Schar School Grad Joins Competitive Fellowship in Jamaica’s Prime Minister’s Office

By Buzz McClain

Karelle Samuda at Jamaica House, the seat of the government. Photo by Aubrey Stewart.

After returning home to Jamaica this summer, fresh from earning her PhD in Public Policy at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, Karelle Samuda began work as a Jamaica House Fellow, a program created by the Office of the Prime Minister to attract talented young professionals to Jamaica's public sector.

Samuda interacts with senior government officials and Cabinet members in an ambitious research and analysis effort to stimulate economic growth and development in the business community and the public at large. 

It is a two-year paid position intended to provide fellows hands-on training in public policy decision-making. By the end of her fellowship, Samuda is expected to become a leader in the field of Jamaican public service.

“I’m very excited about it,” Samuda said. “The country is changing, young people are becoming involved.”

Samuda is uniquely prepared to tackle policy and economic issues, said Janine Wedel. Wedel, a University Professor of international commerce and an anthropologist in the Schar School, worked closely with Samuda as Wedel was writing her latest book, Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom, and Politics and Created an Outsider Class (Pegasus Books).

“She has been exposed to different literature, different methods of research and different people in the field,” Wedel said. “And she’s done field work, which is important as you continue to encounter new environments.

“All of this has helped prepare her for what she will do in Jamaica, but I think she really has a future beyond one government agency.”

“Professor Wedel is an anthropologist who taught me how to ask questions and not just think a data set can derive a policy response,” Samuda said. “There are other ways to gain data using ethnography and participation methods.”

During her academic career at Mason, Samuda worked at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., researching data regarding human development in resource-rich nations around the world, but particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The work became a book, From Mines and Wells to Well-Built Minds: Turning Sub-Saharan Africa's Natural Resource Wealth into Human Capital.

Meanwhile, she wrote her dissertation on a “comparative analysis of a constituency development fund that is used in about 25 countries around the world, but I compared Jamaica and Kenya,” she said. “It’s a pool of funds that is given to elected officials, in this case Members of Parliament. These funds are used to finance projects that promote the development of communities within a constituency, or improve the well-being of residents within the constituency. I basically looked at what factors determine how the CDF is spent on public, private and club goods and the implications."

Her work at the Schar School, Wedel said, has prepared Samuda well for a bright future in civic engagement.