Virginia Tech® home

Mary Harman Parks

Degree, Program, and date of graduation: Geography, MSc, May 17, 2013

Dates of working with the WGD Program: August 2011-May 15 2012: WGD Graduate Assistant; May 2012-May 2013: SANREM Innovation Lab Graduate Research Assistant; May 2013-May 2015: Gender Research Associate

What work did you do with the WGD program?

"My work as a GA consisted of supporting IPM, SANREM, and Peanut Innovation Lab with administrative tasks. I developed literature reviews, posters, and provided research and writing support for proposals, reports, budgets, and workshops. As a GRA, I conducted field work in the Philippines and wrote a thesis on exploring how gender relations could impact the adoption of conservation agriculture in that region. My work as the Gender Research Associate included researching and writing articles for publication, developing tools for gender and international research, and coordinating communications for the WGD Program."

Most exciting experience, interesting discovery, or connections made:

"Overall, the WGD program has given me opportunities; opportunities to meet people, work, learn, travel, and make a difference. I have been able to meet so many fascinating people from all over the world because of the WGD program. Being a geographer, it is important to expose yourself to new people, places, and ideas and this job has allowed me to expand my horizons and step out of my comfort zone. I was able to conduct research in the Philippines and Uganda for the SANREM Innovation Lab where I met and worked with farmers, researchers, and extension agents to collaboratively learn how a development project affects people and how people affect a project. This gave me the privilege to work with projects that are on the ground, working with people and trying to make a difference. Being able to contribute to something that is bigger than yourself, has given me a new perspective of the world and has humbled me to a certain extent. I am much more aware of the issues around the world, both socially and environmentally."

Where did you go after graduating?

"After graduating, I worked at OIRED for two years as a Gender Research Associate. My role was to conduct qualitative research, develop reports, assist with grant-writing, and manage the Women and Gender in International Development Discussion Series. During this time, I also traveled to Uganda to conduct focus group discussions and key informant interviews to understand how practicing conservation agriculture can affect men and women differently. This position helped me gain valuable experience in developing and managing research projects, analyzing data, and creating impactful deliverables such as peer-reviewed publications."

"I am now a Researcher for OMNI Institute, a non-profit social science research firm located in Denver, Colorado. I work with agencies serving the public interest through applied research, capacity building, and technology assistance. My specific role is to manage and conduct research for organizations in the substance abuse field and in the early childhood education sector. While I am currently working on domestic issues, my skills and knowledge gained from working in international development have improved my understanding of the diverse populations I am currently studying."

How has the WGD program influenced your future?

"The WGD program has opened new prospects in terms of my future. The WGD program helps students and professionals develop a well-rounded skillset in both qualitative and quantitative methods and bio-physical and social sciences. Along with these skills, I now have the understanding and experience in international development research. The WGD Program also allowed me to acquire many skills that can be transferred to other fields including program coordination and communications."