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KATHERINE CHENG, Brazil, 2018-2019

Fulbright Year: 2018-2019
Country: Brazil
Proposal Type: Research
Title: Microcredit as a Complement to Conditional Cash Transfer Programs
UGA Undergraduate Majors: Economics, International Affairs
Graduation Date: May 2018
Hometown: Marietta, Georgia

Katherine Cheng’s interest—in microfinance and conditional cash transfers—centers on their efficacy and impact upon recipients. She was able to take a closer look in 2016 during an 11-month study abroad residency in Brazil, under the auspices of UGA’s Portuguese Flagship Program.

Now she is taking an even deeper look with a Fulbright opportunity to return to Brazil. She will examine the effect of microcredit on health and education indicators of Bolsa Familia, a government-sponsored relief program that in 2017 was estimated to help some 13 million families.

She’ll be focusing her studies on the solidarity economy, which she says is present in a specialized program of the community bank, Banco Palmas, in Fortaleza.

“From my discussions with people here, the solidarity economy is fascinating,” Katherine said. “It is discussed very differently in the United States than how it is in Brazil. Here, there is a lot more emphasis on the valorization of social capital and how to increase it. They define social capital as the relations between people, even between mothers and children.

“They consider solidarity economics’ main goal is to strengthen social capital and then use it to sustain the community’s economic needs by incorporating a social aspect into credit programs. In the United States, solidarity economics is often studied in the context of cooperatives, which can often be large, fairly impersonal, and mostly in pursuit of profit.”

The first half of Katherine’s Fulbright experience will take place in Juazeiro do Norte, where she will take courses in solidarity economics and socioeconomics at the Federal University of Cariri and work with a research group in the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Management. In July, she will move to Fortaleza for a closer look at Banco Palmas.

In 2017, Katherine bolstered her qualifications by spending seven months in Washington, D.C., as a legislative intern researching international development, and by working three months as a culinary intern at La Cocina, a San Francisco-based startup incubator for underrepresented female entrepreneurs.

While at UGA, Katherine served as vice president of youth to business and was a blogger for AIESEC University of Georgia, an international leadership organization that arranges internships and social projects for young people to go abroad. She spent spring break in 2015 volunteering with HIV/AIDS patients in Missouri through Impact UGA. In 2016 she was a presenter at the Portuguese Flagship Conference, detailing her research on private colleges in Brazil.

Upon the completion of her Fulbright year, Katherine plans to return to her master’s program in agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis. She then plans to pursue a Ph.D. in either sociology or public policy with a development focus.