Laura S. Meitzner Yoder, Ph.D.

Director of Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR)
On Faculty since 2013

Office: Schell Hall Lower Level
Phone: (630)752-5199


Ph.D., Forestry & Environmental Studies (Social Ecology), Yale University

M.P.S. (Agr.), International Agriculture and Rural Development, Cornell University (USA) and the Zamorano Pan-American School of Agriculture (Honduras)

B.A., Natural Science-Biology, Messiah College

About Laura S. Meitzner Yoder

Remote villages and urban centers of Southeast Asia and Latin America have been home to Laura Yoder since the early 1990s. She has sought to understand rural people’s realities by working alongside smallholder farmers and forest dwellers, and to relate their priorities to national and international policymakers. She has guided hundreds of Indonesian and North American students and faculty through cross-cultural learning and research in field contexts. Most of her work has been in situations of conflict, disaster, chronic poverty, or political marginalization. From people in these contexts, she has seen hope, joy, and how much there is to learn in unexpected places. Laura enjoys relating to people across the entire span of academic disciplines, believing that the approaches and skills of each professional perspective help us to view situations more completely.

Laura grew up in rural southeast Pennsylvania, never traveling far from home. She gained an early awareness of how the church engages with human realities to seek justice and to love mercy by having many refugees as childhood playmates, and seeing through her Christian schools how God’s people respond to both chronic and emergency needs. Through study abroad in Europe and Latin America, she saw how cross-cultural relationships expand our view of the church, even as they change our understanding of God’s world.

Through college studies, Laura embarked on a professional path in agricultural development alongside environmental conservation. A Mennonite Central Committee assignment at a regional university in West Papua, Indonesia, extended Laura’s view of development to matters of resource justice. She advised Indonesian university students in an area where she worked with the local church and other organizations to secure land and forest access for rainforest dwellers. In Papua, Laura also met and married Jeff, a water engineer with deeply shared commitments to improving community well-being.

These years in Southeast Asia marked Laura’s transition to political ecology and environmental anthropology. Through doctoral studies, she worked closely with traditional leaders and local government officials on the emerging policies on land and forest control in the newly independent nation of Timor-Leste (East Timor).

Responding to the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Laura and Jeff took their infant son to Aceh, Indonesia, where Laura taught in the state university and led a research methods training program for hundreds of Acehnese professionals. This initiative contributed to social healing after the dual tragedies of the tsunami and the decades of civil strife in the province.

Since 2008, Laura has taught North American students about sustainability and field research in rural and international development, in Thailand, Bhutan, Indiana, and elsewhere. She is keenly interested in the socio-political, legal, and faith dimensions of environmental issues worldwide. Her interests include languages, writing, tropical fruits, cooking and eating international foods, histories of botanical exploration and colonial governance, walking in forest shade, swimming, and asking questions.

Membership in Professional Societies

  • International Association for the Study of the Commons
  • Asian Borderlands Research Network
  • American Anthropological Association
  • Society for Economic Botany

Research Interests

  • Resource access in situations of conflict, disaster, and political marginalization
  • Livelihood strategies of smallholder farmers, swiddeners, and forest dwellers
  • Faith dimensions of human-nature relationships
  • Cross-cultural and experiential learning
  • Seed systems and biodiversity


Meitzner Yoder, Laura S. 2016.  “The formation and remarkable persistence of the Oecusse-Ambeno enclave, Timor.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 47(2): 281-303.  Abstract.

Joireman, Sandra and L.S. Meitzner Yoder. 2016. A Long Time Gone: Post-conflict Rural Property Restitution under Customary Law.  Development and Change  47(3): 563-585. Online.

Meitzner Yoder, Laura. 2016. Oecusse’s Special Economic Zone and Local Governance. State, Society & Governance in Melanesia In Brief 2016/5. Online.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S., S. Phuntsho, A.J. Conrad, H. Doren, R. Haney, C. Johantgen, S. Miller, Z. Reich-Aviles, A. Ritter and G. Zegas. Forthcoming 2016. "From Farmers to Foresters? Response to pine encroachment on former swidden fields in Choekkhor Valley, Bumthang district, Bhutan." In A Growing Forest of Voices, ed. M. Cairns. London: Earthscan.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S., C. Sedlak, and R. Mead. Forthcoming 2016. "Swidden fallow length: Reasons for adjusting the swidden cycle in Huay Pu-Ling, northwest Thailand." In A Growing Forest of Voices, ed. M. Cairns. London: Earthscan.

Meitzner Yoder, Laura S. 2015. "The development eraser: Fantastical schemes, aspirational distractions and high modern mega-events in the Oecusse enclave, Timor Leste." Journal of Political Ecology 22:299-321. PDF. 

