Dr. Jeremiah O. Asaka, one of the first five graduates of the PhD program in Global Governance and Human Security of the McCormack Graduate School, said that his interest in human security dates back to his days as a graduate student at Ohio University. His introduction to the concept of human security came through his work as a research assistant for one of the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fifth assessment report’s chapter on human security.
The research assistantship work at Ohio University led him on a search for PhD programs with a human security focus and thus to UMass Boston’s program where, he said, “I got more than I asked for, because governance is critical to ensuring human security.”
In line with the academic framework of the program he graduated from this year, Asaka describes himself as an “interdisciplinary scholar with scholarly interests that transcend disciplinary boundaries.” His involvement as a student both on-campus and in the field reflects this interdisciplinary focus as well as his scholarly interests in conservation governance and the biodiversity-security nexus, specifically in the sub-Saharan Africa region.
In his first and second years at UMass Boston, Asaka was a fellow with the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT). A program of the National Science Foundation, IGERT aims to establish new models for graduate education and training in an environment for collaborative, interdisciplinary research. Here, Asaka participated in a project to help MASSPORT enhance the resilience of its properties on the Boston Harbor in the wake of climate change and its associated impacts.
He has also played a significant role in creating spaces for graduate students and scholars to meet, network, and collaborate. In spring of 2016, he co-organized a workshop that explored prospects for secure and sustainable development in Africa. The following year, he served in the student affairs committee of the International Association for Society and Natural Resources, and helped plan a student-centered event for the 2017 International Symposium on Society and Resource Management held in Umeå, Sweden.
The role of faculty and staff in supporting and encouraging such student-led initiatives was critical. Asaka explained, “One thing I really appreciate about the McCormack Graduate School is Dean David Cash’s hands-on and down-to-earth kind of leadership. I fondly remember his active and inspiring engagements in IGERT activities and his unwavering support for student-led activities.”
He also expressed appreciation for the support he received from faculty. He explained, “as the first African and Kenyan graduate of the McCormack Graduate School’s Global Governance and Human Security PhD program, I have benefited incredibly from the program’s founding graduate program director, Dr. Tim Shaw, and his successor, Dr. Stacy VanDeveer. Dr. Shaw successfully guided me to a timely completion of my doctoral studies and continues to be supportive and resourceful.”
In addition to Shaw, Asaka held VanDeveer in high regard. Together, they published several works in the Routledge Handbook of the Resource Nexus and Routledge Handbook of Environmental Conflict and Peacebuilding. These handbooks, published this year, explore environmental conflict and peacebuilding, and the nexus of resources, security and climate change across regions and scale. Asaka’s specific contributions to these two edited volumes explore the resources, security and climate change nexus, and environmental peacebuilding in northwestern Kenya respectively.
Following graduation, Asaka will return to his Global Studies lectureship position at Middle Tennessee State University where he has been teaching since August 2017 in their Global Studies and Human Geography department. His future plans include publishing portions of his dissertation in peer-reviewed journals and working on a book proposal with a Routledge editor.