Tanzania: BYU Student Research in Underdeveloped Countries

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Courtney Rada knew she wanted to do something to make a difference during the summer of 2016. While at first she was unsure of what direction she wanted to take, Rada quickly found an opportunity she felt was worth pursuit in a somewhat unexpected place: her Political Science 444 classroom. With a team of fellow BYU students, Rada decided to travel to Tanzania for the summer as part of Professor Dan Nielson’s research expedition working with underdeveloped countries.

With a team of fellow BYU students, Rada decided to travel to Tanzania for the summer as part of Professor Dan Nielson’s research expedition working with underdeveloped countries. The project was designed with a dual purpose to both allow students to aid their professor in his research, while they also designed and executed their own social and political experiments with the Tanzanian people.

In the field, students helped Nielson in the beginning processes of his experiment analyzing the effects of cell phone ownership on Tanzanian women. The students worked on phase one of Nielson’s interview survey with women in Tanzania, as well as assisted in the sampling process. As researchers in Nielson’s experiment, the students were able to gain valuable experience participating first-hand in a large-scale research process while living on-site in Tanzania.

In small groups, the students also worked on their own research projects. Rada’s group measured the likelihood of innovation in health clinics across Tanzania, dependent on who it was presenting the ideas to the clinics: Americans, or the Tanzanians themselves. By an almost overwhelming margin, Rada’s research group found that the clinics were much more likely to show interest in medical innovation if it was Americans presenting the medical information to the clinics, rather than native Tanzanians.

“In some ways it’s sad, but in a lot of ways it was empowering to see how much potential influence we [as Americans] have in inciting innovation in these clinics,” states Rada, “That we can make a difference means a lot as an outcome.”

What was one of the biggest ways this research experience in Tanzania impacted Rada, a senior studying economics, in her studies?

“This experience has really just opened a lot of doors for me. Right now, I’m applying to a lot of PhD programs, and the fact that I already have experience in the field and with this kind of research is infinitely more impressive to them. The fact that I have research that’s going to be published that I can show them has just proved invaluable to my application process,” Rada says.

Want to make a difference working with underdeveloped countries or do some research of your own? Start here: http://kennedy.byu.edu/isp/

Photos courtesy of Courtney Rada.

Photos courtesy of Courtney Rada.

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