Team of young African people in the Office

Kirchner Fellowship

Program Contact

Dr. LaKisha Odom

Development Contact

Catherine J. Maxwell

About the Kirchner Fellowship

The Kirchner Impact Foundation (KIF) established the Kirchner Fellowship program in 2014 with a mission to strengthen impact investing ecosystems in areas underserved by capital markets through training and empowering a diverse next generation of investors to allocate equity investments into early-stage companies.

The Kirchner Fellowship provides high-level mentoring from networks of investors to a cohort of university students. Fellows are trained to evaluate agriculture business investments and given discretion over investment decisions for companies solving critical food and agriculture challenges. Fellows work directly with the KIF leadership team and its network of thought leaders to engage in a series of face-to-face and online educational experiences that expose them to real-world, early-stage investment opportunities. Students then evaluate investments and have the discretion over investment decisions for companies solving critical food and agriculture challenges.

The Kirchner Fellowship is made possible through the support of the Kirchner Group, a leading values-based traditional merchant bank, FFAR and organizations like the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, as well as individual donors.

FFAR has supported the Kirchner Fellowship program since 2018. From 2018-2020 FFAR supported the Kirchner Food Fellowship program. Since 2021 FFAR supports the Kirchner Fellowship HBCU program.

The Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Program

KIF launched the Kirchner Fellowship HBCU Program in 2021, with support from FFAR, to increase diversity within the venture capital industry by training students at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to become agriculture technology venture capitalists. Through the program, students invest capital in early-stage food and agriculture companies applying ground-breaking technologies to provide sustainable solutions to address global food challenges.

The program is open to HBCU graduate students or undergraduate students with professional business experience. Applicants should be self-motivated, intellectually curious and passionate about the power of impact-oriented, for-profit businesses to address global food security challenges. Application information is available on the Kirchner Fellowship website.

The Kirchner Food Fellowship Program

The Kirchner Food Fellowship program was initially supported by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and North Carolina State University in 2018 to help build access by funding training for future financiers to invest in early-stage innovations that can transform global food production. The Kirchner Food Fellowship provides high-level mentoring from networks of investors to university students each year. Fellows are trained to evaluate agriculture business investments and given discretion over investment decisions for companies solving critical food and agriculture challenges.

FFAR provided the Kirchner Food Fellowship matching funds and technical expertise from 2018-2020 to prepare participants to make critical agriculture business investment decisions.

Kirchner Fellows

Wilberforce Twinamatsiko

Wilberforce Twinamatsiko

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Twinamatsiko is pursuing a master’s degree in computer science and technology. He is researching food and nutrition education and empowerment in local underserved communities. He has worked as a drug manufacturing quality analyst and has been involved in United Nations Populations Fund and World Bank public health projects.

Dartez is a former Stanford University Innovations Fellow and a participant in prestigious programs and case competitions such as the Turner MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network & Training) Competition and HBCUvc Fellowship. Pursuing a master’s degree in business, she has a passion for impact investing, edtech and regenerative agriculture and recognizes the transformative power of venture capital in shaping a better future.

Bilal is pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer science. He has interned at Fifth Third Bank’s Decision Sciences Group and Enterprise Data Office, as well as at Beacon Partners commercial real estate agency. He also previously worked for the student-run hedge fund BLK Capital Management.

Devotha Mwazembe

Tuskegee University

Devotha Mwazembe is pursuing a Ph.D. in Integrative Biosciences at Tuskegee University. Her research focuses on crop production, soil science, crop modeling decision tools, climate change and sustainability. She earned a Master of Science in Environmental Sciences from Tuskegee University and a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy from the Sokoine University of Agriculture.

Taylor Weekes

Howard University

Taylor Weekes is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance at Howard University. She is currently working as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst at Goldman Sachs in the Financial Institutions Group. Weekes has previously interned at PwC and the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

Ayodeji Akande

Howard University

Ayodeji Akande is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration in Computer Information Systems at Howard University. Akande currently serves as the President of the Howard University Investment Group and Chief of Staff of the Howard University Nigerian Student Organization. He previously worked at PJT Partners as an Investment Banking Analyst in the Strategic Advisory Group.

