonly grown GM crop in the developing world. Bt refers to a toxin – Bacillus thuringiensis – that kills one of the world’s most common and pernicious cotton pests, the bollworm. Monsanto agreed to backcross the Bt gene onto local Burkinabè varieties, which were subsequently released to farmers in 2008. With more than 140,000 smallholder farmers cultivating Bt cotton, Burkina Faso has the largest number of total GM crops producers on the African continent, and is celebrated as an example for how GM crops can help poor farmers.

Farmers have enthusiastically adopted the technology, and for good reason. Despite the very high cost of Bt cotton seed, studies show that Bt cotton has increased yields and profits – with an average Bt cotton farming family gaining 50% more profit than from conventional cotton. Moreover, Bt cotton growers use significantly less noxious pesticides. The total number of sprayings has gone down from 6 to 2, reducing exposure of damaging chemicals and saving valuable labour time. Other studies, including my own work, acknowledges these benefits, but questions whether this is the most equitable development strategy; it may benefit principally those farmers who are already doing well – and be too risky of an investment for those farmers with small plots of land or less capital.


But the development outcomes of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso may soon be a thing of the past. Our recently published work reports that the inferior lint quality of Bt cotton has caused severe economic losses for Burkinabè cotton companies prompting a complete phase out of all Bt cotton production over the next two years. Company officials and Monsanto representatives cite two problems with lint quality. First, Bt varietals produce shorter, less desirable lint. The shorter length means poorer quality, which in turn means a lower price on the international market. Second, even though cotton yields are up, the amount of lint ginning machines is able to extract from the picked cotton has diminished. In other words, Bt cotton produces both less cotton lint, and lint of an inferior quality.

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Current MAIS Student Jose Zacarias Blogs During his Immersion Trip to Puebla


F15 MAIS student Jose Zacarias is spending his spring break on an immersion trip to Puebla, Mexico. Follow his adventures and insights on his blog – Here is an excerpt:

Preparing for Puebla

While reading and studying the global economy produces fascinating discoveries nothing can compare to being immersed in a Country’s culture and economy. Saturday I will be traveling to Puebla, Mexico, and while I’m excited for the hopes of visiting Cholula, one of the oldest inhabited cities in Mexico, and feasting on Mole Pueblano on my first visit ever, the majority of my excitement comes from visiting a place that is today known as a transit site for Central American migrants making their treacherous way to the U.S. – Mexico border. Interestingly enough, Puebla is also rapidly becoming a hot spot for multinational corporations, like Audi (Coincidence?).


UPDATE: Click here to listen to an interview conducted on Ibero Radio station about his experience in Puebla.

Student Spotlight: Meron Semedar, MAIS

…I know already my education at MAIS is playing a crucial role in growing and impacting more lives.

Meron Semedar speaking on country condition at the 11th United Nations Youth Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Meron at the 11th United Nations Youth Assembly in New York – United Nations Headquarters.

My experience as a Master of Arts in International Studies student at the University of San Francisco by Meron Semedar

Having done significant advocacy work in a number of areas including human rights, refugee, migration, and youth empowerment, among others, I was actively seeking to find a program that would broaden my knowledge in these areas and expand my knowledge around world issues. After searching, I came across the Masters of Art in International Studies (MAIS) program at the University of San Francisco. An interdisciplinary program that was the closest to perfection that I could find. What I also appreciated about the program was that they are not just fixated on GPA but they take a holistic approach by also considering a lot of other criteria such as your involvement with organizations, articles you published, awards, speeches you gave, traveling experiences, places you lived among other societies, and even your outside interests (mine was running marathons for a cause). This made me even appreciate the program more because we all know students are more than merely an academic GPA. This also allows for an entering class that is comprised of students from a broad range of different backgrounds.

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Internship Search 101

Finding the right summer internship for you. 

Summer internships are a meaningful and substantial way to gain experience, exposure, and knowledge in your field. Yet, the process can often feel overwhelming. Here are a few tips to get you on track, keep you motivated, and help you secure an amazing internship.  

Define + Refine Your Search.

Spending time mindlessly combing through websites and job postings is likely going to leave you feeling discouraged. Instead, start by thinking critically about the opportunities and experiences you want. For starters, reflect on some of the following:

  • What skills are you hoping to develop?
  • What are your research interests?
  • Is the mission of the company/organization important to you? What about the size?
  • What are your non-negotiable items?
  • Does location matter?
  • What resources do you have available?

Defining the goals and objectives for your internship, as well as other contributing factors, will give you the opportunity to focus your time and energy toward finding a rewarding experience.

Make A Schedule.

Searching for an internship while still upholding your class and other commitments can be a challenge. Creating a schedule is one of the best ways to stay focused. For example, you could consider dedicating one hour on Mondays to researching, one hour on Tuesdays to networking, and one hours on Wednesday to submitting applications. Giving yourself structure and defined tasks will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and keep you motivated.


Let the Internet Work for You.

With a plan in place, it is time to turn to internship and job databases to help you identify possible opportunities. In particular, be sure to check out these websites:

Be creative with your filters to help you identify the best opportunities for you based on your goals and objectives.  

Utilize Your Network.

Think you need to know hundreds of people to get an internship? Not exactly. You simply need to know how to strategically network, both in person and online. is one of the greatest networking tools at your disposal. If you’re interested in an opportunity at a specific company or in a particular region, utilize LinkedIn’s search filters to find people you may know, either directly or by way of another connection, who meet your criteria. Then reach out to them! Send them a message and ask if they would be willing to spend 10 minutes talking to you about their experience. Not only will this help you better understand the industry (which will give you a leg up in interviews) but it may increase the chances that your resume makes it out of the stack and into someone’s hands.

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