SIA alumna to deliver pre-commencement ceremony address

Paige Castellanos Credit: Mary Szmolko

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Paige Castellanos ’10, postdoctoral scholar in the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, will deliver the keynote address at the Penn State School of International Affairs Pre-Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 8. The Pre-Commencement Ceremony, which is an SIA-specific celebration to commemorate the accomplishments of the class of 2016, will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Sutliff Auditorium of the Lewis Katz Building.

Castellanos received her doctorate degree with a dual-title in Rural Sociology and International Agriculture and Development from Penn State in 2015. She is the recipient of the 2014 W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award and the 2015 Alumni Association Dissertation Award. Now, working in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Office of International Programs, she contributes to a project out of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture at the University of California, Davis and funded by USAID. The project is titled Women in Ag Network (WAgN): Honduras, and Castellanos is researching and implementing opportunities for women’s empowerment through the production and selling of vegetables and fruits.

Castellanos discovered her passion for international development at SIA. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in French with an option in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management, she worked as a General Manager of a hotel in Connecticut, where she interacted with many members of the large Latin American population there. She realized she wanted to continue to work in a more international setting, and so she applied to SIA. As a graduate student, she took her first class in Community, Environment and Development (CED) as an embedded course, which included a trip to Honduras over spring break.

“I knew I wanted to do something internationally focused, and an asset of the SIA program is it provides a large amount of breadth,” she said. “For instance, coming to a university like Penn State, I am able to access resources I wouldn’t be able to access in New York or D.C. This allowed me to explore different topics within international affairs and customize my own degree.”

The progression of her research continued, as her dissertation research topic in Rural Sociology came from a paper she first wrote about atSIA. The connection between her SIA classes and her capstone internship, in the Office of International Programs where she now works, allowed her to experience real world applications of what she was learning. As well, the vast cultural diversity of its students taught her to see global issues from different perspectives.

“A major strength of SIA is that it brings together students from different countries and nationalities, which make this program rich and allow us to learn from one another,” she said. “I was fortunate to be classmates with students from Cameroon, Turkey, China, and the U.S. with a wide variety of international experiences.”