Penn State Graduates Benefit from International Experience

Posted: September 9, 2015

Where are they now? Three recent Penn State INTAD graduate students are pursuing successful careers.
Kristin Babbie, graduate of INTAD and rural sociology, is currently working as a development consultant at the William Davidson Institute

Kristin Babbie, graduate of INTAD and rural sociology, is currently working as a development consultant at the William Davidson Institute

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Recent Penn State graduate students who earned dual degrees in an international program are now pursuing successful careers.

The students were enrolled in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ International Agriculture and Development (INTAD) dual-title degree program. According to Deanna Behring, director of international programs, the program provides students with international perspectives and expertise to strengthen their primary graduate degree.

Kristal Jones, doctor of rural sociology and INTAD graduate, is currently a food systems research scientist at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center at the University of Maryland. Jones conducts research in water and food systems and assists and manages the SESYNC-USDA collaborative Data to Motivate Synthesis program. The program supports data integration, analysis and visualization to catalyze research around building resilient food systems.

Jones said that her participation in the INTAD program allowed her to gain international resources and expertise and the ability to look at her current research from a global perspective. “INTAD developed my interest in courses outside of my primary area of study and was very instrumental in helping me understand how agricultural research works,” she explained.

Jones’ previous research looked at formal and informal crop seed systems in West Africa. She assessed both the market and social systems in place in West Africa to determine how seeds move through the system. “The INTAD program made it possible for me to travel to West Africa and work with plant scientists to learn about agricultural systems and practices,” she said.  “Meeting with researchers in West Africa before developing my thesis on the dimensions of agriculture decisions was invaluable.”

Another student, Kristin Babbie, earned master’s degrees in rural sociology and INTAD and is currently a project administrator in development consulting services at the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.

Babbie’s international experiences in the INTAD program include assisting with the development of a life skills program in Kenya, conducting social science research related to sustainable agriculture in Italy, and participating in the capstone course in Trinidad & Tobago focusing on food security.

She credits the INTAD program with helping her obtain her current position, which has an international focus. “In my current role I concentrate on project management ¬– having research and project experiences in the field. Because of the INTAD program, I can relate better to the technical team and provide clients with effective services. I’m very grateful for my INTAD experience, it allowed me to learn in a global context and motivated me to pursue a career in international development.”

Babbie also said how well the program meshed with her rural sociology studies, saying that the coursework was manageable and allowed her to put knowledge into practice through international research while earning a second degree.

Another student, Sulav Paudel, returned to his native Nepal to become the agriculture and IPM program coordinator at International Development Enterprises after completing master degrees in entomology and INTAD in 2013. “My major role is to technically backstop IPM Innovation Lab, a project funded by USAID to support the Feed the Future Initiative.”
Paudel said the most important thing INTAD provided was the international experience through two research awards. “I was also able to extend my research work to Brazil and Bangladesh to test my hypothesis in a different context. Similarly, I went to Russia to do a study on status of agriculture in rural Russia and the role of extension education as a part of my INTAD degree. I believe that these international trips helped me learn more about the basic knowledge and ideas regarding agriculture, rural society and the thinking that drives farmers to change.”  
According to Paudel, INTAD helped him to prepare for a position in the field of international development. “If I had only earned an entomology degree, I don’t think that I would have looked beyond the pure science and I wouldn’t be where I’m at in my career. I’d like to thank my advisor, Dr. Ed Rajotte, Penn State entomology professor and INTAD faculty member. He motivated and supported me in my decision to pursue a dual title program.”

Melanie Miller-Foster, INTAD coordinator, explained that the goal of the INTAD program is to bring the social and biophysical sciences together in order to research solutions to complex international and development issues. Students enrolled in one of the six participating graduate programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences can apply.

The program has graduated 12 students and has conducted study tours in over 20 countries such as Russia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago. Students pursue additional international course work and their graduate research project must have an international component.

To learn more about the INTAD dual graduate degree, visit the program website at or contact Miller-Foster at (814) 867-3831 or


Editors Contact:
Kristie Auman-Bauer
PA IPM Program
(814) 865-2839