Ph.D. Candidate aims to serve the agricultural community: From a Vet in India to a Student in Minnesota

Elizabeth Abraham is excitedly looking forward to the research outcomes of her P.h.D thesis titled Development of Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy of Tribal Farmers in Nagaland, India. She says she can never erase the memories she made while visiting and interacting with the indigenous people of Nagaland for her research and data collection. Her passion for learning about marginalized farming communities began while she pursued her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) in her home country -- India. It was there that she witnessed the challenges faced by subsistence farmers, and she remembers reading in newspapers about these farmers committing suicide because they were unable to bear farming losses.

Born and raised in the state of Goa, which is known as a tropical paradise nestled on the Western Ghats of India, Elizabeth had little interaction with agriculture growing up. Her experience was limited to the vegetable garden that her parents meticulously cultivated in the backyard of their suburban home, but she loved spending time there. Elizabeth also remained ever curious about the welfare of the various little creatures she brought home as pets, from the squirrels that her cats chased or a little bird that fell from its nest. She did have an opportunity to visit her grandparents who lived in Southern India each year for the holidays, where Elizabeth received exposure to what she calls “real agriculture.” Her paternal grandparents were predominantly rice paddy cultivators, and her maternal grandparents planted Rubber, Cocoa and Coffee and other diverse crops.

PhD student Elizabeth Abraham stands between two Indian locals while during research on agriculture there.

PhD student Elizabeth Abraham (center) connects with two members of the Rengma Tribe in Nagaland, India while during research on agriculture there.

Elizabeth’s love for nature and animals led her to study veterinary medicine. It was during the internship period of her veterinary medicine program when she first interacted with poverty-stricken farmers. These farmers had nothing except a single cow or goat and sometimes a few square feet of land. Elizabeth was so moved by this experience that she was determined to do something for these farming communities so she decided to specialize in veterinary and animal husbandry extension. She soon began training small farming communities on management practices to improve production, and during this time she also worked with self-help groups for women in Southern India who were engaged in animal husbandry practices.

When Elizabeth immigrated to the United States she was already determined to pursue a Ph.D. She explored the University of Minnesota’s website and found the Agricultural Education program to be the best fit for her academic needs. Elizabeth said that doing her Ph.D. at the university has been an interesting journey, and she is grateful for all kinds of diverse opportunities that have helped her grow. Besides her classes, projects, and internship experiences, she has also enjoyed various public speaking and presentation opportunities. For example, she was one of six finalists for the College of Education and Human Development’s three-minute thesis research competition this year and currently serves as the Vice President on the Como Student Community Cooperative’s Board of Directors, which has given Elizabeth hands-on leadership, community engagement, and service experiences.

For all students who are new to the United States, she recommends to first get adjusted to the system of education here. Then, she encourages students to explore different opportunities even though they might seem intimidating in the beginning. In the near future, Elizabeth says she would love to work in a dynamic environment that supports innovation and utilizes her multifaceted experiences while she continues to serve the agricultural community.