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Natasha Iskander, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, conducts research on labor migration and its relationship to economic development, labor mobilization and its relationship to workforce development, and processes of institutional innovation and organizational learning. Her recent book, entitled Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico (Cornell University Press: 2010), examines how the governments of Mexico and Morocco elaborated policies to build a link between labor emigration and local economic development. The book argues that Morocco’s and Mexico’s experience in this policy area demonstrate that far from being a prosaic institution resistant to change, the state can be a remarkable site of creativity when it opens up its processes to non-state actors.  Moreover, the book maintains that creativity is an essential but generally overlooked component of good governance.


She is also working on a project on Mexican and Central American immigrants in the construction industry, investigating how tacit skill moves across national borders. This project is rooted in two research sites in the US: Philadelphia and Raleigh-Durham. In collaboration with GRI Fellow Nichola Lowe, she is exploring the institutional differences across these two local labor markets that shape how Latino immigrants apply and continue develop skill, yet also determine the localized obstacles they face in demonstrating and harnessing their expertise for industry advancement. As a GRI Fellow she is extending this line of research to examine two emergent pathways for revealing and defending immigrant skill. First, the role of safety training as a circuitous route for technical skill development. Second, the role of immigrant work teams in promoting both mastery of building tasks and problem-solving skills. By studying these pathways together, Dr. Lowe and Dr. Iskander will consider formal policy and advocacy supports for enhancing their visibility and also their industry and labor market impact.


Natasha Iskander received her PhD in Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  She also holds a Masters in City Planning from MIT, and a BA in Cultural Studies from Stanford University. Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked for several years in non-profits in Egypt and the United States on issues of urban development, micro credit and community health planning. She has also worked as a community activist and migrant labor organizer.