The Center for Global Development and Sustainability

Fellowship Application

Eligibility: Applicants should be Heller students in good standing who have completed at least one full semester toward their degrees. Candidates should possess requisite skills and experience as required by the research Faculty Mentor. Students supported by scholarship organizations that may not allow grantees to earn work income should consult with their Heller program administrator and ISSO.

How to apply:

  1. Email the Faculty Mentor a letter of interest detailing the experience and skills you bring to the research. Attach your CV and contact information for two references including at least one on the Heller Faculty
  2. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed by their prospective Mentor.

Deadline to apply: October 22, 2021

Supported by the Bluestone Endowment  

Faculty Mentors and Projects

Professor Joseph Assan

Livelihood Diversification and Household Resilience


Professor Joseph Assan

Livelihood diversification activities continue to serve as an important economic resilience strategy for poor and marginalized households. The research project explores the resource allocation mechanisms, livelihood diversification practices, and options available to poor households in sub–Saharan Africa during an era of significant global shocks using empirical data and case studies from different African countries. The research employs a political economy perspective to examine contemporary livelihood strategies of rural, urban, and peri-urban households and the dynamics associated with their livelihood decision-making. Contributing to and providing links between the different livelihood strategies and household economy, this study reconnoiters the nature of livelihood diversification in sub-Saharan Africa and ascertains whether it helps to achieve socio-economic mobility and resilience sustainably. The project highlights several policy ideas that will enhance the resilience, economic independence, labor-seeking behavior, agency, and the collective wellbeing of households. The output of the project will highlight several policy ideas that will enhance the resilience, economic independence, labor-seeking behavior, and agency, particularly of emerging generations of Africans and the collective wellbeing of households. This framework offers a different approach by focusing on the household as the unit of analysis rather than individuals.

Professor Cristina Espinosa-Heywood

The Effects of COVID-19 on Working Mothers: Literature Review and Research Agenda Setting

Professor Cristina Espinosa-Heywood

The COVID global pandemic has accentuated and made more visible existing inequalities and forms of social exclusion, in terms of class, caste, race, ethnicity and gender (Bambra, Riordan and Ford, 2020; Blundel et al, 2020; Deaton, A., 2021). In terms of gender, this pandemic has differently affected men and women either directly or indirectly (Fisher and Ryan, 2021; Jaeger and Blabaaek, 2020; Dang and Nguyen, 2021; Czymara, C.S., Langenkamp, A and T. Cano, 2021; Dashpande, 2020; Johnston R.M., Mohammed A. and Van der Linden C. 2020). Since this is a broad and complex phenomenon to analyze, this research will focus on how this pandemic has affected working women in particular. The feminization of labor on a global scale has been well documented, showing a consistent trend across developed and developing countries, across working and middle-class sectors (Standing, 1989; Hossain, Mathbor and Semenza, 2013). This feminization of labor challenges de facto the ideological foundation of patriarchal systems, where men are defined as the providers, protectors and heads of the family while women are relegated to the subordinated role of mothers, housekeepers and caregivers. Since this patriarchal view remains hegemonic and permeates most societies, there has not been any redefinition of domestic or reproductive role for men, even in situations where they are no longer the providers. In too many countries not the state nor the private sector has stepped in to provide affordable child care or other services to alleviate women’s reproductive roles or to rebalance the distribution of gender roles. Working women had to assume an increasing double burden in order to secure the survival of their families or/and to advance their own career. The role of schools and child care centers have become crucial to allow working mothers to keep their jobs. The spread of lockdowns due to COVID-19 pandemic has broken that precarious arrangement, forcing women to take in home-schooling and homecare while they try to keep their jobs. There is evidence showing the retraction of female employment since working mothers could no longer work and take care of their children once schools and day-care centers were closed. On the other hand, there is data showing increased female unemployment as compared to men after COVID-19 since many of the economic sectors affected are those that rely mostly on female labor. Feminization of labor to a large extent reflects that women are the cheap labor of choice, as evidenced for example by the terrible conditions of sweatshops staffed mostly by women. This problem of women unemployment after COVID-19 and working mothers’ employment contraction has received attention not only from scholars but from the media. There is a need to review this emerging literature, try to identify common trends and differences between the global North and South and within countries with large marginalized populations. The goal of this study is to conduct a literature review using gender analysis to define and summarize what we have learned about this problem, identify gaps and propose future lines for research.

