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Growing up on a farm, Deb always loved agriculture and rural life. She took her first agricultural economics class at the University of Calgary with Dr. Bill Kerr and decided to move to Guelph, Ontario where she earned her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in the field. Along the way, she toured south-east Asia with the Explorers Club of Calgary and the U of C Geography faculty (1981) and traveled to Zimbabwe (1983) with Lutheran World Federation/Lutheran World Relief.

Deb returned to Calgary in 1988 and found Agriteam, a young start-up company in the international development field, in 1991. She has been with Agriteam ever since, working on dozens of agriculture, rural development and capacity building projects around the world for Global Affairs Canada (formerly CIDA), the World Bank, the ADB and others. At the heart of this work is community engagement. Deb bases her work on participatory and appreciative methods that puts project beneficiaries, especially the poor, women and ethnic minorities, in the center of project design, implementation and monitoring. Her international work and study has taken her to Bangladesh, China, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Korea, Krygzstan, Malaysia, Mali, Mongolia, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tibet, Vietnam, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.