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Student Spotlight

April 2020

Yujia “Jennie” Ji  is a first year GPED student from Beijing, China. Before joining the GPED, she graduated from Beijing Language and Culture University where she studied International Economics and Trade. After serving as an intern at the International Monetary Institute (IMI) in China, she participated in research sponsored by Peking University, which focused on the relationship between human capital and economic growth rate. Alongside her principal studies in the GPED, she is pursuing a graduate certificate in Global Health. Jennie recently participated in the ECON 7930 field experience trip to Costa Rica where she had several opportunities to see development policy in action, most notably by meeting with social workers and beneficiaries in the Acosta region accompanied by officials of the Joint Social Aid Institute (IMAS). Of the experience, she said it was exciting to see the improvements generated by social programs like the IMAS as it reminded her why she chose to join the GPED. After graduation, she aspires to use the skills and knowledge she gained while in the program to work for an international aid organization. Congratulations, Jennie!

Jennie Ji

March 2020

Arika Kayastha is a second-year GPED student from Kathmandu, Nepal. Before joining the GPED, she completed her undergraduate studies at Kathmandu University, graduating with a Bachelor of Business Information Systems, after which she served as a Program Assistant and National Staff Consultant for UNESCO Kathmandu, where her achievements involved programming and coordinating research and workshops with the Ministry of Education on Nepal’s informal education and girls’ education. She also had the opportunity to experience and learn about trade in Nepal by starting her own import-export business.

Throughout her time in the GPED, she has been active in the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures. As part of her participation in the TFC’s Project Pyramid course, Arika traveled to Guatemala for spring break 2020 to take part in a consultancy project for a social enterprise startup that aims to work towards sustainability in the coffee industry. As part of her project, she was engaged in numerous conversations with coffee farmers, cooperatives, baristas, importers, and exporters in Guatemala about challenges in the coffee value chain and potential solutions. After graduation, she aspires to work in the field of research and social policies for poverty eradication and serve as an international civil servant. Congratulations, Arika!

Arika Kayastha

February 2020

Jonghyung Youn is a second-year GPED student from South Korea. Upon graduation in May, Jong will be returning to his position at Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearings Institute (KFTC), where he works to improve financial infrastructures in collaboration with the Korean government’s financial authorities, central bank, and commercial banks. He was selected to complete his graduate studies as part of the Overseas Training program. An amazing addition to the GPED family, Jong was selected by his peers as the recipient of the Mouzon and Sultan Siddiqi Citizenship Award. The award recognizes a student in the Program who is open and kind and goes out of their way to help make all students feel welcome and at home in Nashville. This student is a problem solver, a confidante, a friend. Jong has been accompanied on his Nashville journey by his wife and two daughters, who are currently in the second grade and pre-K. Balancing school and family life has been a challenge, but they are thankful for the opportunity afforded the whole family and will return with many wonderful memories. Congratulations, Jong!

Jonghyung Youn

January 2020

Maria Silat is a second-year student from Karachi, Pakistan, who is studying at Vanderbilt with a Fulbright scholarship. Before joining the GPED, Maria completed her undergraduate studies at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. During this time she interned at Shell Pakistan, which led to full-time employment as Fuels Pricing Analyst and later Retail Territory Manager, earning recognition as the country’s Top Territory Manager of 2017. At Vanderbilt, Maria has been involved with the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures as an Emerging Impact Leaders Fellow, and she also works as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Economics. Over this past summer, Maria served as a Humanitarian Research Intern for the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. After Maria graduates in May 2020, she plans to work in the development sector for a few years and then pursue a PhD in economics. Best of luck in your last semester, Maria!

Maria Silat

December 2019

Hana Bacaj is a second-year GPED student from Pristina, Kosovo. Before joining the GPED, Hana completed her BS in Economics and Statistics with highest honors from the Rochester Institute of Technology Kosovo. Since her arrival on campus, Hana has been active with the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, serving as Board Chair for Case Competitions and the Hult Prize. As part of her Project Pyramid class last year, she traveled to Quito, Ecuador over spring break as part of a consultancy project for organic energy tea social enterprise Waykana Guayusa, helping to scale-up their organization internationally to employ more impoverished indigenous farmers from Ecuador. Through her extensive volunteer work in Kosovo, Hana was the recipient of the William Edward Ferguson, Jr. Award, which recognizes students in the GPED for service to humanity – and she has volunteered in Nashville as well with Habitat for Humanity. Hana is completing a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies, and hopes after graduating in May 2020 to join an organization or NGO that helps empower women in Kosovo – because she believes that improvements in the empowerment of women are crucial for progress in Kosovo’s developmental efforts. Congratulations, Hana!


November 2019

Christian Suarez is a second-year student from Miami, Florida, who served as his cohort’s class representative for the 2018-2019 academic year. Before joining the GPED, Christian studied at the University of Florida, where he double-majored in Economics and Sport Management. While at UF, he served as a Senior Video Assistant for the football team, and he continued this tradition at Vanderbilt working as Football Video Assistant. In addition, Christian has been active with the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures as part of the Vanderbilt Hult Prize Competition Committee, he worked last year as a Graduate Research Assistant at Vanderbilt Peabody College, and he serves as the Strategic Planning Co-Chair for Vandy Votes (a student organization dedicated to increasing voter engagement). Over the summer, Christian was an economic affairs intern with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in Geneva, Switzerland. During Christian’s free time, he enjoys exploring Nashville with his cohort friends from all over the world and watching football and soccer. Congratulations, Christian!