Research Assistant Credentials:

Familiarity with the field of gender and with the Gender and Development-GAD approach and concepts

  • Good analytical skills, ability to summarize documents and to organize materials by topics and relevance
  • Ability to work independently, meet deadlines, and keep track of information and communication
  • Good writing skills
  • Good academic performance
  • Ability to conduct online research
  • Shown commitment or interest on gender, women rights and social justice and inclusion
  • Interest in further her/his experience and training on conducting research


  1. Bambra, C., Riordan R. and J. Ford.2020. “The COVID Pandemic and health inequalities.” Journal Epidemiol Community Health 74 (11) 964-968
  2. Blundell, R., Costa-Dias M., Jouce R. and X. Xu. 2020. “COVID-19 and Inequalities.” Fiscal Studies 41 (2) 291-319
  3. Czymara C.S., Langenkamp A and T. Cano. 2021. “Cause for concerns: gender inequality in experiencing COVID-19 lockdown in Germany.” European Societies 23 (sup1), S68-S81.
  4. Dang, H.A.H and C.V. Nguyen.2021. “Gender inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic: income, expenditure, savings and job loss.” World Development 140, 105296
  5. Deaton A. 2021.” Covid-19 and global income inequality.” National Bureau of Economic Research
  6. Deshpande, A. 2020. “The COVID-19 pandemic and gendered division of paid and unpaid work: evidence from India.” IZA Discussion Papers.
  7. Fisher A.N. and M.K. Ryan. 2021. “Gender Inequalities during COVID-19.” Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 24 (2) 237-245. Sage Journals.
  8. Jaeger M.M. and E.H. Blaabaek. 2021. “Inequality in learning opportunities during COVID-19.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 68 1000524
  9. Johnston R.M., Mohammed A. and C. Van der Linden. 2020. “Evidence of exacerbate gender inequality in child care obligations in Canada and Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Politics & Gender 16 (4), 1131-1141.
  10. Standing, G. 1989. “Global feminization of labor through flexible labor.” World Development 17 (7), 1077-1095.
  11. Stantcheva S. 2021. “Inequalities in the Times of a Pandemic.” Economic Policy. 73rd Economic Policy Panel Meeting, April 15th 2021

Professor Ricardo Godoy

Using Ethnographic Methods to Understand Mechanisms Behind Causal Effects of Randomized-controlled Trials in the Behavioral Sciences: Proof of Concept Proposal

Professor Ricardo Godoy

Description. In the past two decades, randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate the impact of programs in the behavioral sciences (e.g., education, behavioral health, criminology, economics, conservation, development) have seen an upsurge in use by researchers and organizations. RCTs have gained popularity because they show causal effects. However, RCTs are not well-suited to explain mechanisms, particularly surprises or null findings. In contrast, ethnographic methods are well-suited to explain mechanisms, but are not ideal to establish causality because they rely on observational data. Despite their strengths and complementarity, the two methods have not spoken to each other. Combining them has the potential of providing richer understanding of experimental findings. Recent evidence suggests there is growing demand for the use of ethnographic methods to interpret RCT findings. Here, a multi-disciplinary team of two cultural anthropologists, an economist, and a natural resource specialist propose preliminary guidelines for combining the two methods and testing them with an RCT in Bolivia. In the Bolivian RCT (2019-2021), communities were randomly chosen to receive payments to conserve natural resources; in one treatment households received payment conditional on meeting program requirements, in the other treatment, payments were made without strings attached. Theory and case studies suggested unconditional payments should have produced meaningful effects through paths that were measured. In fact, the two interventions had the same impact, posing a puzzle RCT data cannot answer. Enter ethnography. The timing is right to elicit from study participants their explanations for the null findings, use cultural consensus to analyze answers, and validate results of cultural consensus analysis with independent measures.