Sears, R.S., and L.S. Meitzner Yoder. 2014. Fostering Students' Commitment to Service Through International Field Research. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly. PDF.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S.  2014. “Interruptions are not distractions: Lessons from teaching in faith-steeped conflict zones of Southeast Asia.” Pp. 198-212 in Faithful is Successful: Notes to the Driven Pilgrim, eds. Nathan Grills, David E. Lewis, and S. Joshua Swamidass. Denver, CO: Outskirts Press.

L. Zinn, J. Schramm and L.S. Meitzner Yoder. 2014. "Towards a deeper understanding of native and introduced species." Pp. 7-10 in Teaching about Invasive Species, ed. Tim Grant. Toronto: Green Teacher. PDF.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S., T.C. Hartzell, J.W. Schramm, and L.R. Zinn. 2013. "Building and boarding a bigger boat together: Learning about sustainability through direct encounters with diverse people in our watershed."Journal of Sustainability Education. Online.

Gill, T.B., R. Bates, A. Bicksler, R. Burnette, V. Ricciardi, and L.S.M. Yoder. 2013. "Strengthening informal seed systems to enhance food security in Southeast Asia." Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 3(3):139-153. Abstract

Meitzner Yoder, L.S., D. Ostergren, and J. Schramm. 2013. "Lessons on the Landscape: Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College." Sustainability: The Journal of Record 6(2):93-96. PDF

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. and A. Bicksler. 2012. "Using institutional arrangements to teach undergraduates about the commons in Thailand, and beyond." International Journal of the Commons 6(2):363-385. PDF

A. Bicksler, R. Bates, R. Burnette, T. Gill, L.S. Meitzner Yoder, V. Ricciardi, and Y. Srigiofun. 2012. “Methodologies for strengthening informal indigenous vegetable seed systems in northern Thailand and Cambodia.” Acta Hort. (ISHS) 958:67-74.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. and V. Ricciardi. 2012. "Seed fairs: Fostering local seed exchange to support regional biodiversity." ECHO Asia Notes 12. PDF

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2011. "Political ecologies of wood and wax: Sandalwood and beeswax as symbols and shapers of customary authority in the Oecusse enclave, Timor." Journal of Political Ecology 18:11-24. PDF

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2011. "Tensions of tradition: Making and remaking claims to land in the Oecusse enclave." In Land and Life in Timor-Leste: Ethnographic Essays, eds. A. McWilliam and E.G. Traube, pp. 187-216. Canberra: ANU E Press. Chapter

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2010. "Resource Rights." ECHO Development Notes 106:1-4.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2010. "Seeking Environmental Justice in Southeast Asia." The Well. Article

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2007. "Hybridising justice: State-customary interactions over forest crime and punishment in Oecusse, East Timor." The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 8(1):43-57.

Meitzner Yoder, L.S. 2007. "The tobe and tara bandu: A post-independence renaissance of forest regulation authorities and practices in Oecusse, East Timor." In Modern Crises and Traditional Strategies: Local Ecological Knowledge in Island Southeast Asia, ed. Roy Ellen, pp. 220-237. New York: Berghahn.

Dove, M. R., D. S. Smith, M. T. Campos, A. S. Mathews, A. Rademacher, S. Rhee, L. S. M. Yoder. 2007. "Globalisation and the Construction of Western and Non-Western Knowledge." In Local Science versus Global Science, ed. P. Sillitoe, pp. 129-154. New York: Berghahn.

Weltzien, E., M. E. Smith, L. S. Meitzner, and L. Sperling. 2003. Technical and institutional issues in participatory plant breeding—From the perspective of formal plant breeding: A global analysis of issues, results, and current experience. PPB Monograph No. 1, CGIAR Systemwide Program on Participatory Research and Gender Analysis for Technology Development and Institutional Innovation. Cali, Colombia: CIAT.

Dove, M. R., M. T. Campos, A. S. Mathews, A. Rademacher, S. Rhee, D. S. Smith, L. S. M. Yoder. 2003. "The Global Mobilization of Environmental Concepts: Re-Thinking the Western/Non-Western Divide." In Nature Across Culture: Views of Nature and the Environment in Non-Western Cultures, ed. H. Selin, pp.19-46. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Weltzien R., E., L. Sperling, M. E. Smith, and L. S. Meitzner. 2001. "Farmer participation and formal-led participatory plant breeding programs: Types of impact to date." In Assessing the impact of participatory research and gender analysis, eds. N. Lilja, J.A. Ashby, and L. Sperling, pp. 55-76. Cali, Colombia: CIAT. 208 pp.

Martin, Franklin W., Ruth M. Ruberte, and Laura S. Meitzner. 1998. Edible Leaves of the Tropics, Third Edition. ECHO: North Fort Myers, Florida. 194 pp.

Meitzner, Laura S., and Martin L. Price. 1996. Amaranth to Zai Holes: Ideas for Growing Food under Difficult Conditions. ECHO: North Fort Myers, Florida. 404 pp. (full text available online)

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