Jones, Laliberté honored with Kopp International Achievement Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Kristal Jones, a doctoral candidate in agricultural economics, sociology and education in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and Nicole Laliberté, a doctoral candidate in geography and women’s studies, have been honored as co-recipients of the 2013 W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award for graduate students.

The award recognizes graduate students who have contributed significantly to the advancement of the international mission of the University. It is named in honor of the late deputy vice president for international programs.

After serving in the Peace Corps in Senegal, Jones came to Penn State to earn a master’s degree in rural sociology. She helped develop a dual-degree graduate program in international agriculture and development, of which she plans to be one of the first graduates. Her research involves evaluating the social impacts of a participatory plant breeding project that provided improved sorghum and millet varieties to farmers in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali through the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

Through a National Science Foundation grant, Jones attended an intensive course at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and has helped other Penn State students do the same. She has helped plan a campus-wide food security conference, to be held this spring, and she serves on the Ag2Africa board in the College of Agriculture and as the graduate mentor to Engineers Without Borders.

“Kristal believes she has a responsibility to those who participate in her research,” one nominator said. “She is dedicated to sharing her findings with the farmers with whom she interacts and collaborating with them to explore potential possibilities to alleviate the difficult conditions in which they live.”

Laliberté  came to Penn State in 2006 and earned a master’s in geography. Her dissertation research concerns human rights development programs that focus on rural women’s empowerment. After a year of ethnographic data collection, her research took her to northern Uganda for more than a year, with follow-up visits for longitudinal research.

“Her talent for narration makes her presentations on post-war Uganda some of the most lively and engaging at domestic and international conferences,” a nominator said. “Her generosity in teaching, research and mentoring demonstrates how researchers and teachers can carefully and effectively foster global understanding.”

She has served as a teaching assistant on two Penn State study-abroad programs — “Feminism and Global Activism: Service Learning in Tanzania” and the pilot Global Program’s “Parks and People Program: Field Course in South Africa,” where students learned about and researched the country’s ecology, political and social history of apartheid and land restitution efforts.

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Last Updated April 02, 2013