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HNGR Faculty and Staff

Laura S. Meitzner Yoder, Ph.D., Professor of Human Needs & Global Resources and Environmental Science

Laura YoderDr. Yoder's research focuses on human-environment interactions in remote villages and urban centers of Southeast Asia and Latin America. She has sought to understand rural people’s realities by working alongside smallholder farmers and forest dwellers, and to communicate their priorities to national and international policymakers. 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. Her ongoing work in Timor-Leste examines the interactions between customary and state authorities regarding land and forest management.

In Asia and in North America, she enjoys guiding students and faculty through intercultural learning and research in field contexts. Serving at a state university with the Mennonite Central Committee in West Papua, Indonesia, she advised Indonesian students and worked with the local church and other organizations to secure land and forest access for rainforest dwellers. Responding to the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia, she taught at the local state university and led a social 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 about sustainability and field research on 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, histories of botanical exploration and colonial governance, walking in forest shade, swimming, and asking questions. 


James Huff Jr., Ph.D., Associate Professor of HNGR and Anthropology, Associate Director of HNGR

James HuffJames (Jamie) G. Huff Jr. received his Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from American University (Washington, DC) in 2004, and worked as Associate Professor of Anthropology at Vanguard University (2002-2014) prior to his faculty appointment to the Human Needs and Global Resources Program at Wheaton College. His scholarly interests focus on international and rural community development, religion in Latin America, faith-rooted social movements and non-government organizations (NGOs), and comprehensive community initiatives. He also has an interest in the pedagogy of study abroad programs and cross-cultural learning. His writing examines the changing religious landscapes of contemporary Latin America, with a particular focus on the social and economic changes generated by the rapid growth of Pentecostal-charismatic forms of Christianity across the region. For the past decade he has regularly conducted ethnographic fieldwork in El Salvador where he has documented the involvement of Pentecostal churches in community-based development projects. As an applied anthropologist, Dr. Huff has worked with various NGOs and community-based organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs to alleviate poverty and strengthen human well-being and community resiliency. Since 2008 he has worked collaboratively with the staff of a Christian non-profit organization (ENLACE) to implement evaluation studies that assess the impact of local development initiatives on the social, economic and physical well-being of rural communities across El Salvador.


Alexander H. Jones,M.A., Assistant Director


Alex Jones

Alexander H. Jones joined the HNGR program in 2015 after two years of administering summer programs in another Wheaton office. With undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wheaton College, Alex manages a portfolio of more than 300 active partners of Wheaton College in 70 different countries.  He serves HNGR through the facilitation of strategic partnerships, faculty-community research collaborations, student mentoring, and networking with global host organizations. Prior to his work at Wheaton College, Alex built strategic partnerships in Chicago between the federal government, the state government, corporations, and non-profit affordable housing agencies.  Alex’s vision is to build bridges between HNGR’s longstanding international host organizations and Wheaton College to promote comprehensive change at the institution. Currently pursuing his Ph.D in Higher Education, Alex researches and writes on university-community partnerships, and has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals on pedagogy, education, and university partnerships.


Mandy Kellums Baraka, Ph.D., Student Support Coordinator

Mandy Kellums BarakaMandy joined the HNGR program in the fall of 2014. She has an MA in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College and a PhD from Regent University in Counselor Education and Supervision. She uses her skills to assist with student assessment and development in the HNGR program.  Most recently, she worked in a crisis and community mental health setting in Chicago.  Mandy brings extensive international experience to the position, with more than a decade of working with students as they navigated cross-cultural learning and international living.  Mandy enjoys quality conversation over a good cup of coffee, tossing a frisbee, good books, photography, and consistently creating fun in the midst of a demanding schedule.  Mandy’s vision for her role in the HNGR program is equipping and empowering students before and during their internships and encouraging interns to fully integrate their experiences upon re-entry to Wheaton.


Laura Atkinson, Office Coordinator

Laura AtkinsonLaura grew up in Wheaton and graduated from Wheaton College in 1996 with a degree in Sociology. Her work experience includes a variety of “helping roles” ranging from Social Services at a nursing home; a teacher’s aid in preschool; a director of children’s ministry; and most recently before HNGR, working as Office Coordinator in the Athletics department on Wheaton’s campus. Laura and her husband Tim have lived in Wheaton since 1996 and have 3 kids: Drew, Sarah, and Emily.  Outside of school, the kids enjoy a variety of sports, friends & youth group. Laura is excited to be serving in the HNGR department where she can use her passion to help others.  She enjoys developing relationships with the HNGR students as well as the many partners, faculty, parents, and others associated with the program. 


HNGR Supporting Faculty

HNGR is supported by the following advisory committee members. Many other Wheaton College faculty mentor, advise, and visit HNGR students in the field. 

Amy Reynolds, Associate Professor of Sociology

Christa Tooley, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies and Anthropology

Christine Jeske, Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Christine Kepner, Associate Professor of Spanish

Gregory Lee, Associate Professor of Theology; Senior Fellow, The Wheaton Center For Early Christian Studies

Jake Johnson, Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy and MFT Clinical Training Coordinator

Jeff Galbraith, Assistant Professor of English

Leah Samuelson, Associate Lecturer of Art

Michael McKoy, Assistant Professor of Politics and International Relations

Tim Taylor, Assistant Professor of International Relations