Clark Halpern arrived at Isara last week to start his third semester in the MSc of Agroecology Double Degree Programme with Wageningen University. Last year he spent one semester taking courses at Wageningen University before completing an internship at the World Bank. While he was at the World Bank, he contributed to agriculture projects focused on climate finance in the livestock sector and implementation of agriculture policy measures around climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. Clark is an American and grew up in Oceanport, New Jersey.
Before starting this master, what did you do? Why did choose this master?
For my undergraduate studies, I studied at the University of Chicago, where I gained a BSc in Environmental Science and a BA in Biology, where I specialized in microbiology. Following some research experience, I was invited to be part of the US Peace Corps in Ghana as an Agricultural Extension Volunteer. I lived in a small village in Northern Ghana for two years, where I connected rural agro-pastoralists and subsistence farmers with Ghanaian Ministry of Agriculture officials to conduct livestock vaccination campaigns, demonstrate planting techniques for improved yields of staple crops, and voice concerns of smallholder farmers to government officials.
As I was applying to different MSc programmes after my time in Ghana, I was able to have a meeting with Alexander Wezel, the head of ISARA-Lyon’s Agroecology programme. I was quickly convinced that this MSc was the best fit for me. At Wageningen University, I would focus on the policy and research components of agriculture. This foundation would be refined at ISARA-Lyon, where their high level of technical expertise in agroecology and connections to local farmers, companies, and government actors would provide an impressive view of what agroecology meant in practice.
What was your first impression of Lyon? And ISARA-Lyon?
I’m finding Lyon to be a beautiful city with grand old buildings and bustling markets. Coming to France, it is great to get out of my comfort zone with a new environment and language. I think Isara has a beautiful campus and I have felt welcomed by the ISARA-Lyon community. The smaller student body creates a more personal atmosphere where you can truly get to know your teachers and fellow students.
What would you like to do in the future?
I would like to work more on the policy and extension side of agriculture in the face of climate change. Hopefully I will be able to continue to live and work in France or in the European community, as some of the most exciting developments in the field are happening here.
I am excited to be at Isara, to study sustainable agriculture in a new and applicable way. The programme will ensure I will have plenty of interactions both with students and teachers as well as actors and stakeholders involved in agroecology. It is an exciting time to study agroecology, and I’m happy that I have the chance to contribute to the field.