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The Rockefeller Foundation Announces Inaugural Cohort of Fellows

The Rockefeller Foundation Fellows include senior-level experts across the fields of health, power, innovative finance, governance, economic opportunity, and the life sciences


NEW YORK— The Rockefeller Foundation is pleased to announce the inaugural class of a new Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship.

The Fellowship award includes support to work for up to two years on an independent project that will ultimately lead to meaningful results to improve people’s lives around the world and that is consistent with the Foundation’s mission, values, and strategic priorities. The inaugural cohort of Fellows will work on a range of projects across the fields of health, power, innovative finance, governance, economic opportunity, and the life sciences. In addition to advancing their independent projects, Fellows will share their expertise and perspective with the Foundation and its network of grantees, partners, and peer institutions working collectively to address the world’s most pressing challenges. As Fellows, they will also connect with one another through a program of activities designed to enable sharing of ideas and thoughtful dialogue and debate.

“With their notable accomplishments and commitment to improving the lives of poor and vulnerable around the world, The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support this cohort of Rockefeller Foundation Fellows,” said Rajiv Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “We are incredibly inspired by this stellar group of Fellows, and look forward to the tremendous impact we will be able to have together as we collectively strive to promote the well-being of humanity in the 21st century.”

By supporting senior level experts and seasoned practitioners advancing work aligned with the Foundation’s overarching mission and goals, this Fellowship builds on the Foundation’s legacy of investing in people and supporting big, bold ideas. Since 1914, the Rockefeller Foundation has supported more than 14,000 individuals through over 40 different fellowships across the agricultural, medical, natural, and social sciences, as well as the arts, education, and humanities. These fellowships have supported training for agronomists in Mexico, historians in India, Latin American filmmakers, and nurses from around the world.

The Rockefeller Foundation Fellows were selected via a nomination and invitation to apply process based on their significant accomplishments within their field, proven expertise, and compelling individual work. The Foundation plans to select the next cohort of Fellows later in 2018.

The inaugural cohort of Rockefeller Foundation Fellows includes:

Catherine Bertini is an accomplished leader in international organization reform, and has served as United Nations Under Secretary-General for Management, UN Security Coordinator, and as Executive Director of the UN World Food Program (WFP), the world’s largest international humanitarian agency. She was named the World Food Prize Laureate for her work at WFP. She served as a Senior Fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and on the Hilton Foundation humanitarian prize jury. Bertini’s extensive experience spans academia, the private sector, major foundations, government, and board roles in a variety of organizations. Bertini will be working a Fellowship project titled Leadership in Response to a Changing World which will review the international institutions and programs that could help advance humanitarian relief, development, and peace.

Karan J. Capoor has over 25 years of global experience at the interface of public policy and private sector transactions in energy, infrastructure and climate change. Most recently the World Bank’s energy program head for the Clean Technology Fund and the Green Climate Fund, he previously led innovative operations in Asia, Africa and Latin America and managed the design and launch for the Bank’s multi-billion dollar carbon finance business. His experience in the energy sector has included leading innovative joint operations with the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency in mobilizing commercial financing for transactions through public-private partnerships. His Fellowship project, Innovative Opportunities for Philanthropic Capital to Support Clean Infrastructure, will identify and demonstrate the viability of innovative business and financing models to scale up investment in resilient infrastructure development and services.

Agnes Dasewicz has over 20 years of experience in private equity and impact investment in emerging markets and most recently, she served as the Director of the Office of Private Capital and Microenterprise at the U.S. Agency of International Development where she led the Agency to design and implement several key initiatives at the nexus of commercial investment and development finance. As part of this work, she led the private sector outreach to support Power Africa, securing over $20 billion of investment commitments from U.S. and African financiers, and initiated the first partnership of the Agency with institutional investors. As an RF Fellow, she will be working on a project titled Opportunity America which focuses on increasing knowledge and identifying opportunities to create and finance sustainable infrastructure and economic growth in the US. .

Trooper Sanders has worked across business, government, and philanthropy to advance solutions to critical social challenges in the United States and internationally. He served as a White House policy advisor during two administrations and worked on issues ranging from supporting military families – including setting up the public engagement campaign Joining Forces and shepherding a presidential study directive mobilizing non-defense federal agencies – to improving mental health. His Fellowship project, Silicon Main Street: Maximizing the Economic and Equal Opportunity Potential of the Digital, Data, and Automation Era, will identify opportunities for technology-related career pathways for traditionally marginalized populations in industries that are outside of the traditional technology sector. The project will also focus on forging closer ties between traditional civil rights and equal opportunity communities and newer networks shaping the economic, ethical, and social norms of the Digital Age.

Peter M. Small, MD is the Founding Director of the Global Health Institute at Stony Brook University which focuses on the use of innovation to reduce poverty, ecological devastation and disease in Madagascar and other poor countries. Before joining Stony Brook, Peter worked for the Gates Foundation for nearly 13 years where he was responsible for developing the foundation’s tuberculosis strategy, building the programs core partnerships and country programs, hiring and managing the TB team, overseeing the vaccine, drug and diagnostic product development activities and serving as the foundation’s voice for tuberculosis. As a Fellow, he will work on a project titled Delivering Community Based Primary Health Care Through Digitally Empowered Innovation which seeks to identify opportunities to ensure that the world’s poor and vulnerable populations are able to benefit from advances in data and technology to address community health care needs.

Wendy Taylor is the former Director of the Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact at the U.S. Agency for International Development, a center of excellence applying innovative, business-minded approaches to accelerate the development, introduction and scale-up of priority global health innovations. She has worked for the last 20 years identifying market-based solutions to address diseases and conditions of poverty. In 2004, she founded Bio Ventures for Global Health, a non-profit working to engage the biopharmaceutical industry in developing medicines for diseases of the developing world.  She also held senior positions with Malaria No More and the Biotechnology Industry Organization and worked in both the executive and legislative branches of the US government, including the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means.  Her project, Democratizing Data and Tech to Tackle Some of the World’s Toughest Health Challenges, will lay out a vision and clear business path for success in applying data technology to pandemic threats and to strengthening community health.

Melanie Walker, MD is an endovascular neurosurgical Fellow at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and adviser to Bill Gates at bgC3 in Seattle on neurotechnology and brain science. Her career has focused on innovation at the intersection of life sciences, government and philanthropy and her experience creating partnerships between government and non-government institutions has helped foster new approaches and solutions to global problems in health and development. She was the director of President Jim Yong Kim’s performance improvement office at the World Bank, and a Deputy Director for Global Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her Fellowship project Frontiers in the Life Sciences will explore the boundaries of modern life sciences through continued technical contributions in her own field of endovascular neurosurgery, investigation of emerging technologies, and dialogue with scientific visionaries.