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Tracing Fair Trade: Katherine DeSilva

by Web on July 25, 2018

Katherine DeSilva, B.S. 2018, spent hours as a Millsaps College student studying the effectiveness of the fair trade model -- even conducted research about it in Kathmandu, Nepal -- as part of her Honors Project.

DeSilva will continue her research about the social movement that helps producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions as a ¬†graduate student at Oxford University’s Green Templeton College.

“I have been accepted to read for a master’s degree in social anthropology,” said DeSilva, who majored in anthropology with minors in economics and archaeology. She received her diploma on May 5 during Commencement at Christ United Methodist Church.

Coursework at Green Templeton College, she said, will ensure she has a strong background in analytic and methodological issues and fulfill an integral step on her path to pursue a Ph.D.

“The Millsaps Sociology and Anthropology Department has prepared me to take on this next step in my academic career,” DeSilva said. “It is very rare to find a group of individuals who support you in every endeavor no matter how small or large. Even in times of doubt, this department made the impossible feel possible and in my case, helped me stay on the path to achieve my long-term goals.

“I would like to thank Dr. (George) Bey for not only convincing me to attend Millsaps College but for pushing me in all of my academic pursuits. With his guidance, knowledge, and encouragement, I can honestly say that I have had a most meaningful experience at Millsaps.”

DeSilva traces her interest in the fair trade movement to the shop, Ten Thousand Villages, in her hometown of Media, Pennsylvania.

“I used to go inside this unique little shop growing up but never truly understood how the system operated globally,” she said. “During my freshmen year at Millsaps, I had planned to go to Kathmandu, Nepal during the summer of 2015 with the school. However, an earthquake kept me from doing so.

“In the spring before the trip was called off, I started to research what to do during my stay. My mother and I read about a fair trade company founded and operated by Americans within the city. Due to my limited knowledge and curiosity surrounding this business model, I started independently investigating fair trade in this corner of the globe. When it came time to submit a proposal for my honors project, I decided to take my interest further and study other fair trade groups throughout the city of Kathmandu.

“I was particularly interested in determining if this model is as fair as it is marketed. As fair trade is a western dominated and controlled system, I wanted to better understand what the model looks like from the perspective of the producer rather than the western consumer or controlling body. There is very little research conducted on the fair trade model from the perspective of the producer and I wanted to fill in that piece of the puzzle.”

DeSilva credits individualized attention from her professors with her growth as a student and opportunities on campus with her development as a leader.

DeSilva worked on campus for the ITS Helpdesk and theHub for three years. She served as treasurer and president of Phi Mu Fraternity and received the Dean’s Award for Unsung Greek Leadership in 2017, was both a Foundations and Orientation leader and received the Spirit of Foundations Award as well as the Outstanding Foundations Pair Award. She was a member of the Senior Year Experience Committee and a scribe for Student Life.

In addition, DeSilva belonged to Phi Eta Sigma freshman honorary, Omicron Delta Epsilon international economics honorary, Lambda Alpha anthropology honorary, and the Order of Omega Greek leadership honorary.