Table of Contents
I. Welcome Letter from the Steering Committee
II. Tufts Institute of the Environment Update
III. Recent Events at TIE and TEA: Fall Walking Tour, Awards Dinners, and TELI-G
IV. Alumni Spotlight: Memorable Classes at Tufts
V. Student Research Spotlight: Solving the Cold Storage Challenge with the EvapTainer
VI. Shaping Environmental Policy: a Conversation with Two Alumni
VII. Book Review: Just Sustainabilities
VIII. Upcoming TIE Events
TEA has been active with several events since our summer break and we have more events planned for the coming months. In October, TEA held its annual fall outdoor tour on Spectacle Island in the Boston Harbor, facilitated by Phil Griffiths (A’87), President of the Boston Harbor Island Alliance. In December, TIE held two separate awards dinners celebrating the recipients of the annual TIE Fellowships and the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award. All were opportunities for Tufts environmental alumni to reconnect, share interests, and network.
We are excited to host our 3rd Annual Environmental Career Night on February 13, 2014. Alumni panelists will represent sectors varying from environmental engineering to government agencies to green investing. All alumni are welcome to attend, either on an informal basis or as Alumni Ambassadors, available for networking with alumni and current students after the panel presentation.
TEA has more interesting events planned for the upcoming months in the Boston area, and would welcome the attendance of any interested alumni. TIE also would like to support networking events in other regions, so if you or any alumni you know would be interested in hosting a TEA event in your area, just let us know!
We hope that you find this edition of the newsletter interesting and relevant, and welcome any contributions in the future.
– The TEA Steering Committee
In January 2014, TIE hosted its first-ever TELI-G – the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute for Graduate Students. TIE’s 20-year-running TELI workshop series aimed at professors and other academic professionals has garnered such a positive response, and sparked interest in so many institutions, that a need was identified to extend the opportunity to graduate students as well. This year’s workshop brought together 17 graduate students from a variety of schools and backgrounds. In the words of one master’s student in environmental and resource engineering, “I have always been busy with calculations and design work for the past five years…” after this workshop, “I got inspired by ideas that I had never thought of.” The next incarnation of TELI, TELI International, is currently in the works.
In other interdisciplinary news, TIE recently supported a winning proposal for a Bridge Professorship in international environmental security, a collaboration between The Fletcher School and the Political Science Department, and part of the T10 strategic initiatives. TIE’s water IGERT and Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) programs feature significant faculty support from the School of Engineering at Tufts, but until now did not have a full-time professor in policy. The new Bridge Professorship will allow the addition of this important perspective, and demonstrate the university’s and TIE’s commitment to collaboration across disciplines.
This newsletter also highlights just two of the interesting environmental projects being conducted by both students and faculty across Tufts: a student team headed by Quang Truong F’13 developing a portable evaporative cooling device, dubbed the EvapTainer; and a new book published by Professor Julian Agyeman, at the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, entitled Introducing Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning and Practice.
Check out the upcoming events section for information on several events of interest to TIE, including The Fletcher School’s third international conference on the warming arctic.
Thank you for taking the time to read the newsletter, and to stay connected to TEA! We hope to hear from you in the near future.
Fall Walking Tour of Spectacle Island
Ann Gisinger, TEA Steering Committee
Tufts Environmental Alumni annually hosts a fall outdoor tour, and in 2013 Phil Griffiths (A’87), President of the Boston Harbor Island Alliance, was kind enough to host the TEA group on Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor. The TEA group boarded the ferry to the island against a picturesque backdrop; clouds stretched across the horizon as planes flew overhead making their way toward Logan airport and the ferry plowed through the waves. Thankfully the clouds gave way to sun as the group landed at the Island. Griffiths gave a great overview of the island and its history and handed over the group to a park ranger for the rest of the tour. Spectacle Island is managed by twelve different organizations, with the Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation providing management and staff for tours and the small natural history museum. The island has been the site of activities from a farming community to a glue factory to most recently a landfill. Upon reaching the top of the hill, visitors are greeted with sweeping views of Boston, the harbor and the South Shore of Massachusetts. The site is a beautiful place to visit, with grassy fields, patches of brush and trees, and the aforementioned views from many vantage points. The visit was a great success – Spectacle Island is a highly recommended destination for both Boston natives and visitors alike!
