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25 Years

Center Administration

Karen Brown

Director, ICGC
Director of Graduate Studies and Senior Lecturer, Development Studies and Social Change Graduate Minor Program
MDP Program Co-Chair
Phone: 612-624-0255
Fax: 612-625-1879

Karen Brown is Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), where she directs a number of international and interdisciplinary education and research programs including the ICGC Scholar and Mellon Scholars fellowship programs and a partnership with the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.  Dr. Brown co-chairs the Master of Development Practice degree program in international development studies with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, serves as the Director of Graduate Studies and teaches in the ICGC Development Studies and Social Change (DSSC) Ph.D. minor program, and also serves as a Graduate Faculty member in Feminist Studies, the Human Rights Program, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Her past positions include Assistant Vice President for International Scholarship (2012-2015) in which she directed the University’s system-wide Global Spotlight grants program to support international and interdisciplinary research and Special Assistant for International Scholarship in the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance. Dr. Brown earned her Ph.D. in Political Science (University of Minnesota) with concentrations in International Relations and Comparative Politics. She also earned an M.A. in East Asian Studies (University of Minnesota) and a B.S. in Chinese (Georgetown University). Her academic interests focus on gender and public policy in global context, international women's and children's human rights, girls in international policy, and international research ethics and methods.

Selected publications:

“Gender and International Relations.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science. Sandy Maisel, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

“The Rise of Interdisciplinarity:  Implications for Promoting Advanced Specialized Knowledge at Public Research Universities,” with Karri Holley, in Re-Envisioning the 21st Century Public Research University. Robert H. Bruininks, Robert J. Jones, Andrew Furco and Kateryna Kent, eds. New York:  Routledge, forthcoming.

“Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” in Restructuring World Politics:  Transnational Social Movements, Networks and Norms.  Sanjeev Khagram, James V. Riker, and Kathryn Sikkink, eds. University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

Courses taught:

Global Survey of Gender and Public Policy

Doctoral Research Workshop

Scholarship and Public Responsibility

Gender and Citizenship

Frances Vavrus

Director of Special Initiatives, ICGC

Fran Vavrus is Director of Special Initiatives of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC)  and Professor in the Program in Comparative and International Development Education.  She also serves as Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development.  Dr. Vavrus earned her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Education and African Studies), her MA at the University of Illinois (Applied Linguistics and African Studies), and her BA at Purdue University (Psychology and Political Science).  Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota, she was an Associate Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and the Associate Director of its Center for African Education.  For nearly two decades, Dr. Vavrus has been studying schooling as a site for development interventions in Tanzania.  With particular interests in gender and the political economy of education, her work has taken up questions of how notions of ‘the educated woman’ have been linked discursively to international population and health initiatives and how Tanzanian teachers appropriate national education and health policy in the classroom.  She is also involved in a longitudinal study on Mt. Kilimanjaro exploring historical and spatial dimensions of educational inequality as well as examining transformations in teacher education in Tanzania and Zambia.


Shereen Sabet

Assistant to the Director
Phone: 612-626-7487
Fax: 612-625-1879

Shereen Sabet is Assistant to the Director for ICGC, responsible for administrative operations of the Center and provision of support to the Center Directors in aligning administration of education, research, communications and outreach functions and fostering effective relationships with various stakeholders.  Before joining ICGC, Shereen has also worked at the University of Minnesota in two senior-level administrative offices; Academic Administration and Equity & Diversity.  Her positions have included academic program support as well as planning and implementing various initiatives including an early college awareness program for disadvantaged middle school students.  

In addition to her working relationship with the U of M, Shereen is also alumna.  She earned her B.A. in International Relations with a minor in Human Rights from the U of M and her Masters in Public Policy from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.  She volunteers her time with The Advocates for Human Rights.  A native of Egypt, Shereen has been a community activist and served as communications director and president for the Egyptian-American Society, Inc. of Minnesota.  She is known for her cheerful attitude and positive energy.

