Grassroots Efforts in Bolivia
By Ohio Wesleyan University
Ohio Wesleyan Student Works to Help Address Resource Inequality
Name: Matthew Mehaffy ’17
Major(s): Latin American Studies and Spanish
Hometown: Burlington, Iowa
Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant, “The Right to Live: Impact of Water Privatization on Bolivian Inequality”
Mehaffy worked for three months as part of a grassroots effort to try to minimize resource inequality within a specific area in Cochabamba, Bolivia. His work included helping to raise $2,000, which has helped the neighborhood to create composting toilets.
Lessons learned: “This opportunity allowed me to learn practically how grassroots efforts work among different NGOs to promote change on a local level and, specifically, the challenges and strategies necessary for promoting local change.
“Academically, this experience helped shape the interests I have regarding what academic topics I want to explore through my senior thesis research. … Therefore, I continued to study resource inequality and grassroots efforts to reduce it afterward in Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. …
“Professionally, I now know what topics I want to explore in graduate school. My initial classes with Professor [Nicholas] Crane, which inspired my Theory-to-Practice Grant application, made me want to go to graduate school for a Ph.D. in economic geography.
“However, I did not know exactly what I wanted to study in economic geography, and, by being able to expand my interests and gain practical experience in how local communities address resource inequality, it … helped clarify my professional interests to eventually be a professor of economic geography with a specialization in learning from collective efforts (social movements) to address resource inequality.”
Why I chose OWU: “I learned that OWU had an abundance of opportunities for me to get real world experience in my career to prepare me for life after college. I always really enjoyed meeting people at OWU and visiting the campus. … I was impressed by the classes that were offered, [which] were relevant to my career.
“Finally, I wanted to attend a smaller college where I would have a better chance of getting to know my professors, which I feel has been very helpful for getting more out of my classes educationally.”
My plans after graduation: “Conduct more research while in affiliation with different universities or research institutes. After a bit of time conducting more research, [I] eventually [want to] go back to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in economic geography and become a professor of economic geography.”