On Thursday, April 28, the Coasts and Communities Fellowship program of UMass Boston held its first research symposium.
The fellowship, part of the Integrative Graduate Education, Research, and Traineeship (IGERT) program funded by a $3.1 million National Science Foundation grant in 2014, brings together graduate students from UMass Boston’s School for the Environment, College of Science and Mathematics, College of Management, and the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. Coasts and Communities fellows and associate fellows work across disciplines to analyze and address environmental challenges in Boston and with partner institutions in the Horn of Africa.
Fifteen students and faculty from the program traveled to Ethiopia in January to establish and continue research projects. The late April symposium served as a public introduction to their efforts.
Provost Winston E. Langley welcomed panelists and visitors to the symposium, setting the tone for a day of transdisciplinary discussion. He emphasized the importance of the traineeship component of the fellowship program and the collaboration with institutions in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa more broadly.
Professor Maria Ivanova moderated the first panel on human security where Professors Adugna Lemi (Economics), Anna Agathangelou (McCormack Graduate School), Eileen Stuart-Shor (Nursing and Health Sciences), and Miranda Chase, IGERT fellow and PhD student in global governance and human security, discussed the multiple dimensions of human security in different national contexts.
Discussion began with the balance between economic development and environmental degradation and its impact on human security. The panelists discussed the evolving definition of “security,” first as it applies to national interests, and more recently as it applies to human populations, and concluded with discussions about the health and wellness of human societies in the face of climate-linked resource loss.
David W. Cash, dean of the McCormack Graduate School, facilitated the second panel, where five of the participants from the Ethiopia trip conversed about their experiences. Paul Case (Business Administration), Christine San Antonio (Marine Science), Jeremiah Asaka (Global Governance and Human Security), Jamila Gilliam (Business Administration), and Michael Roy (Environmental Biology) highlighted their collaborative research efforts with partners in the Horn of Africa.
Dean Robyn Hannigan of the School for the Environment moderated the final panel. Professors Jarrett Byrnes (Biology), Heidi Gengenbach (History), Nardia Haigh (Management), and Paul Kirshen (Climate Adaptation), as well as IGERT Fellow Greg Davies (Environmental Science) addressed the topic of resilience in the contexts of ecosystems, societies, and businesses.
Ivanova comments on the significance of the student research. “Our students are being trained in two kinds of research – basic research that is curiosity-driven and seeks to answer questions because we want to know how the world works, and demand-driven research that is able to answer the questions that policymakers ask, that farmers ask, that people in conflict-ridden zones need to answer immediately.”
Dean Cash also notes the impact of the students’ and joint faculty-student research. “The IGERT program seeks to link academic rigor, policy relevance, and impact in the world with hands-on engagement in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and New England, among others. These young scholars are identifying important local and global environmental problems and envisioning transformative, innovative solutions.”
The event was co-organized by the Center for Governance and Sustainability at UMass Boston.
For more information about the Coasts and Communities fellowship, please see www.umb.edu/igert