Tegan Walker, a first-year doctoral student in the College of Education, was awarded the Future Leaders Fellowship by the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD). This annual competitive fellowship is awarded to students who have shown an interest in addressing international agriculture and rural development issues.
Walker was one of just twelve students selected to attend the AIARD annual conference and visit a variety of development agencies and organizations in Washington D.C. Walker, a returned Peace Corps volunteer, is pursuing her Ph.D. in agricultural education and international development in the College of Education.
“The Fellowship provides a great opportunity to travel to organizations and agencies and NGOs, all related to international development,” Walker said. “It’s a great way to meet people and learn about the different organizations.”
Walker grew up in West Virginia before attending college at Virginia Tech, where she had her first study abroad experience.
“I was able to go to Costa Rica, which really fueled my passion for Central America,” she said. “I was in a program that focused on sustainable development, and that allowed my twin interests of agriculture and international development to come together. I’ve been very engaged in those same interests ever since.”
After receiving her Master’s at Texas A&M in international agricultural development, Walker took off for Panama, this time as a Peace Corps volunteer.
“In Panama I was focused on helping farmers with their coffee production, as well as using local fish production for increased protein consumption to build health and increase food security. I also led a large post-harvest management project to help create value-added products and reduce post-harvest loss. It was really exciting. The Peace Corps forces you to be ready for change and to go with the flow, because you just never know what’s coming next.”
In Panama, Walker lived in primitive conditions. She had a 45 minute hike on a dirt trail from the gravel road, which itself was hours from the nearest city, to reach her community. No vehicle could get it, because the trail was too narrow Her community had no electricity or cellphone service.
Back in the U.S. in 2017, she married a man she met during her service in Panama and reunited with her major professor from Texas A&M, James Lindner. Lindner persuaded her to come into the doctoral program at Auburn, where he had recently moved.
“So here we are,” she laughed. “So far I’ve really loved Auburn and the doctoral program. It’s been a hot summer, but I got used to that in Panama. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I graduate, but I know it will somehow involve agriculture and international development, most likely back in Central or South America focusing on sustainable food production. We have a great program here at Auburn, and I know I’ll be ready for whatever comes next.”