Margaret Hegwood

Hometown: South Windsor, Connecticut
Major: Agricultural and Biological Engineering, MS; Concentration in Biological and Food Processing Engineering

Margaret Hegwood, a Master’s candidate in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, earned a Boren Fellowship. Hegwood spent four months in Kenya at the University of Eldoret in Fall 2019 performing master’s thesis research and learning Swahili.

Hegwood’s research focuses on food processing techniques that may help reduce the incidence of aflatoxin, a mold that affects many crops including maize and peanuts, which are staple crops grown in Kenya.

“I aspire to become an expert in international food systems and agriculture development,” says Hegwood. She is glad to apply her educational background to solving real-world problems. As she noted, “Hungry people are angry people.” Therefore, contributing to food security across the world aids in national security by reducing tensions between governments and citizens, and allowing for more peaceful interaction across countries and cultures.

The Boren Fellowship, focused on national security, provides funding for undergraduate and graduate students to travel for the purposes of learning critical languages, including Swahili. Hegwood pointed out the importance of Swahili, noting that “it unifies all 42 unique tribes” in Kenya. Hegwood sees learning Swahili as a natural part of building what she calls “global competency,” which is essential for international work. Hegwood says:

“For me, global competency means building three things: empathy for others, self-awareness, and emotional resilience. The last one is especially hard. Learning how to live and thrive in a new environment means being OK with making mistakes and receiving criticism. You’re trying to simultaneously fit in to a new culture while also finding a version of yourself there that doesn’t compromise your own beliefs or values. This balance – maintaining self while also achieving personal growth – is really difficult, but that makes it one of the most important pieces of global competency.”

Links to Press Release/Articles:,-food-safer-on-prestigious-national-security-fellowship.html

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