Photo of women wearing aprons and cooking together outdoors.
Published on: Dec 19, 2018

Faculty in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences are spearheading an initiative that will provide selected doctoral students with the opportunity for extensive study on gender and its relationship to agricultural production.

"This student cohort will look at unexplored areas to yield insight into how to improve the lives of women around the world by supporting their participation in agricultural enterprise," said Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs for the college. She noted that cohort members will examine gender equity in the areas of rural sociology, plant science and entomology as part of the International Agriculture and Development dual-title graduate degree program.

Behring added that these Gender Fellows will "create a unique interdisciplinary and interactive team that will play a vital role in developing a vision for gender and agriculture research that brings together their disciplines and experiences."

Beginning in the fall of 2019 and funded by Penn State's Gender Equity through Agriculture Research and Education initiative, or GEARE, the students will work closely with faculty who have expertise in rural and global development issues related to agricultural production.

Principal investigator Leif Jensen, distinguished professor of rural sociology and demography, explained that the cohort will contribute to GEARE's broad research goal, which is to provide new, empirically grounded understanding of the ways in which gender impacts agriculture.

Participating students will build on the team's existing research activities supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, including the Women in Agriculture Network: Honduras project funded by USAID's Horticulture Innovation Lab at the University of California Davis and the Women in Agriculture Network: Cambodia project funded by USAID's Sustainable Intensification Lab based at Kansas State University.

The Gender Fellows also will examine participation of men and women in global food systems, a focus of the USAID 2018 Feed the Future Learning Agenda's Gender and Women's Empowerment program.

Mentoring the students will be co-investigators Mary Barbercheck and Ed Rajotte from the Department of Entomology; Rick Bates from the Department of Plant Science; Kathleen Sexsmith, Carolyn Sachs, Ann Tickamyer, Leland Glenna and Janelle Larson from the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education; and Paige Castellanos and Melanie Miller Foster from the Office of International Programs.

The cohort will be funded, in part, by GEARE and interdisciplinary graduate assistantships sponsored by the college's Strategic Networks and Initiatives Program.

"With support from the College of Agricultural Sciences, the Social Science Research Institute and other Penn State sources, our gender and agriculture initiative has really taken off," Jensen said. "This Gender Fellows program is an exciting next step for us. We are so looking forward to bringing together an interdisciplinary group of young scholars who will go on to be tomorrow's leaders in promoting gender equity in agriculture."

Behring and Jensen encourage interested students to learn more about GEARE and the participating programs by visiting the following websites:



Plant Science:

Rural Sociology:


Application review will begin immediately. Interested prospective students should contact Jensen at