Bryan Viewpoints Speakers share their views on global health and development
This year, the Babson Center for Global Commerce hosted two Bryan Viewpoints speakers on campus for two days of lectures and conversations. Marcella McClatchey, Agricultural Development Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered a lecture on agricultural innovation in international development. Ryan Shackleton (C’99), software developer at the Institutes for Health Metrics and Evaluation, presented on data visualization in global public health research.
McClatchey and Shackleton, a married couple now living in Seattle, Washington, both attended liberal arts colleges and worked in the private sector before moving on to work in global development and global health.
McClatchey graduated from Amherst College with a BA in Religion and International Relations and from Duke University with a Masters in Public Policy in International Development. Prior to working at the Gates Foundation, McClatchey was a strategy consultant at two private sector firms, Accenture and Booz Allen Hamilton. “Duke was where I really cemented my career interest in working in development,” McClatchey said. However, McClatchey first wanted to work in the private sector to develop what she calls “a core counseling skill set” around problem-solving, communication and presentation skills.
McClatchey is now developing strategies to support smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia as the Inclusive Markets Manager on the Gates Foundation’s Agricultural Development Team. The Gates Foundation is “one step” from working directly “on the ground,” McClatchey explained, and instead offers strategy and grants to a network of partners.
McClatchey’s role is to provide strategy, manage investment portfolios and build relationships to support partner organizations that work directly with growers. “Cross-cultural communication is fundamentally essential to my job,” McClatchey said. “It’s important to approach these conversations with respect and humility and a willingness to be open to other perspectives.”
Currently, McClatchey’s work at the Gates Foundation focuses on helping small producers “on the front lines of climate change” adapt to new challenges. “We invest in innovations and technologies that provide farmers with better inputs, such as drought- or flood-resistant seeds, or agronomic inputs that help them better manage their farms,” McClatchey said.
As well as providing grants and investments to help small producers, she said: “We try to leverage the Foundation’s name and our voice to draw attention to the importance of climate adaptation and the risks that climate change poses to the development goals that we’ve all worked so hard for.
McClatchey presented her experience as a program officer in agricultural development on Thursday, September 30 in a talk titled “Investing for Resilience: How the Gates Foundation is Driving Agricultural Innovation.”
Shackleton graduated from Southern University with a BS in Geology. Before discovering a passion for data visualization, Shackleton modeled the mechanics of rock folding and fracturing as a PhD student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. This led to an internship at Midland Valley Exploration, a Scottish software and consultancy firm for the oil and gas industry.
Shackleton and McClatchey moved to Seattle to find work together, hoping to avoid the “two-body problem” of many married couples while looking for jobs. Shackleton said he began to redirect his career to focus on the world of data visualization and was inspired by Marcella’s work in the nonprofit space. “His job seemed a lot more fulfilling than working for the oil industry, so I definitely moved in that direction because it looked very appealing.”
This led Shackleton to apply for a job at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which was also launched by the Gates Foundation. Shackleton develops research tools and data visualizations for both the general public and global health researchers to analyze “very dense” data into useful parts.
“My passion was more data storytelling work,” he said. This involves highlighting useful information about the data through graphics or “scrollytelling” to make the data understandable to the general public and decision makers.
“You have to kind of adapt the data and the view to empathize with others and think about their background, what they might know, what they might not know and how to make it understandable to them. “said Shackleton. .
IHME has pivoted to devote resources to analyzing public health data and creating visuals to understand COVID-19 infection and death rates. In the spring of 2020, IHME released a widely cited model of COVID infection and death rates. Shortly after the model was released, the Trump administration reached out to the head of IHME to get more information for its COVID task force. Shackleton said the IHME model was important in convincing Trump to reverse his policy of reopening the country at Easter and expanding social distancing measures.
“It was super exciting as a database scientist, because we talked a lot about using data to change policy,” Shackleton said. “When the pandemic arrived, it was pretty clear to everyone in the organization that it was up to us to buckle up.”
Shackleton presented his talk, “Data Analysis and Visualization: Pushing the Boundaries to Extract Meaning and Value,” on October 1.
Shackleton and McClatchey spoke of the value of a liberal arts education in enabling them to adapt to their careers. “There are some similarities to the goals of a liberal arts education and as a consultant going into a business,” McClatchey said. “You’re working to really build a skill set that can be applied to a lot of different work issues and environments.”
“One of the things that really gave me a leap forward was having incredibly nurturing teachers and being in an environment where learning was so encouraged,” Shackleton said of his time there. in Sewanee. “You feel like ‘I have the confidence to figure things out, and I can do those things. “”