Laura Bell

Executive Office & Administrative Specialist
Phone: 612-624-0832
Fax: 612-625-1879

Laura is ICGC's Administrative Specialist. She earned her M.A. in Leadership in Student Affairs from the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) and her B.A. in Travel/Tourism from St. Cloud State University. Her international experience comes from working in the Education Abroad Center at St. Cloud State University and the Office of Study Abroad as well as International Student Services at the University of St. Thomas. She has also lived and studied abroad in South Africa, and studied in Croatia. Laura's academic interests include gender and sexuality from an international perspective, women's rights, and LGBTQIIAA/queer and transgender issues. When not at the front desk of ICGC, you can find Laura trying new restaurants all over the Twin Cities, traveling, and watching Green Bay Packer football. 

Maurice Sikenyi

ICGC Research Assistant 2018-19

Maurice Sikenyi is a Ph.D. candidate in both Comparative and International Development Education, and Development Studies and Social Change at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, USA. He is a recent Matasa Fellow, at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex and Former Fulbright Fellow at Syracuse University, New York. His research examines intersections of education, conflict and development. His doctoral dissertation is on higher education and peace-building processes in Kenya. At the University of Minnesota, Maurice has served as a Lead Project Fellow for a longitudinal multinational research and evaluation on youth livelihoods in East Africa. He previously earned a master’s degree in peace studies from University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA, and a first-class honors degree in education from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Mitchell LeGrand

Office Assistant
Mitchell LeGrand is ICGC’s undergraduate office assistant. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies with an emphasis in political economy and an area study of Europe, as well as a minor in Political Science emphasized in International Relations. He will be graduating in the fall of 2018 and his next step is hopefully to pursue either a Master's in Public Policy or a Law Degree. Mitchell is an incredibly involved student on campus. He is involved with the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group as their Economic and Social Justice Fellow, the Human Rights Student Board as a member of the treasury committee, a volunteer member of Born Passion, a founding member and current Venerable Dean of Acacia Fraternity, and is president and founder of the White Bear Lake Rotaract Club off of campus. In his free time, Mitchell enjoys playing music, writing, and pursues a side career of acting.
As a way of further exploring his interest in global issues and global change, Mitchell applied for an undergraduate position with ICGC. He started working with the ICGC team at the start of 2017 and has enjoyed learning from all of the faculty and scholars in the center.  

Nusrat Chowdhury

Office Assistant

Nusrat Chowdhury is ICGC’s undergraduate office assistant. She is an international student from Bangladesh currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Economics emphasized on statistics. She will be graduating in Spring 2019 and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Economics with focus on development and international trade. Nusrat also currently works at the Heller-Hurwicz Economic Institute as an undergraduate research assistant.  She has served as a the facilitator of International Student Advisory Board  on campus from 2016-2018. She enjoys painting, biking and learning about different cultures and places. 

David Wilsey

Program Director, MDP Program

David Wilsey is the Program Director for the Master in Development Practice (MDP) program, which is co-administered by ICGC and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Dr. Wilsey’s research and practice focus on development of integrated natural resource conservation and livelihood programs, generally focusing on forest-and farm-based livelihood systems. He is particularly interested in the role of non-timber forest products in food and livelihood systems and the development of market-based interventions to support livelihood and lifestyle goals.

Dr. Wilsey joined the MDP program in 2013 as the program coordinator and a lecturer. Prior to joining the program, he spent five years as an associate Extension professor & educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Sciences. His Extension work focused on three themes: natural resource based livelihood systems, non-timber forest products, and cross cultural program development. Dr. Wilsey was situated within the forestry program area, his work extended to other areas and he established productive collaborations with the small farms team, community vitality and economics, family resource management, and the American Indian leadership team, of which he was an active member. Though his interests are broad ranging, over the course of his career Dr. Wilsey primarily worked with forest–based and forest–oriented groups in the Americas: in Minnesota, several states in Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador. He finds the opportunity to expand this portfolio to include other themes and regions to be a great privilege of working with the MDP program.