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Sommer Scholars

Jocelyn Kelly

PhD Student, Population, Family & Reproductive Health

With a mother who worked for the State Department, Jocelyn Kelly moved from country to country during her childhood. “I’ve always been interested in people’s stories,” says Kelly who pursued a career in journalism after earning an undergraduate degree in cognitive science. After college, Kelly moved to Mexico where she volunteered at a local hospital and worked with a doctor who traveled throughout the country to prevent child blindness in remote indigenous areas. “I loved journalism,” she remembers, “but it was too hands-off. I wanted to respond to the needs I saw.” Back in the U.S. and working as a disaster management specialist consulting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina, Kelly saw a need for evidence-based public health responses to humanitarian crises. She founded the Women in War program at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative after earning a master’s degree at Harvard. There, she studied the dynamics of the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, focusing on how communities, families and individuals were affected by the decades-long conflict in that country. She combined quantitative findings with women’s narratives, and spoke with soldiers to ferret out the roots of human rights abuses. Now, she's studying what drives conflicts in several African countries, and how the cycle might be interrupted. 5: Number of nonstate armed groups Kelly has worked with in her attempts to understand the roots of conflict