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2017 Frugal Innovation Practicum

Third Annual Frugal Innovation Practicum!

June 25, 2017 - August 24, 2017

Designed to provide students with a deeper understanding of food environments in urban Africa while working towards advancing food security and improving livelihoods, the practicum involves a mix of online and in-person classes; two half-day Michigan-based field trips; and two weeks of hands-on field work in Lilongwe, Malawi. 

While in Malawi, students from MSU and peers from the local Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources work together to engage small- to medium-scaled food entrepreneurs to identify and propose appropriate (or frugal) solutions to common problems in urban markets. 

FIP students develop critical skills in community engagement and problem solving; experience a practical opportunity to apply innovative solutions from a multidisciplinary perspective; and build knowledge of urban food systems/security and the roles of 'informal' economies and municipal planning. Although the practicum is not affiliated with any particular course for credit, nor with MSU's Office of Study Abroad, a number of students have arranged with their departments to receive course credit for the summer practicum.

Course Calendar (Tentative)

June 25 to July 27: Reading and online interaction. Students will read two to three articles per week and comment in an online forum. Total hours required for each week should not exceed eight.

July 28 to August 2: Classroom-based activities. Students will meet on the MSU campus for in-class discussion. Two half-day field trips in a local food system will take place. (Friday consists of an introduction in the morning, followed by a field trip in the afternoon. Saturday morning we will take a field trip. A three-hour morning session will occur on the following Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday).

August 4 to August 19: Field practicum in Lilongwe, Malawi.

August 23: Wrap-up and presentations on MSU campus. 


There are a limited number of positions available for involvement in this practicum. GCFSI is seeking students who: 

  • Offer a unique perspective in the areas of business, marketing, urban planning, agriculture, food systems, community engagement and sustainability. 
  • Have demonstrated a commitment to their chosen field. 
  • Are well-rounded in their academic and non-academic pursuits.
  • Have a vision for their future careers that involve the areas of study mentioned above. 
  • Have a demonstrated commitment to the process of collaboration, inclusion and information exchange. 

Students must agree to complete the course requirements. All participants will be expected to participate in pre-planning activities either online through hybrid learning or on campus from June to August, as described in the calendar above. In addition, participants will be expected to share their learning experience with the wider MSU and GCFSI community, and provide feedback and interviews that will improve future iterations of the practicum. 

Without exception, participants are required to be in Malawi August 4-19, 2017 and must have all immigration requirements to travel internationally (such as passport, visa, or immigration permit for travel if needed for foreign citizens). 


Lodging and most meals will be paid for by GCFSI. Students should be prepared to pay for:

  • Round-trip airline ticket (around $2,500)
  • Malawi visa ($100)
  • Vaccination
  • Transport to and from the Detroit airport
  • Tuition fees if arranging course credit through academic department

Students accepted to the practicum are encouraged to look for funding on campus. Though departments and various offices around campus differ with respect to if and how they offer grants, students in previous Frugal Innovation Practicums have been successful in finding departmental funds to offset a portion of the trip costs.


Please contact Dr. Stephanie White at whites25(at)