Martin Adu-Boahene 

Morgan State University

Adu-Boahene is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. He is passionate about investing, entrepreneurship and technology. He is currently working as an investment banking summer analyst at Citi in the Sophomore Leadership Program.

Prior to joining Citi, Adu-Boahene was an investment intern at the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), supporting early-stage technology and life sciences companies. During his freshman summer, he interned at KPMG. Adu-Boahene is also a senior fellow at HBCUvc.

Bryana Pittman

Florida A&M University

Pittman is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Systems Engineering at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla. She is passionate about bridging the gap between food deserts in the local community, researching innovations in intellectual property and exploring the financial markets.

Pittman is excited to use her aptitude for problem-solving in the investment landscape. Pittman has worked with Goldman Sachs in their HBCU Market Madness program. She is also a member of MANRRS (Minorities in Natural Resources and Related Sciences) and has plans for entrepreneurship in the agriculture/food sector.

Kwame Terra

Xavier University

Terra is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree in Health Equity at Xavier University in New Orleans. His studies focus on the association between the local food environment and chronic disease prevalence.

Terra recently founded bEHR Health Systems, a medical and lifestyle management platform aimed at improving health outcomes for African Americans. He believes that bEHR can help address the growing health disparities by increasing access to racially equitable healthcare and improving health literacy in the Black community.

After completing his MPH, Terra plans to work with entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers to address global food, housing and healthcare insecurity.

Eric Flood

Tufts University

Flood is pursuing a Master of International Business at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. His studies focus on international finance, capital markets and development economics.

Flood has worked in innovation and its funding throughout his professional career. Most recently, Flood worked as a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group’s startup investment and incubation arm, where he stood up a successful pet insurance startup and conducted due diligence of farmland acquisition with aims of regenerative conversion. Flood has experience working in emerging markets, most notably as a consultant supporting the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet program in Sub-Saharan Africa. Flood studied design and business at North Carolina State University, where he learned to pair empathy with analytic thinking to generate impact.

Rachel Resek

University of Pennsylvania

Resek is pursuing her MBA at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about bringing together her experience in venture capital, operations, and finance to build a healthier, more sustainable food system. As an MBA Investment Associate at Leaps by Bayer, Resek invested in early-stage companies in AgTech. Prior to her MBA she worked in a handful of operating roles at Box, an enterprise SaaS company, and in investment banking at Barclays. Resek received a BS in Systems Engineering manga cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania.

Yinuo (Jenny) Zhang

Georgetown University

Zhang is pursuing a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree at Georgetown University with a focus on global business and finance.

Zhang is interested in the nexus of business, sustainability and technology. She works to leverage private capital and expertise to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and generate social impact. As a Wallenberg International Fellow, Zhang studied the Swedish innovation system and supported Ericsson’s Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility team. Zhang worked at the Milken Institute’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy, analyzing philanthropic capital’s potential to catalyze social change. Prior to that, she was a part of the Digital Agriculture Team at the World Bank, where she researched the digital transformation of the food system and its impact on agricultural development. She also participated in a consulting project evaluating blockchain’s potential to improve financial inclusion within the Australian dairy industry. Zhang earned her BS in Foreign Service Summa Cum Laude from Georgetown University, majoring in Science, Technology and International Affairs, with a focus on food and agriculture’s role in sustainable development.

Brennan Costello

University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Costello is a graduate student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, pursuing a Master in Business Administration degree. Costello earned a Bachelor in Agribusiness, with minors in entrepreneurship and leadership from Nebraska in 2016. Having grown up working on a production row crop farm, Costello’s academic interests focus on utilizing the power of entrepreneurship to be a force for positive change, especially in rural development and agriculture technology.