Objectives. [I] Assess demand for ethnographic methods by users of RCTs in the behavioral science. In a one-day, on-line conference at the start of the study, leading practitioners of RCTs in the behavioral sciences will come together to discuss demand for ethnographic methods to assess trial findings, the ethnographic information of most use, and how ethnographic research might dovetail with current trials. [II] Pilot test the methods identified in Objective I with the Bolivian RCT. [III] Compare [a] the overlap between different ethnographic method in accuracy and costs and [b] the mechanisms identified ex ante by the implementers of the trial with mechanisms identified ex post through ethnographic methods. [IV] In a one-day on-line conference at the end of the study, present research results from Bolivia to alert researchers using RCTs unfamiliar with ethnographic methods about how these methods might combine with RCTs. [V] With inputs from the conference at the end of the study, prepare a journal article freely available to the public with improved guidelines on how to merge ethnographic methods with RCTs.

Methods. The study will last 12 months (7/2022-6/2023) and rely on two broad approaches to collect data. (1) On-line conferences at the start and end of the study, with proceedings recorded, transcribed, and analyzed in relation to the themes of Objectives I and IV. (2) Anticipated ethnographic methods will not be known until Objective I is reached, but the methods to be used in an RCT, including Bolivia, will likely include one or more of the following: focus groups, cultural consensus analysis, surveys, case studies, and time allocation (e.g., scans). For each method selected, pilot tests will be done, variables or procedures validated, and cost estimated.

Intellectual merit [potential to advance knowledge]. The study is a first attempt to explore a) how ethnographic methods can deepen and add realism to RCT results and b) identify the type of trial where ethnographic methods could have their largest impact.

Broader impacts [potential benefit to society to achieve specific desired societal objectives]. Given the incipient demand for ethnographic methods to interpret RCT findings, the results of this study could change the way individual researchers and institutions carry out RCTs.

Qualification: The ideal candidate should have the following skills:

  • Excellent writing skills and fluency searching for refereed journal articles in premier electronic databases (e.g., Scopus)
  • Deep familiarity with the concepts and econometrics of randomized-controlled trials
  • Fluency in Spanish (strongly recommended, though not required)
    Ability to identify funding opportunities using the electronic database of foundation available at the Brandeis library
  • Ability to interpret NSF instructions on what is to be submitted

Professor Nader Habibi

Evolution of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Aftermath of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Professor Nader Habibi

China launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 as a global development initiative for partnership among nations for development of trade and transportation infrastructure. Ever since China has signed BRI cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries around the world and has offered billions of dollars as loans to finance BRI development projects. The BRI projects were primarily focused on development of roads, railways, power plants and other infrastructure projects. These projects were interrupted in 2020 with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. After the initial disruption China has continued its commitment to BRI cooperation but it has focused on new priorities to address the economic and social impact of the pandemic in the partner countries.

The primary purpose of this research project is to evaluate how China's BRI projects have evolved in the aftermath of the pandemic. We would like to know if China has shifted from core transportation and power plant projects to other economic sectors and if so, address a number of questions about this transition: 1) What are the new economic sector priorities for China's BRI projects? 2) In which countries and regions is China aggressively investing in new economic sectors? 3) How is China managing the ongoing infrastructure projects that were disrupted by the pandemic?

