GAP Initiative Leadership

Leadership for the GAP Initiative is provided by the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Global.

Tom Thompson, Ph.D.

Associate Dean and Director, CALS Global
Executive Editor, GAP Report
Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Thomas L. (Tom) Thompson is Associate Dean and Director of CALS Global in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. CALS Global builds partnerships, drives thought leadership, and creates opportunities for students and faculty to serve globally.

Thompson earned BS, MS, and PhD degrees in agronomy and soil science. He was department head at Virginia Tech (2011-16) and Texas Tech University (2006-11) and professor and extension specialist at the University of Arizona from 1991 to 2006. Thompson is also Professor of Agronomy and has published more than 65 refereed journal articles and garnered more than $18 million in competitive funding and philanthropic support. His recent research and outreach have focused on adoption of conservation agriculture in smallholder farming systems in Haiti, Senegal, and Southeast Asia. He has mentored graduate students from Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

He has been Executive Editor of the Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP Report) since 2019. The annual GAP Report is a thought leader in agricultural productivity and benefits from partnerships with agricultural industry leaders, conservation and nutrition organizations, and NGOs. The GAP Report is launched at the annual World Food Prize event in Des Moines, Iowa. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, LEAD21, and the Food Systems Leadership Institute.

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Jess Agnew, Ph.D.

Associate Director, CALS Global
Managing Editor, GAP Report
Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Jessica Agnew is the Associate Director of CALS Global in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.  Jess has been working internationally for nearly 10 years, building interdisciplinary expertise that spans across the field of agricultural economics, nutrition, behaviour change, and business.

She holds a PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization with a specialization in International Development Planning and an MPH from Virginia Tech. She also earned her MSc and BA in Food, Agriculture, and Resource Economics from the University of Guelph, Canada. Agnew’s research focuses primarily on advancing market-based approaches to nutrition, strengthening behavioral and social change communication to improve nutrition using novel, evidence-based approaches, and development of agricultural value chains in East Africa. In 2020, she was a USAID-funded research grant to investigate the use of blockchain in strengthening value chains for African indigenous vegetables in western Kenya. In addition to her international work, Agnew also works to improve food security at Virginia Tech. Since 2017, she has served as part of the research team investigating the state of food access and security at Virginia Tech, served as part of the task force to identify pathways to improve students’ access to nutritious foods, and assisted with evaluation of The Market at Virginia Tech in its formative stages to help meet students’ needs more effectively.

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Tebila Nakelse, Ph.D

Research Lead, GAP Initiative

Dr. Tebila Nakelse serves as the GAP Initiative Research Lead for the Global Agricultural Productivity Initiative, leading the research and analysis agenda for the annual GAP Report. Originally from Burkina Faso, he earned his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University. His prior roles include working at UN-FAO as a Policy Specialist and Senior Policy Advisor, and positions at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and the Africa Rice Center.

Tebila has extensive experience in various countries including the US, UK, Italy, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso. He will bring his significant expertise in agricultural productivity and policy to the GAP Initiative, linking the GAP Report with vital food and public policy issues.

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Madison Kurcias

Communications Manager, GAP Initiative

Madison serves as Communications Manager for the GAP Initiative. Her responsibilities include design and production of the annual GAP Report, strategic communications and media relations to grow the influence of the GAP Initiative, and collaboration with more than 20 GAP partner organizations worldwide.

Madison brings with her diverse experience across the food system. Before joining the CALS Global team, she advocated for global food security policy on Capitol Hill and managed a $2 million grant program to connect farmers across 5 states to resources provided by USDA-NRCS. Madison is a proud Hokie; she holds a B.S. from Virginia Tech in Sociology and Political Science (2019). During her undergraduate studies, she participated in experiential learning in Rwanda to conduct focus groups on local public health needs, school feeding programs, and smallholder farming initiatives.

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