Fighting Hunger through Management Research

When MBA student Prerna Sekhri saw the job description for an “innovation fellow” in the World Food Programme’s Emergencies and Transitions Unit, she was strongly drawn to the opportunity.

Sekhri’s previous work at the Pacific Gateway Center, an immigration assistance nonprofit in Hawaii, had opened up her thinking about food insecurity and agriculture. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) was calling for someone to identify trends in technology in order to improve its emergency response systems—which fit her MIT Sloan School of Management training.

But because this was a summer internship, the Rome-based WFP offered only a basic stipend. She turned to the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center (PKG Center) to cover the financial gap. The PKG Center connects students with public service projects, and can provide funding, advice, and logistics. For Sekhri, it has become a focal point in her MIT experience—in addition to receiving fellowship funding, she now works there as a graduate assistant with the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge.

“My defining moments at MIT are the ones that have come through the PKG Center,” she says. “It’s shaping my career in truly compelling ways.”

During her summer at WFP, Sekhri researched and presented seven projects, and her proposal to bring together the currently fragmented data in complaints and feedback mechanisms for each region—allowing, for instance, a program launching in Jordan to learn from the successes and failures of a similar program in Pakistan—was green-lit. A pilot of her proposed data-driven systems integration is now in the works in WFP’s Somalia office.

This story was originally published in January 2017.