Nicole Mason-Wardell

Nicole Mason-Wardell

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Associate Chairperson, Graduate Program Director, and Associate Professor
Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy, Research, Capacity and Influence



Ph.D., Michigan State University
M.S., Michigan State University
B.S., Allegheny College

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Dr. Nicole M. Mason-Wardell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) at Michigan State University; she is also Associate Chairperson and Graduate Program Director in AFRE. Appointed in the tenure system since 2013 and a member of the AFRE faculty and Food Security Group since 2011, her research largely focuses on the question, how might we support poor African farmers to sustainably raise their productivity and incomes by improving the design, implementation, and impact evaluation of agricultural sector policies and programs? Much of her research focuses on policy analysis and issues at the agriculture-environment-development nexus (e.g., promoting sustainable agricultural intensification and mitigating the effects of climate change on smallholder farm households). Nicole works across disciplines and continents, collaborating with political scientists, agronomists, soil scientists, and nutritionists as well as fellow economists from around the world to tackle critical agricultural development challenges.

Upon joining the AFRE faculty, Nicole was based in Lusaka, Zambia from 2011-2013 with the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI). While there, she was involved in food policy research and outreach, taught at the University of Zambia, and served as IAPRI’s Capacity Building Coordinator. Back in East Lansing, Nicole continues to collaborate with Zambian colleagues at IAPRI as well as with researchers based in Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and the US. Nicole is a member of the Core Faculty of the African Studies Center at MSU and a Fellow of the MSU Academy for Global Engagement. She received the AFRE Excellence in Research Award in 2016, the AFRE Excellence in Teaching Award in 2019, and the AFRE Excellence in Outreach/Extension Award in 2020 with several colleagues for their policy outreach and engagement work under the (now complete) Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy project.  In addition, Nicole and several collaborators were awarded the 2017 Bruce Gardner Memorial Prize for Applied Policy Analysis by the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association for their work on farm input subsidy programs in SSA, and she also won the MSU John H. Hudzik Emerging Leader in Advancing International Studies and Programs Award that year.

Nicole previously served as a Peace Corps Volunteer working on agricultural development and environmental education projects in a rural community in Guinea, West Africa, and worked at the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa in Washington, DC. She was a University Distinguished Fellow during her graduate studies at MSU.

Research and Outreach Interests

  • Food security and poverty reduction strategies in Africa
  • Agricultural input and output markets and policies
  • The political economy of agricultural policies
  • Issues at the agriculture-environment-development nexus

Geographic Focus

Numerous countries in sub-Saharan Africa with experience in the region since 2000 and experience studying Zambian agriculture since 2005.


  • See Dr. Mason-Wardell’s CV for details on her current and past advisees, as well as her past advisees’ first placements after graduating. 
  • View Dr. Mason-Wardell’s advisees' theses and dissertations
  • Also currently working with numerous African counterparts on collaborative research projects


  • AFRE 802: Statistical Methods for Agricultural, Food, & Resource Economists [MS-level course]. Fall semesters.