Board of Directors
President and Founder of IPA, Professor of Economics at Yale University
Dean Karlan is Professor of Economics at Yale University and President and Founder of IPA. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago's Harris Graduate School of Public Policy and Graduate School of Business and received his Ph.D in 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), and the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, Dean is also a research fellow at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development.
Founder, WPA Inc
Wendy Abt has just now re-joined the IPA Board, which she left when she was appointed to USAID as Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment, a position she has recently left. Immediately prior to her appointment to USAID, she worked with J-PAL and IPA on several projects in West Africa. Since leaving USAID, WPA, Inc the advisory firm she founded in 1995, is advising the African Development Bank on its financial sector development strategy. She has extensive transactional experience in Africa working as an adviser to African governments and central banks as well as institutional investors. In 2003, WPA sponsored and was the General Partner for a private equity fund whose anchor investor was HSBC, First Rand. Ms. Abt is an expert in commercial banking privatization, and has written, published, and lectured on the topic. Prior to her advisory and investment assignments, she held executive positions in a major US commercial bank. Before her career in banking, Ms. Abt spent over ten years in public policy research, first in Africa and then in the United States with the African American Institute in New York, and Abt Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ms. Abt received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Government from Connecticut College, and a master’s degree in statistical research from Harvard University’s School of Education.
Co-Program Director in Finance, International Growth Centre and Lecturer in Economics, London School of Economics
Greg Fischer is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the London School of Economics and Co-Director for the finance program at the International Growth Centre. He is a graduate of Princeton University and received his PhD in 2008 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also has ten years’ experience in the investment and banking sector with Centre Partners Management and Morgan Stanley Capital Partners. He is the recipient of several awards and grants, including the Economic and Social Research Council’s First Grant (2009-2012), the Robert M. Solow Prize (2008), the Small Grant in Behavioral Economics from Russell Sage Foundation (2007), the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship (2005-2008), and MIT’s Presidential Fellowship (2003-2005). He is also a member of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the Economic Organization and Public Policy Programme, STICERD at LSE, CEPR and BREAD.
Principal of Black Canyon Capital
Paras Mehta is currently a Principal of Black Canyon Capital, a Los Angeles-based private capital firm focused on investing in equity and debt securities of middle-market companies. Prior to joining Black Canyon in 2005, Paras was a Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Credit Suisse. Paras received his A.B. summa cum laude in Mathematics from Harvard University. He was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, receiving master’s degrees in Philosophy and Oriental Studies, and also pursued graduate studies in Economics at MIT.
Director of Strategy Measurement and Evaluation at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Jodi Nelson, Ph.D. is a Director in IPI specializing in the Global Development Program at the Gates Foundation. Prior to joining the Gates Foundation, Nelson was founder and first Director of the Research and Evaluation Department at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Jodi worked before this at several nonprofit organizations with international missions, including the Asia Society, the Society for International Development, World Resources Institute, and the Committee for Economic Development. She has taught graduate courses on international aid and evaluation at Princeton University and New York University. Jodi has a doctorate in Political Science from Columbia University, and a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.
Professor of Law at University of Michigan Law School
J.J. Prescott is a Professor at the Law School whose research and teaching interests include criminal law, sentencing law and reform, employment law, and torts. Much of his work is empirical in focus. He received his J.D., magna cum laude, in 2002 from Harvard Law School where he was the Treasurer (Vol. 115) and an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Professor Prescott clerked for Judge Merrick B. Garland on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and he earned a Ph.D. in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006. Professor Prescott was a Research Fellow at Harvard Law School in 2003–2004, a Special Guest at the Brookings Institution (Economic Studies) in Washington, D.C., in 2004-05, and a Research Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center from 2004 to 2006. He received a double B.A. with honors and distinction in Economics and Public Policy from Stanford University in 1996.
President of the Flora Family Foundation
Steve Toben is the president of the Flora Family Foundation in Menlo Park, California. FFF supports the philanthropic activities of the descendants of Bill Hewlett, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company. Interests of the Flora Family Foundation include international development, the environment, education, and human rights. Before joining the staff of the Flora Family Foundation, Mr. Toben served as a program officer at the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation where he directed the foundation's programs on conflict resolution and the environment. He is a former chair of the Environmental Grantmakers Association and a co-founder of the Peace and Security Funders Group. He is a recipient of the Peacemaker/Peacebuilder Award from the National Peace Foundation in Washington for his work in international conflict resolution. Mr. Toben is a graduate of the Yale Law School and the University of North Carolina, where he was a Morehead Scholar. He began his career as a law clerk for the Hon. Sam J. Ervin, III, on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and practiced law for eight years. His board service includes the Consensus-Building Institute in Cambridge, the Global Justice Center in New York, the Great Valley Center in Modesto, Legacy Works in Palo Alto, and the Institute for Conflict Transformation in New York. He is a former member of the Portola Valley Town Council and twice served as mayor.
Professional Researcher at University of California, Berkeley's School of Information
Kentaro Toyama is a researcher at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, where he’s writing a book on global development. Until 2009, he was assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India, which he co-founded in 2005. At MSR India, he started the Technology for Emerging Markets research group, which conducts interdisciplinary research to understand how the world’s poorer communities interact with electronic technology and to invent new ways for technology to support their socio-economic development. Prior to his time in India, Kentaro did computer vision and multimedia research at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA, USA, and Cambridge, UK, and taught mathematics at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana. Kentaro graduated from Yale University with a PhD in Computer Science and from Harvard with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics.