Research and Policy
Laura Keen graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics. She developed a strong affinity for Latin America after studying for a semester at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Following her undergraduate studies, Keen worked in social enterprise in Peru, directing a pilot research initiative investigating supply chain autonomy and responsible sourcing as a preventative approach to human trafficking in the Amazon. Seeing how the vast natural wealth of the Amazon and the global demand for its products turned into an existential hazard for local villagers greatly influenced her beliefs in the unique role of thoughtful government policy to stop abusive resource extraction. Prior to this, she directed and led trips of volunteer students on mobile medical clinics in Peru and Ecuador.
More recently, Keen, who speaks Spanish, French, and Portuguese, worked for several years in the supply chain function of Fair Trade USA. In this role, she oversaw Fair Trade USA’s global cocoa and sugar programs, aimed at providing additional investment and training to farmer organizations and large estates in Africa and Latin America. Her work focused on flattening power asymmetries between commodity buyers and farmers, helping to professionalize farmer associations, and improving working conditions for farm laborers. Much of this work was conducted in areas with recent histories of violent conflict.
At The Pearson Institute, Keen hopes to deepen her analytical contributions to the field of international development. Keen hopes to more acutely recognize the biases of global policymakers in the field and to develop the ability to transform academic insights into improved policies for the rural poor.