Costello is also a team member at the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, empowering students and entrepreneurs pursue the development of new enterprises in the Midwest. He leads efforts to teach the mindset of entrepreneurship, and guides entrepreneurs through the validation and market testing phases of enterprise building. Previously, Costello helped found FarmAfield, an agriculture technology startup focused on reducing market volatility for farmers around the world. He was also previously elected as a National Officer for the National FFA Organization and served as an international fellow for AgriCorps, an agriculture education developmental organization working in West Africa.

Ephrem Tesfaye Woldegiorgis

American University

Woldegiorgis is studying at American University’s School of International Service (SIS) under the Master in International Development Program, with emphasis in agriculture, rural development and rural economic institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Woldegiorgis has extensive work experience in the private, public and development sectors in Ethiopia. His recent job was at Moyee coffee in the capacity of supply chain manager with responsibilities ranging from sourcing coffee bean to exporting value-added coffee. Prior to that he worked with ACDI/VOCA, a U.S. based non-profit, on two USIAD-funded projects that focused on agribusiness market development and advanced seed adoption programs. His task was managing the market linkages, access to financial services and investment activities.

Woldegiorgis has a passion to contribute towards poverty reduction efforts where it has its most detrimental impacts—the rural households of Sub-Saharan Africa who engage in subsistence agriculture. His interest lies in sustainable agribusiness development with positive social impact.

Laura Zaim

University of Pennsylvania

Zaim is currently pursuing her MBA at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus in finance. She is an environmentalist and entrepreneur working to transition the global food system to one that is more sustainable from an environmental, human health and animal welfare perspective. As Venture Partner at New Crop Capital, Zaim helps bring alternative proteins to market by investing in and mentoring early-stage companies developing plant-based, fermented and cultured alternatives to meat, seafood, eggs and dairy. She earned a BA in Anthropology summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis and received the John W. Bennett Prize to the Outstanding Graduating Senior in Anthropology.

Emery (Hattie) Brown

Tufts University

Brown is a Master of Science candidate at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, where her studies focus on trade and agricultural policy in the interest of international food security. While in graduate school, Brown was a Tisch Fellow at the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Food Assistance Division, where her work focused on the impact of development programs on agricultural markets and trade facilitation. Brown was also on a team at that assessed the capacity of technology platforms to manage in-kind donations in the disaster context. Prior to graduate school, Brown worked in both the private and public finance sectors in a regulatory compliance capacity, implementing requirements set forth by the Bank Security Act, in addition to researching corporate governance issues.

Charles Higgenbotham

Cornell University

Higgenbotham is currently pursuing his Master of Public Administration degree in Agriculture and Life Sciences with a specialization in International Agriculture and Rural Development at Cornell University. His academic interests comprise developing agricultural systems that simultaneously increase food production, restore ecosystem resilience and biodiversity, and improve economic opportunities for small farmers internationally.

Higgenbotham is also served as a Sustainable Agriculture Systems Volunteer in the United States Peace Corps, completing his service in the Comarca Embera-Wounaan within the Darien Province of Panama. His primary mission was to sustainably augment coffee and cacao production among Emberá cultivators, with secondary public health projects concentrating in HIV education. Having been deeply impacted by his experience with the Emberá, Higgenbotham is dedicated to exploring how socially conscious enterprise can contribute to addressing the intractable economic, environmental, and socio-cultural problems facing similar isolated indigenous populations throughout the Americas.

Ambulah Mamey

American University’s School of International Services

Mamey is currently a graduate student at the American University’s School of International Services (SIS), where he is pursuing a Master of Science Degree in Development Management. His concentration is in Agricultural Development and the Environment. Mamey also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and certificates in banking operations, journalism and public relations.

Mamey has worked extensively in Liberia, spanning over eight years in both the public and private sectors. Before joining SIS, he worked with the National Oil Company of Liberia and its partners (ExxonMobil, and TGS NOPEC) on Corporate Social Relations programs that, among other things, trained and empowered at-risk women and youth in food crops production, animal husbandry and entrepreneurship. He previously served as a manager in the Commercial Bank Department of First International Bank Liberia Limited, which is now GN Bank. His interest in agriculture is driven by his conviction that the sector embodies huge potentials to end acute global poverty.

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