Visiting Scholars

The Visiting Scholars Program seeks to engage students, faculty and staff across disciplinary, institutional, and political boundaries. Visiting scholars come to the center from all over the world to conduct independent research on issues related to governance and sustainability. We host scholars and practitioners from academia, governments, and NGOs.


Yongjin Li, PhD (2006) is an associate professor of environmental and development sociology at Lanzhou University (China). He also serves as Deputy Secretary-General, Environmental Sociology Committee of Chinese Sociological Society. His main research interests include Rural Development and Poverty Reduction, Sustainable Livelihoods, Environmental and Development Policy Assessment, etc. His current research focuses on the environmental and social impacts of the “Belt and Road Initiative”.


Elham Seyedsayamdost is a researcher and development professional specializing in the political economy of development with a focus on international organizations, multilateral diplomacy, and development policy. Her current research explores the variation in countries' adaptation of international development goals to their national strategies. Previously, she was a Cordier Fellow at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). In 2015, she received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching at Columbia University, where she was also awarded a PhD in Political Science. Her dissertation, “A World Without Poverty: Negotiating the Global Development Agenda,” examines the political processes, interests, and preferences of international actors in creating the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Her academic research draws on her international development experience working for UNDP and the World Bank in New York, Washington DC, Nepal, MENA and Southeast Asia. Her work has contributed to publications of various international organizations, most recently to UNDP’s evaluation of national achievement of the MDGs. Elham holds a Master of International Affairs from SIPA and a BA in International and Comparative Politics from the American University of Paris.

Marta Skorek is a legal translator and a second year PhD student at the Institute of Applied Linguistics, the University of Warsaw, Poland. She is currently working on her project dedicated to the discursive legitimation of integrated ocean governance in English specialized discourse. Her research interests include: integrated ocean governance, ecolinguistics, and discourse analysis. She lives in the city of Gdynia located on the Baltic Sea coast, which gives her a chance to experience firsthand the complexity of the marine ecosystem as well as the opportunities and challenges related to its integrated governance at the local, regional, and EU level. Apart from attending numerous sea-related conferences, she has written articles on blue wind power in Poland, and legal terminology related to marine environment management for Obiter Dicta, the British Law Centre newsletter. Last year she participated in the Bergen Summer Research School in Norway to study governance to meet global development challenges.

Yuan Zhou received her BA in International Politics from Yunnan University and her MA in Diplomacy in Beijing Foreign Studies University in China. She was a researcher at the Environmental School, Tsinghua University in China, focusing on the environmental policies, environmental emergency management, drinking water security and environmental governance. She is currently a PhD student in Beijing Foreign Studies University, majored in international relations. Her research interests include global environmental governance, U.S. environmental foreign policy, global water security, and gender in environmental issues.

Marlene Attzs, PhD, (2013) is a lecturer in the Department of Economics, University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad and Tobago.  She is also a founding member of the Sustainable Economic Development Unit (SEDU), a specialized research unit in the Department of Economics. Her primary research interests are in the economics of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation; gender mainstreaming in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation; and in sustainable tourism development, all with particular reference to small and island developing states. 

Sebastiao Velasco e Cruz, Visiting Scholar, Center for Governance and Sustainability, UMass Boston.Sebastião Velasco e Cruz (2012) is a professor of political science and international relations at the State University of Campinas, Unicamp (Brazil). He serves as president of the Center for the Study of Contemporary Culture (CEDEC) and is a founding member and coordinator of the National Institute of Science and Technology for Studies on the United States. The institute is part of a Brazilian government-sponsored research network aimed at funding high quality research groups in crucial areas of national development.

Professor Velasco has focused his career on studying the interactions between political and economic processes. Through this conceptual lens, he has researched topics such as chronic political instability in Argentina and the role of businessmen in the Brazilian transition away from authoritarianism. Additionally, he has extensively researched the Brazilian government’s failed attempts at implementing industrial policy strategies amidst the political and economic turmoil of the 1980s. Professor Velasco has developed this line of inquiry into a comprehensive project on world economic restructuring and market-oriented reforms in developing countries.

An author of several articles and books, two of which were awarded in national contests, Professor Velasco has just finished a collection of essays on American foreign policy. He is currently completing another set on the WTO and the regulation of the global economy. He has received two doctorates, one from the Political Science Department at the University of São Paulo (USP), and another from I.E.P. Paris/Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques. He has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Latin American Studies at Stanford University, and has worked as a visiting professor at the University of Paris X (Nanterre) and Paris I (Sorbonne).

During his time at UMass Boston, Professor Velasco will continue his research on the current debate of the American Grand Strategy, with a particular focus on the discourse in the recent presidential race. The aim of this project is to attentively observe the on-going debate concerning the “big picture” of US international strategy in the American foreign policy community. The objective is to examine how the relevant actors in this field –government bodies, congressional commissions, and think tanks – perceive the long-term role of the United States in the international sphere. Of particular concern is how these foreign policy actors define threats to US national interest, how they rank those threats, and policy recommendations for addressing them.

Professor Velasco intends to closely follow US policy toward the Middle East and the discussions surrounding climate change. The research will focus on the policy orientation of the United States, but will also consider how relevant international actors interpret US policy. This research will then be analyzed and applied to understanding Brazil’s developmental and foreign policy.

Our Core Team

Meet the members of the core team at the Center for Governance and Sustainability
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Our Collaborators

The Center for Governance and Sustainability seeks to develop a wide network of collaborators to advance policy-relevant governance and sustainability research activities.
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Fellows of the Center

The Center for Governance and Sustainability engages a range of fellows in its ongoing research and outreach projects.
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