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A quarter century tackling the world's toughest problems

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As the Feinstein International Center turned a quarter century old, its first director remembers that the center’s success was by no means guaranteed. Who could have expected to put marginalized, vulnerable and often starving people at the center of a program that would bring them into the world of scholars and practice?” John Hammock asks:

The idea for the Famine Center came from the fertile spirit of Jean Meyer, the tenth president of Tufts University and a renowned nutritionist with a lifelong interest in fighting world hunger. Not shy about pursuing big ideas, Meyer has already founded the world’s first graduate school of nutrition (now Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition, Science and Policy) and welcomes the creation of a national hunger-focused center was doing. He also envisioned a center to combat global hunger, but he died in 1993 before that vision was realized. It was his longtime colleague Friedman who launched the International Famine Center in Tufts in 1995 as a joint effort with the University of Cork, 150 years after the Irish potato famine began. Irwin, dean of the school, was his Rosenberg.

“As Dean of the Friedman School, We felt that the new center should move forward,” recalls Gene Meyer University professor Rosenberg. “I have experience in this field working in Bangladesh and have seen the lasting effects of the Great Bengal Famine of 1943. Famines are often seen as ‘acts of God’ caused by droughts and floods. It has been done, but you think it is not. Experience famine without human action, sometimes in a malicious way. ”

Hammock, who was teaching at the Fletcher School during his sabbatical as Oxfam America’s Executive Director, was coincidentally elected as the Center’s first Director. In Rosenberg’s words, the collaboration with the University of Cork proved to be “a bridge too far away”, and when the relationship ended, Hammock gained insight from his many contacts in government agencies and NGOs. was able to take advantage of Tufts International Famine Center.

It became clear to Hammock that many universities had famine-focused programs, but no one in academia was looking to the broader humanitarian aid and conflict. , was funding to launch academic centers and programs focused on humanitarian response in complex emergencies. Serendipity stepped in again when a newspaper headline about Tufts’ plan to end world hunger caught the eye of Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Sean Feinstein. The result was a landmark gift to the facility, which was renamed the Feinstein Famine Center in 1997.

In the years that followed, the center combined research, fieldwork, and education to combat famine and humanitarian crises. “We deliberately bridge the divide between scholars and practitioners,” says Elizabeth Steitz (F01, F13), a longtime researcher at her center and an associate professor of research at the Friedman and Fletcher schools. says. “our modus operandi Change policy and bring about change. Our strength is that we are not afraid to literally get our hands dirty and hear real life stories that are often very difficult. ”

An early milestone of the Center was to establish livelihoods and life protection as a fundamental strategy to combat famine and humanitarian crises. According to his 1997 report by Famine Center scholar Sue Lhotse, working with communities to enact measures that will enable individuals affected by emergencies to survive and thrive over the long term This was far more effective than simply sending supplies such as food and medicine.

A year later, the Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) program was launched in response to USAID’s External Disaster Relief Office’s interest in enhancing the skills and credibility of hands-on aid practitioners. . The pioneering program, which enrolled its first students in 1999, combined the scientific expertise of the Friedman School. Fletcher School’s knowledge of politics and international relations. Its graduates have worked for countless NGOs and government agencies in their home countries, arming them with new analytical skills and best practices that have greatly expanded the Center’s impact.

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