Bonderman Travel Fellowship

Kristy Leissle

Kristy Leissle 2019

Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies; Public Administration


2004 Fellows

Hometown: New York, NY

Travel Locations: Hawaii, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Lesotho, India, Austria, Finland

Current Location/Job: Accra, Ghana. Affiliate Faculty, University of Washington. Co-Founder of the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana.

Travel lessons: “Very truly, I learned to be courageous and follow my passion, and that unknown doors would open if I did. When I applied for the Bonderman, I was several years into graduate studies at UW, concurrently working towards the MPA degree at the Evans School and a PhD in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. I’d started both programs full of wonder at globalization, the connectivity of the world, how people and things moved around and brushed up against one another, changing the course of economies and governments and societies as they did. After a few years of 18 credit quarters and endless essays on water utilities in West Africa, which was the focus of my research at the time, I felt myself becoming bored, cynical, passionless. I felt too “papery,” seeing globalization as flat and two-dimensional, something to read about instead of something alive and dynamic. I knew the Bonderman would revive my lifelong enthusiasm to learn how people and things connected, transnationally and even globally. And it did! I proposed to follow cocoa and chocolate around the world, and I let that seemingly crazy idea take me anywhere and everywhere, including some places I never thought it would–like the UAE and Finland. Those months awoke my intellectual passions once again and they have been blazing ever since. In fact, once my Bonderman travels concluded, I just kept following cocoa and chocolate to wherever they would lead me, and haven’t stopped since.”

–Kristy Leissle, August 2019

Dr. Leissle recently published Cocoa, a book that examines the cocoa value chain around the world.  She is currently engaged in research on cocoa and chocolate in Africa for her next book.  She is also Co-Founder of the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana, which supports entrepreneurs working in cocoa and chocolate industries in West Africa.