Laura S. Meitzner Yoder, Ph.D.
Professor of Human Needs & Global Resources and Environmental Science
Dr. 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 (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.
Laurel Schone, M.A.
Student Support Coordinator
Laurel Schone has an M.A. in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling from Wheaton College and most recently worked as a counselor at a nonprofit counseling agency in Chicago. Laurel brings significant international experience to the position, having lived and worked in a global context for almost a decade, working with trafficked women in Nepal, and helping individuals and families navigate the ups and downs of cross-cultural adjustment.
She has a passion for walking alongside people living and learning in international environments, and enjoys a good cup of coffee, being in the mountains, and seeing people thrive.
Kelly Wilson, M.A.
Partnership and Placement Manager
Kelly grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City and studied Environmental Science and Spanish at Wheaton. She participated in HNGR and completed her internship in 2015 with Fundación San Lucas in Nicaragua. Kelly is incredibly thankful to be a part of the HNGR team, where she has the joy of maintaining the links with HNGR’s network of over 80 current partners and making connections with new organizations and faith communities that could host student interns. Through personalized discernment conversations, Kelly works to match students with internship placements that fit them well according to their field of study, personality, and passions, then support the logistics to make the placements a reality. She is honored to support students, accompany partners, and foster an environment that prioritizes doing justice and listening to marginalized people as the heralds of the Kingdom.
During high school and college, Kelly worked several summers to support community-based initiatives in Panamá and Honduras and developed community partnerships and placements for youth volunteers in Ecuador. She was Honduras Project director in 2014-15, and in 2016, Kelly joined the HNGR staff as interim Communications Coordinator until beginning an agricultural internship at ECHO in Florida, which led her to a field experience to develop a nutrition sensitive home gardens pilot program in Guatemala for 6 months. Kelly spent several years in Southwest Florida working to develop coalitions and support the initiatives of schools, non-profits, food recovery groups, and others to improve healthy food access among food-insecure populations. She has a master’s degree in Agricultural Education and Communication and is a skilled trainer and networker. She has two beloved cats and enjoys cooking, baking, spending time outside, and thoughtful conversation.
Laura 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 three children. Outside of school, the kids enjoy a variety of sports, friends and 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 Communications Specialist
Nina Mantalaba was a HNGR intern in 2019, interning in Quezon City, Philippines. There, she learned about holistic transformation through storytelling and sharing art. She graduated from Wheaton in 2020 with a degree in Anthropology and Psychology.
Nina is passionate about listening to, learning from, and amplifying others’ voices. She enjoys conducting interviews and curating others’ stories into different pieces of media. She believes that by listening to others' stories, one can connect, empathize, and relate with others around the globe.
Other than a well-crafted interview, she enjoys connecting with students, visiting museums, and creating art with others.
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.
Jim Beitler, Associate Professor of English
Enoch Hill, Associate Professor of Economics
Christine Jeske, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Jake Johnson, Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy and MFT Clinical Training Coordinator
Keith Johnson, Professor of Theology
Hanmee Kim, Assistant Professor of History
Christine Kepner, Associate Professor of Spanish
Cherith Lundin, Associate Professor of Art
Amy Reynolds, Associate Professor of Sociology
Vanya Tepavcevic, Associate Professor of Biological and Health Sciences