Every class taught by Andrea Bersamin, professor in the Department of Biology and Wildlife at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, begins with a rundown of her favorite childhood reading materials.

At a young age, she begged her mother for a subscription to Bon Appétit, a monthly cooking and culinary arts magazine, and had a unique fascination with the world’s best-selling medical textbook, the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. She and her sister reveled in a series of detective books, which instructed the reader on how to become a skilled sleuth.

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Dr. Madan Dey

While he now calls the state of Texas home, Madan Dey has roots in rural Bangladesh, where he grew up on the family farm. It was a small-scale operation that mainly produced rice, along with some fish and dairy. As a young boy, he witnessed firsthand his father, uncle and other relatives navigate the many challenges of running an agricultural business.

Today, as an agricultural economist, he performs experiments and analyses to better understand consumer behavior, which at first glance seems far removed from farming life. Yet, the heart of Dey’s work — to improve the livelihood of farmers around the world — can be traced back to his upbringing.

“I don’t like to do research for the sake of research. I like to do research that will help the stakeholder,” says Dey, professor of agricultural business and economics and chair of the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Texas State University. “I know the real pain of farming, so I try to help farmers.”

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Dr. Kathleen Colverson with Kenyan colleagues.

For over 25 years, Kathleen Colverson has facilitated interactive workshops all over the world, teaching sustainable practices in agricultural production, marketing, food safety and nutrition.

The common thread among all her trainings? They emphasize the importance of looking at food systems through the lens of gender. Before kicking off a session, she first scans her audience: how many men are there? How many women? Are they of different ages? Ethnicities?

Often, when training smallholder farmers in resource-limited communities, she’ll look out into the crowd to find only male faces staring back at her. Colverson pulls no punches in letting the audience know of her disappointment.

“I tell them, ‘I’ll see you next time, but you’d better bring your wife, your daughter or your sister, because I’m sure you’re not the only one doing the work, and I want to see more women and girls before I talk to you again,’” says Colverson, who currently serves as an associate research scientist in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida and senior gender scientist for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems.

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