Congratulations to Riya Mehta, a graduate of CDDRL's 2017-18 Fisher Family Honors Program, on her selection as a 2023 Knight-Hennessy Scholar. Knight-Hennessy Scholars cultivates and supports a multidisciplinary and multicultural community of graduate students from across Stanford University, and delivers engaging experiences that prepare graduates to be visionary, courageous, and collaborative leaders who address complex challenges facing the world.
Originally from Overland Park, Kansas, Mehta is "pursuing a JD at Stanford Law School. She graduated from Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in earth systems and a minor in Spanish. Riya is passionate about empowering agricultural communities and aims to help governments design tools that help farmers and ranchers not just survive but succeed. She began her career working on the 2018 Farm Bill as a John Gardner Public Service Fellow for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. She then led the agriculture and environment portfolio for U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta. Most recently, Riya served in the Biden-Harris administration as chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, where she worked to develop and implement pandemic assistance, disaster relief, conservation, and farm loan programs."
At CDDRL, Mehta wrote her thesis on Women, Water, and Agricultural Development: The effect of solar-powered drip irrigation on dietary diversity among subsistence farmers in West Africa. When asked what initially attracted her to the Fisher Family Honors Program, she shared at the time: "As an Earth Systems major, my academic career thus far has emphasized to me the importance of having both general and specialized knowledge, and I believe the nature of the CDDRL program will allow me to further develop both. Particularly, as I develop my own specific research question starting this spring in the CDDRL research seminar, I will be able to engage with and learn from the other students in my cohort, each of whom is pursuing a question that falls under the broad banner of democracy, development, and the rule of law. Later, as I develop my own thesis and become an expert on my specific topic, I will be able to seek out mentors and fellow students within CDDRL to help me reflect on and assess my research and its broader implications."