Success through collaborative scholarship

posted on December 1, 2016 1:20pm

by Marie Orttenburger

Assistant professor Saweda Liverpool-Tasie loves collaborative scholarship—and she’s good at it.

 

Her students won the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics M.S. Thesis Award and the Ph.D. Dissertation Award in 2015. Though both awards going to students of the same professor is uncommon and certainly a signal of the professor’s skill, Liverpool-Tasie is more interested in talking up her students’ talents.

 

“They are both hardworking, thorough and careful students,” Liverpool-Tasie said.

 

The winning doctoral student, Ayala Yocheved Wineman, studied land use in Tanzania. Liverpool-Tasie complimented Wineman’s careful articulation of the study’s contributions with due recognition of its limitations. She also complimented Wineman’s use of both quantitative and qualitative data to support her findings.

 

“In some places, that might not necessarily be seen as a strength,” Liverpool-Tasie said. “But the robustness of a quantitative approach gives credibility to the qualitative approach and adds a richness to an otherwise purely quantitative approach.”

 

Awa Sanou won the thesis award with her study analyzing the risk attitudes of farmers in Niger, which she applied to adopting a new technology—inorganic fertilizer. The paper was also awarded Honorable Mention for Best Thesis from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. Liverpool-Tasie credited it for being an interesting and relevant topic that makes a real contribution to the existing literature.

 

Liverpool-Tasie enjoys watching students develop ideas stemming from her research as well as fostering their own. She’s found her experience as an assistant professor at MSU, which started  in 2012, to be rewarding.

 

“In research you get the opportunity to work with these excellent students who are very highly motivated and who you might share an idea with, and they grab onto something and run with it, or others who come up with their own ideas and you support them through the process,” Liverpool-Tasie said.

 

Liverpool-Tasie’s enthusiasm for student engagement goes beyond research. She’s excited about the graduate and undergraduate courses she teaches at MSU. One undergraduate course. called World Food, Population and Poverty, tests her ability to engage a large class of potentially uninterested students at 8:30 in the morning.

 

“It’s been a real challenge, but in a pleasant way,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity in a class like that to find ways to expand students’ awareness about different issues and places.”

 

The course introduces students to international development. To stoke their interest in the subject, Liverpool-Tasie incorporates a cross-cultural debate on foreign aid with university students in Ghana who are also studying development economics.

 

Both classes get the same introductory lesson to international aid, the same readings and roughly four lectures. Students are divided into groups and are assigned a point of view to defend related to foreign aid and economic growth. Then each class records their debate on video, which they exchange, watch and respond to.

 

“It’s always very interesting to see because, of course, the Ghanaian students have different perspectives from the American students,” Liverpool-Tasie said. Her students are often surprised by how the political and cultural contexts that the Ghanaian students live in influence  their viewpoints.

 

Liverpool-Tasie’s success with international engagement at MSU hasn’t gone without recognition. This year she received the Michigan State University John K. Hudzik Emerging Leader in Advancing International Studies and Programs Award. 

 

In addition to teaching and research, Liverpool-Tasie is an associate editor for Agricultural Economics (the flagship journal of the International Association of Agricultural Economics) and the chair-elect of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association’s Africa Section. She relishes opportunities to engage with students and other scholars who share her interests.

 

She is also currently the lead principal investigator on a multimillion dollar Feed the Future Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project. Funded by USAID, the project focuses on building capacity among Nigerian researchers and other stakeholders to strengthen the agriculture policy process with evidence-based policy recommendations.

 

“You get to meet people who are really bright, and you get to work with them. They may have a strength or a weakness, and you may have a strength or weakness, and then you’re able to basically leverage on each other’s strengths and do better work,” she said. “And that’s the goal, right? To do better work.”