October 2019

Fan Liu is a first-year GPED student from Beijing, China who was recently elected by her classmates to serve as her cohort’s class representative for the 2019-2020 academic year. Congratulations, Fan! Before joining the GPED program, Fan completed her bachelor’s degree in economics from The Ohio State University. While she worked on her undergraduate studies, Fan actively participated in economic research studying the relationship between the logistic demand and GDP growth of China. Fan also accrued significant expertise in finance through her undergraduate internships in securities companies and banks. Fan’s rich financial industry exposure enabled her to acquire an in-depth comprehension of the functions and operations of the financial industry in the spectrum of economic development especially in poverty-stricken regions of China. After graduating, Fan aspires to join an esteemed economics think tank in China as a research associate, formulating concrete policy solutions to help underdeveloped regions in China to achieve long-lasting development. What a wonderful career goal! Welcome Fan, we are excited to have you join the GPED family.


September 2019

Aaron Ferguson is a native of Hayesville, North Carolina and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, is currently just starting his second year in the GPED program but he has already hit the ground running this summer as the new class representative.  Over the summer Aaron has been involved with welcoming the new students by serving as a local guide and resource sharing helping information about Nashville, Vanderbilt and the GPED program to the new students.  Additionally, Aaron will be presenting at our first fall forum with a group of students that participated in Econ 7930’s fieldwork course to Chile in the spring semester.  Aaron will also be involved with planning the annual fall trip to the Smoky Mountains amongst other events on and off-campus throughout the school year. Additionally, Aaron also holds three on-campus jobs and is involved with the Graduate Certificate Program in Global Health.  During Aaron’s free time he enjoys exploring the Nashville region with his wife, Lindsey, and their dog.  After Aaron graduates in the spring of 2020, he plans to travel to Europe during the summer months then further his education by continuing on in a Ph.D. in Economics program. Best of luck in your second year, Aaron!  


May 2019

Laura Nettuno, of Falls Church, Virginia has been instrumental in assisting with student recruitment efforts. A recipient of the James and Rosemary Worley award, during her time at Vanderbilt Laura has served as a teaching assistant, program ambassador, and attended the Southern Economic Association conference and participates in frequent research projects. Currently, Laura is working on a paper that looks at financial inclusion in Papua New Guinea. After she graduates Laura has plans to travel to Europe during the summer months and then continue her studies at Vanderbilt by joining the Ph.D. in Economics program starting in the Fall of 2019. Congratulations, Laura!


April 2019

Shatakshi Gupta is one of our outstanding second-year students from Dehradun, India. Since having joined the GPED, Shatakshi has been involved in countless activities and events on-campus while maintaining excellent grades. Shatakshi holds a student worker position in the GPED office, serves as a program ambassador, recently studied abroad in Greece through a course offered through the Turner Family Center (TFC), and has also audited many courses on top of her full-time class load at Vanderbilt. Shatakshi is also a wonderful leader, as someone that many of the first-year students have gravitated to for support and guidance while navigating the GPED. We will miss Shatakshi after she graduates this May and leaves to study in a Ph.D. program. 


March 2019

Mingke Li of Beijing, China is a second-year student who has a passion for entrepreneurship and conducting research. Most recently, Mingke participated in the VIGH Case Competition 2019 and was involved with the Paraguay study abroad trip for academic credit at Vanderbilt.  Mingke is a very ambitious young woman with clear goals and strong abilities. We have no doubt she will excel in her professional life after Vanderbilt!


February 2019

Chulmin "CM" Choi is one of our stand out second-year students from South Korea. CM is currently employed with The National Assembly of the Republic of Korea as a Legislative Researcher. After more than 10 years of service, CM was selected as a recipient of the Korean National Assembly’s Long-Term Fellowship for Overseas Study. The aim of the Fellowship is to develop a promising young official of the Korean National Assembly by sending them abroad for two years of post-graduate study. The GPED has a strong history of training Korean government officials like CM, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the Korean government in the years ahead!


January 2019

First-year student Caleb Espinoza was originally born in Nashville but raised in Honduras.  How is this possible? Caleb's father was in the GPED program at the time of his birth. Remarkably, Caleb is now following in his father's footsteps over 20 years later. Caleb's father was also the guest speaker at our awards dinner this past May.  He was recently asked to come out of retirement and was appointed Vice President of the Central Bank of Honduras. Welcome, Caleb!


December 2018

Second-year student Ruta Delkute is the GPED's first to hail from Lithuania. She graduated from the ISM University of Management and Economics in Vilnius in 2015 and went on to work for one of the leading research institutes and think tanks in the region, Public Policy and Management Institute, where her team’s focus was the evaluation of EU-funding programs and research & innovation policies. Ruta will be graduating this month, and we wish her all the best in the next step in her journey!


November 2018

Another GPED student, Hina Sherwani, shared her unique journey that led to her partnership  with Turner Family Center for Social Ventures. Her work with TFC contributes to poverty reduction initiatives throughout the world.  Click on the link in the photo below to read Hina's story.



October 2018

We couldn't be more proud of our second-year student, Sahesha Upadhyay, for her work with the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures as a Summer Fellow! Check out the article below she wrote recapping her interesting and important experiences.