UB student David Harary creates student-run think tank Center for Development and Strategy

Harary aims to further student research, uplift peers


David Harary is tired of seeing students’ research papers – his own included – “go to waste.”

Undergrads spend hours toiling over computer keyboards, compiling data and color coding graphs to create massive pieces of academic writing – but many of those papers don’t see much life once they’ve passed through a professor’s red pen.

So Harary has founded what he sees as a way to create a community of students focused on research and development. It’s an international student-run think tank, anchored at the University at Buffalo with partnering branches at other universities. He calls it the Center for Development and Strategy.

“All of this stuff that these kids created went absolutely nowhere,” he said. “And I think the reason why is because they don’t know about the research process. They don’t know how to submit a research paper to a journal and they’re not given these tools and resources.”

He said his group is the second student-run think tank in the country, and the second student-run international think tank in the world – as far as he could tell after an extensive Google search yielded few things similar to what Harary has founded. He wants students to not only have a place to publish their works, but also network and connect with other student researchers.

He founded it in May, and in addition to UB, it already has chapters at the University at Albany, University of Toronto, University of Oxford and University College London.

The senior economics, geography and international trade major said he didn’t know what he was doing when he first started getting involved in research – he doesn’t want other students to have the same problem.

He didn’t know what a literature review was or how to conduct data analysis and he said there was no one from the university guiding him through the process.

Harary was completely “independent” and had to learn everything on his own, he said.

The first student-run think tank was the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, which was started by students of Stanford University and Yale University.

“And now we’re being founded in UB and that’s something I think the campus can really be proud of,” Harary said.

Harary’s organization will teach students about the research process, give them the opportunity to get involved in research and allow students to publish their research.

A think tank is an organization that sponsors research on specific problems, encourages the discovery of solutions to those problems and facilitates interaction among scientists and intellectuals in pursuit of these goals, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis.

It officially started with a Facebook group over the summer – after the idea percolated in Harary’s head over two to three years as he worked as an undergraduate researcher. He used Facebook get members together – there are now 13 staff members and a number of researchers – and collect $10 from each to start up their webpage, which has a few postings live now.

The think tank’s online presence includes a blog, which only members can submit to and pieces that will go into the group’s first journal of student research, which it will publish in December.

UB offers research opportunities like the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, or CURCA. The organization provides students with possible research opportunities through the university. Harary said resources at CURCA – like providing grants for students to do their own research are helpful.

The student think tank also offers a place for students to share their interests in development issues in third world countries, as well as U.S. cities – even Buffalo.

“I think our generation really cares about these sort of issues,” Harary said. “And really cares about thinking about development, but there’s no outlet.”

Harary said the group’s focus is largely in the concept of “empowered development.” The group believes it’s important to teach third world countries skills – like how to use new technologies or how to start a business – rather than “pouring money” into them.

“It’s not charity at that point,” he said. “It’s empowering others to get behind what they want to see in their society.”

Harary, who worked as a research assistant in the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at UB, is passionate about food and water security not only in developing countries, but also in the United States.

The postings on the website now target food and hunger issues.

“It’s so important that we get our ideas out into the world,” said Cassandra Yochum, the editor in chief Center for Development and Strategy, or CDS.

Wyatt Shorter, who is part of the group’s University of Toronto’s branch, first met Harary at a Model United Nations conference in February. It was held at Shorter’s university, where he studies political science and peace, conflict and justice as a sophomore.

“The Canada/United States connection makes CDS a truly international organization at its foundation,” said Shorter, who is the group’s director of external relations. “And the collaboration among students is something we need to see more of these days.”

Shorter said the think tank publishes articles on varying global issues, from non-government movements to domestic infrastructure innovation.

His personal focus is infrastructural and equality development in the Middle East, which includes how to find an understanding between Islamic States and women’s rights in terms of voting and control of reproduction.

Harary is on a mission to grow the think tank and get more students involved and he said his ties to the organization will follow him into graduate school after graduation in May.

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