Alumnus testimonial

PhD Alumnus Michael Keenan

Michael Keenan obtained his PhD degree in Development Economics at Wageningen University in 2022.

The great thing about my job is that I use economics to make life a bit easier for groups that are often overlooked or disregarded.

Michael works as an Economic Research Consultant at the World Bank. A former colleague reached out to him and asked if Michael was interested to work in a project where they needed somebody to do a lot of the household data analysis. “I took the position and since then we have a very good working relationship and continued working together.”

His PhD was absolutely crucial for his current job. “I'm using a lot of the things that I learned within the PhD, like some of the frameworks and the economic modeling. I am really expanding that now to different research questions and different settings.” But also structuring and motivating a paper is what he learned from his supervisors. He now knows what makes it a good or a bad paper. All kind of conference skills and how to speak to the scientific community and how they communicate to the public, Michael developed during his PhD.

Michael really wanted to work at the World Bank. This organization offers three things that are important for him: a good work life balance, freedom to research things and doing research in his interest. “There's also a lot of benefits, for example that you are not constantly searching for funding, because the World Bank has a lot of institutional support. I am able to work on interesting policy and relevant questions.”

Michael started his PhD in 2019 as a sandwich PhD in the Netherlands. “So I was a bit of a strange case because I am from the USA. I went to Kenya for the middle two years because the funding required to focus on East Africa.” Michael is passionate about applying quantitative methods and big data to a range of issues in economic development, and his research is now expanding into understanding gender gaps in smallholder agriculture, urban migration patterns in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the effects of digital innovations on rural food systems. He has been based in Nairobi, Kenya since 2019 and has experience conducting research in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.

What inspires Michael is using his skills to try to improve something in this world. “The great thing about my job is that I use economics to make life a bit easier for groups that are often overlooked or disregarded, for example female farmers, youth, unemployed or migrants in East Africa. I am driven to help building abettertomorrow for them!”