The Lethem Summer Fellowship is awarded every year to those MIDP fellows who work with program alumni for their summer internships. The Lethem Summer Fellowship is generously funded by professor emeritus Dr. Francis Lethem, former Director of DCID.  Learn about this year’s recipients, Rodrigo and Kalkidan:


Rodrigo Guajardo, Chile

I come from San Fernando, a little town in southern Chile. Where I am from, it’s not very common to come to a famous U.S. university, so I’m very grateful for this opportunity.

I studied economics at the University of Chile. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I started my career in a government agency, designing public policies for young people. But after two years, I really wanted to be in the real world, in the field, so I decided to apply for Teach for Chile, which is a Chilean affiliate of Teach for America. I worked for two years as a math teacher in a low-income school in Santiago. From there, I moved into the private sector as a consultant. Right before coming here, I actually worked on a presidential campaign in Chile. Though our candidate lost his primary, he’s actually first in the national polls now and we hope he will win the election in four years.

 I chose the MIDP program so that I could continue to improve my skills and best serve my country.

After being here for a year, I can’t say that I have it all figured out just yet—but to me, that’s a good thing. Being here at Sanford, I’ve learned from my classmates from all over the world and learned that we have a huge range of social problems and a huge range of possible solutions. The program has taught me that there’s not just one answer for every question. Here I have learned to be more humble and to understand that there are no unique truths.

I will be working at the IFC in the World Bank this summer, interning with Shoghik Hovhannisyan (MIDP ’06) who is a research officer in the development impact unit. The IFC is the private sector hand of the World Bank—they are still working on social problems, just through a different means. Instead of focusing funds on governments, they are focusing on investment through private companies that will generate positive public impacts. In this internship, I will be working on project evaluation. Before supporting a project, we want to see the logic of the project and their impacts on poverty, economies and environment. It’s a bit of crunching numbers, but I love math! I am following the advice of Prof. Sandeep and Fernholz here and looking forward to applying what I have learned so far.

When I get back to Sanford, I hope to continue strengthening my network and friendship with my classmates. Everyone here has amazing life experiences and professional backgrounds. We have a community here and we can learn from each other still, even when we’re back in our home countries. As Duke Alumni’s we will have the duty to do our best to reduce the inequalities that our countries still suffer.  



Kalkidan Lakew, Ethiopia

I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. I have a bachelor’s degree in sociology and social anthropology and a master’s degree in human rights, both from Addis Ababa University. One year after I completed my undergraduate program I earned a scholarship for high-performing female students, which allowed me to pursue my master’s degree free of charge.  It was an enormous privilege.

Before coming to Duke, I was working at the Ethiopia office of CARE, an international organization dedicated to defeat poverty and achieve social justice. I served as a gender equity and diversity officer and my mission was to help transform the organization’s leadership structure. We made recruitment and promotion merit-based, instead of only focusing on education or experience, to try to address the opportunity gaps for women and for low-income men. When I started, the leadership was 23% women, and three years later, they had reached 47%. I also designed and launched a female only internship program to bring young female graduates to the sector. We truly shook everything up; it was challenging but also really rewarding to see such a tangible impact.

After that project, I was promoted to a cross-country thematic leader position, working as an advisor for two projects. The food-sufficiency for farmers program with the vision to ensure that farmers, specifically women, had access to credit and support them to diversify their economic activities. The other project focuses on organization transformation, implemented in Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia and works with CARE offices and partners for effective integration of gender in the organization’s structure.

I’m actually here in the MIDP program on an Open Society fellowship. My colleague at CARE shared the program, the Civil Society Leadership Award, and we decided to apply. It was a rigorous process with several rounds of essays and interviews. In the end, it was the OSF program manager who recommended Duke based on my experience and what I wanted to learn next.

I’ve had a lot of experience at the grassroots level, and it’s clear that level of work is important for achieving real bottom-to-top change. However, there are challenges at the policy level that we must address differently. In Ethiopia, sometimes we adopt policies and strategies from other countries that just don’t work in our context. For example in agricultural development, some of the strategy ideas from the last 27 years have been successful in certain ways, but we’re still a chronically food insecure country. So there’s room for real improvement. I came to the MIDP program to learn more about policy and strategy development so I could sharpen my skills in that area.

This summer I will be at Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) working with Teale Yalch (MIDP ’15). Their focus is eliminating malnutrition by supporting public-private partnership to increase access to the nutrient-rich diets necessary for people. I will be working on both innovation in the food system and the business-to-business (B2B) stakeholder alliances. They’ve launched the first alliance in Nigeria and they want to expand to Indonesia and Ethiopia. What attracted me to GAIN is that they are an NGO, but to accomplish their mission they’re engaging financial institutions, private sector businesses, governments, and civil society to work together. 

My background has been in gender, youth empowerment and agriculture issues, and since I’ve been here in the MIDP program I’ve been working on issues of land rights, so I am excited to link my summer experience with GAIN to my own interests and use it to inform my master’s project. When I return next year, I am looking forward to really gaining more quantitative skills. I feel that’s where my gap is, so I’m ready to push myself.


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