Mara Kardas-Nelson. Journalist.

Health. Environment. Development. Politics. Change.

About Mara

I am driven by curiosity.

I’m intensely interested in the world around me, the people that I meet, the way we interact with each other, and how different components of our world—technology, natural and built environments, political systems, culture—work, and work together. A few key questions underpin all of my work: Why does the world function as it does? How is it understood differently by different people? And how might it change?

My award-winning work has been featured in The New York TimesNPRThe Nation, Al Jazeera, Reveal, Insider, The American Prospect, the Mail & Guardian, The AppealBloomberg NewsThe British Medical Journal, the Globe & Mail, and elsewhere. I have also had a career in global health, working for South Africa’s the Treatment Action Campaign, the Access Campaign of Médecins Sans Frontières, Open Society Foundation, and Partners in Health. I have lived in America, Canada, South Africa, and Sierra Leone. My time living and working in different parts of the world informs the questions that I ask as a journalist, and how I frame my stories.

I am an alumna of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where I focused on long-form narrative and audio journalism, and investigative reporting. While at the J-School, I received two fellowships from the Human Rights Center, as well as an internal fellowship, to support my reporting on the financialization of poverty in the development sector. I received a separate fellowship from the National Institute of Climate Education to support reporting on the renewable energy transition in Texas. I received the 2019 Robert Whittington Award for Exceptional Reporting for my reporting on St. James, Louisiana and the Clay Felker Award for Excellence in Narrative Writing in 2020 for my reporting on microfinance. I have also received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as a Mondi Shanduka Newspaper Award in South Africa. In 2021, I lectured in the first ever joint course between the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center. I am the 2022 winner of the Richard J. Margolis Award, which recognizes non-fiction writers focused on social justice.

I am currently working on a book on the global development sector for Henry Holt, drafts of which I workshopped as a 2021 Logan Nonfiction Fellow and worked on at the Mesa Refuge. This work is supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation and Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. I’m represented by Wendy Strothman.

In my free time I spend as much time outdoors as possible, exploring whatever place I’m in. I dabble in painting. I’m always on the hunt for the perfect olive.