The secondary focus of this research is to analyze the financing of BRI projects in the countries that are included in the project. China and many of its BRI partners faced severe financial hardships as a result of the pandemic. We like to find out how the financial arrangements were impacted. Did any countries default on their debt service to China? Were any debt repayments suspended in 2020 because of the pandemic? How was the financial viability of BRI projects in various countries affected by the pandemic? Has the financing method for BRI projects changed after the pandemic? Has the risk of debt trap for BRI partner countries increased after the Pandemic? 

The geographic focus of this project is primarily the Middle East and North Africa region. Based on data availability, comparative analysis with other developing regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia will also be conducted.

Research Assistant: Heller graduate students who are interested in the Belt and Road Initiative are welcome to apply. It is also possible for a student to select a specific topic within this research project for his/her Masters paper.

Qualification: Basic familiarity with economic development concepts, familiarity with EXCEL or similar program for data tabulation, chart generation and basic statistics (strong research curiosity about the Belt and Road Initiative is also a plus)

Professor Emerita Marion Howard

Building Resilient and Sustainable Communities in the San Andres Archipelago, Colombia

Professor Emerita Marion Howard

Description of Research
1. Introduction. My research on the indigenous Raizal people of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, San Andres Archipelago, Colombia, is in the GDS focal area of Resilient and Sustainable Communities. This archipelago, the largest and most remote in the Caribbean, offers a little studied site to examine issues that hinder resilience and sustainability of any marginalized community. Results are applied to developing and transforming public policy to advance environmental conservation and sustainable use, reduce social and economic vulnerability, and improve quality of life.

2. Project 2021-22. The research will focus on two factors that affect community resilience and sustainability: territory and livelihoods. These factors intertwine. If a community lacks control over either, vulnerability, poverty, and underdevelopment result. Indigenous people and marginalized minorities, such as the Raizal, are especially dependent on their territory (terrestrial and/or marine) and natural resources for survival and well-being. This must be recognized and protected in social and environmental policies.

3. Research partners. Partners are GDS, San Andres’s Trees and Reefs Foundation run by the indigenous Raizal people, and Suffolk University School of Law’s Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic.

4. Research assistant. The research assistant will be expected to contribute about 150 hours to the project from October 2021-May 2022, averaging 18-19 hours a month (some months more, some less). Applicants must:

  • be committed to working with marginalized communities,
  • be adept with IT,
  • have experience with data analysis, and
  • have strong communication skills (writing, speaking, active listening).
  • Knowledge of Spanish (especially reading) and experience with qualitative research methods would be helpful but are not required.

The research assistant will have the opportunity to build and strengthen skills important for development practice including qualitative research methods (participatory action research) and critical and analytical thinking. The research assistant will also learn about and gain experience with the UN system, the international human rights policy regime, and issues generally affecting indigenous peoples.

5. Research assistant work program. The research assistant will be involved in all project activities including: i) designing the research plan and protocols, ii) gathering information from desk studies, media, and the literature, iii) keeping in touch with Raizal researchers, iv) analyzing information and structuring findings, and v) producing collaborative outputs to influence policy and action. Activities include desk studies and gathering information in the field via methods most commonly used in qualitative research–individual interviews, focus groups, and observation. Outputs will include research reports, an alternative “shadow” report for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and other legal reports for UN human rights bodies, and a side event for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). Note that outputs may be adjusted, depending on Covid.

The research assistant will:

  • Participate in e-mail, Zoom, and in-person (dependent on Covid) consultations with partners.
  • Support communications including sharing information on the GDS website and social media, as needed.
  • Work closely with Raizal researchers and Suffolk Law School student attorneys
  • Contribute to the research plan for San Andres, and help systematize and analyze results of the participatory field research.
  • Support the literature and desk review of publications, documents, and available data
  • Help produce reports with Raizal researchers, a shadow report for CERD and other documents for international human rights bodies with Suffolk Law School’s Human Rights & Indigenous Peoples Clinic, and a side event for UNPFII to take place at the UN in New York City in April 2022, including the possibility of attending UNPFII in person with representatives of the three partners (dependent on Covid).