From Rural Resilience to Migration Management: Meet the 2023 Human Capital Initiative Faculty Affiliates

Marrakech, Morroco. Photo by Calin Stan via Unsplash.

The Boston University Global Development Policy (GDP) Center is pleased to announce the inaugural cohort of Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Faculty Affiliates. These six full-time BU faculty members represent diverse departments across the University, including the Department of Earth and Environment, the Department of Economics, the Pardee School of Global Studies and the Department of Health Sciences.

The HCI Faculty Affiliate Program provides seed grants, opportunities for collaboration and administrative resources to outstanding BU researchers whose scholarship is centered around issues related to human capital, social and economic development and human well-being. The aim of the program is to actively support faculty research activities in these focal areas and to foster engagement within the BU human capital research community at large. Affiliates join the four current HCI Core Faculty Members for a one-year term to work on academic and policy outputs that are commensurate with HCI’s mission. 

Below, meet the 2023 HCI Faculty Affiliates and learn about their human capital research interests:

Andrew Bell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at BU. Prior to his appointment at BU, Bell was a Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at NYU New York and Abu Dhabi. His work is focused on rural livelihoods decision-making, using surveys and experiments to elicit behaviors at the individual scale and agent-based models to examine consequences at the system scale. 

As an HCI Faculty Affiliate, Bell will build on his research on rural resilience and urban transition, driven by two central motivations: first, that farming in a modern, market-integrated world is an endeavor of hard labor, risk management and entrepreneurialism for which few people are naturally suited, and second, that solutions to most modern environmental challenges lie in closing gaps in agency and access, both across and among peoples of the Global North and Global South. In prior research, he has shown that designing interventions to benefit those with the greatest need usually requires reaching and benefiting those in between.

Raymond Fisman holds the Slater Family Chair in Behavioral Economics at BU. Previously, he was the Lambert Family Professor of Social Enterprise and Co-Director of the Social Enterprise Program at Columbia Business School. Fisman’s work focuses on various aspects of political economy and behavioral economics and has been published in leading economics journals and widely covered in the popular press.

As an HCI Faculty Affiliate, Fisman will build on his research into the human costs that occur when companies gain from their personal ties to government, as well as how politicians themselves may benefit from holding office through wealth accumulation. In recent research, he explores how transparency rules and institutions affect who chooses to become a politician, a topic that is of immediate policy relevance to HCI’s Political Economy of Human Capital program.

Martin Fiszbein is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at BU. He studies economic growth and development from a historical perspective. In particular, his research examines the determinants and impacts of structural change, technology adoption and skill formation, as well as the historical roots of cultural traits. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Brown University. 

As an HCI Faculty Affiliate, Fiszbein will build on his research into the historical origins and persistence of conservative gender norms that create obstacles for women’s empowerment in the United States, in addition to the historical prevalence of slavery and the persistence of racial animus. In previous research, he has used US Census data to show that settlement frontier locations were historically characterized by higher fertility and lower rates of paid work outside the home for women and examined how poverty may lead to severe obstacles to human capital formation, creating “poverty traps.”

Rachel Nolan is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the BU Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. Her research focuses on political violence, Central American civil wars, childhood and the family, historical memory and U.S.-Latin American relations. She holds a Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean History from New York University. 

As an HCI Faculty Affiliate, Nolan will build on her research into deportations from the US to Latin America. Previously, she has found that the common US claim that “all deportees are criminals” is frequently repeated throughout Central America and the Caribbean, without separating out the small percentage of deportees who have committed crimes other than crossing the border without authorization. She is currently working on her second book, which will examine the effects of deportations on deportees’ reintegration into their home communities and decisions to attempt to reenter the US.

Peter Rockers is an Associate Professor in the Department of Global Health at the BU School of Public Health. He is the Director of the Global Health Program Design, Monitoring and Evaluation certificate within the Masters of Public Health program. His work focuses on evaluating behavioral and health system interventions in low- and middle-income countries using experimental methods.

As an HCI Faculty Affiliate, Rockers will build on his research on designing and evaluating interventions that aim to improve child development in high-poverty settings. In previous research, he has collaborated with experts from a diverse set of disciplines, including brain science and psychology, to examine the pathways through which early adversity influences human capital formation. He is particularly interested in the relationship between nutrition and brain development.

Lawrence Were is an Assistant Professor of Global Health in the Department of Health Sciences at BU’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. His research focuses on the application of health economics in the estimation of the impact of healthcare reforms on the outcomes of marginalized and high risk populations, such as informal traders and HIV+ individuals. 

As an HCI Faculty Affiliate, Were will build on his research into how reforms within healthcare systems influence health insurance access, social determinants of health and complex humanitarian emergencies. In previous research, he has shown that insurance enrollment still remains relatively low in limited resource settings, despite evidence that health insurance enrollment improves access to care and health outcomes.


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