SIT Alumna Presents Research on Hanoi Street Food, Meets Former President Jimmy Carter

Alexandra met former President Jimmy Carter while presenting her SIT research at Emory University.

In March 2012, SIT alumna Alexandra Pill had the opportunity to present research conducted on the SIT Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development program to audiences at Emory University and Tufts University.

In the spring of 2011, Alexandra received an Institute for Developing Nations – Center for International Programs Abroad (IDN-CIPA) grant from Emory University. The grant awards undergraduate students up to $2,500 to support study abroad research on a development-related topic.

Alexandra used her award to research street food in Hanoi while on the SIT Vietnam program in fall 2011. “I chose to study street food vendors,” she says, “because they play a critical role in providing cheap, accessible food, creating a unique cultural life, and representing a deep cultural history.”

The Independent Study Project that emerged from her research was titled “Street Food Policy in a Growing Economy: A Case Study of Street Food Vendors in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.” “I was interested in learning what life was like for a vendor in Hanoi’s Old Quarter,” Alexandra explains, “what policies affected them, and if their views of policy differed from [the views of] the policymakers and city officials who write and manage street food vending policy.”

After returning to Emory, Alexandra presented her research to an audience composed of other IDN-CIPA grantees and former President Jimmy Carter. The Carter Center helps fund the IDN-CIPA grants, and every spring, former President Carter meets with recipients of the grant to hear about their research.

Alexandra describes what the meeting meant to her: “President Carter’s health work around the world is impressive and empowering, and to have the chance to speak with him about my own research was a fantastic experience. I was thrilled to have the chance to speak one-on-one with him, and I will definitely cherish the experience.”

In addition, Alexandra submitted an abstract of her paper to Tufts University to be a presenter at their sixth annual Future of Food and Nutrition Conference in March 2012. She was accepted and gave a fifteen minute presentation.

“I believe that conducting research isn’t enough if it doesn’t get shared with others,” Alexandra says. “By sharing my research I feel that I have helped make my contribution to the field, and more importantly, I have tried to give a voice to the street food vendors of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.”

Alexandra plans to apply to PhD programs in anthropology that will allow her to continue her research on food policy and urban food systems. She says, “My decision to continue in higher education was greatly influenced by my research in Vietnam.”

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