TIE Fellows Awards Dinner
On December 3rd, 2013, TIE honored the recipients of its 2013-2014 academic year TIE Fellowships and WSSS Fellowships. The doctoral, masters and undergraduate student winners hailed from a variety of programs across the breadth of the university, from the departments of biology and civil and environmental engineering to the English department of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning School, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The student research being honored ranged from a study of the stress responses of the degu (a small rodent found in South America) to a study on “Intimate Publics and Urban Space in 20th Century American Literature” examining works such as Raisin in the Sun. The evening included a poster display, in which attendees were able to examine the fruits of the Fellows’ efforts, and a presentation of certificates to the Fellows. In her remarks, TIE Director Antje Danielson noted the high level of inter-disciplinary coordination demonstrated by the Fellowship program, and reiterated TIE’s commitment to strengthening inter-disciplinary approaches to environmental issues in its upcoming strategic plan.
Dow SISCA Dinner
On December 12th, 2013, TIE held an awards dinner to celebrate the 2013 recipient of the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA), which “recognizes and rewards students for their innovation and research of sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.” This year’s SISCA honored the research of Quang Truong, a Fletcher School student who headed a team developing the EvapTainer, an evaporative cooling device created to preserve the longevity of produce in developing countries. The team, headed by Truong and including graduate students from The Fletcher School and MIT, accepted the prestigious award and its $10,000 research prize.
Tufts is one of only seventeen “key strategic universities” around the world that have been selected by Dow to conduct the yearly competition, now in its fifth year, a recognition of Tufts’ international leadership in sustainability. A competition is held at each one of these universities, which include MIT, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, Peking University in China, and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Reflections on TELI-G
TIE recently hosted its first-ever Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute for Graduate Students (TELI-G), building on the success of TIE’s 20-year-running Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI) program aimed at professors and other academic professionals.
TELI-G brought together 17 graduate students from diverse disciplines, from environmental engineering, to public health, to veterinary medicine, to English. Students really appreciated the opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas with each other, learn from the variety of speakers’ presentations, and engage in a simulation activity as well as designing a hypothetical course. After the workshop students shared their reflections on the experience.
Chen Liu, Master of Science Candidate in Environmental and Resource Engineering, Tufts University:
“The first day was really beyond my expectations. I had thought that it would be just interdisciplinary communications and cooperation. However, I got inspired by some ideas that I had never thought of…As an engineering student, I have always been busy with calculation and design work in the past 5 years. Only when I listened to the presentation made by Dr. Nancy Gleason did I realize that there are many complicated issues beyond technological levels in the real cases…The topic of mutual gain negotiation is cool. I have never had a chance to get involved in negotiations.”
Jen Olsen, Master of Public Health Candidate, School of Medicine/Master of Science Candidate, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University:
“I really LOVED the simulation and the systems lecture. The simulation was incredibly fun, enlightening, and constructive. I really felt like we filled the roles and came to some great conclusions. As I’ve never been a part of a project like that, it was really enjoyable to take our mutual passions and turn them into a realistic role play.
“Additionally, the systems lecture was really helpful, as it directly pertains to the approach I will be using this summer in a research project in Guatemala. Having a chance to practice those theories was really exciting and I would love to see more time given to it in the future.”
Emily Piltch, Doctoral Candidate, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy program in Agriculture, Food and the Environment, Tufts University:
“As I was thinking through what to say in the moment [during the negotiations], I was realizing what a powerful role negotiators have at the table. Powerful in the sense of representing (potentially) a very large constituency that is expecting certain results. Moreover, who is sitting around the table? And whose perspectives [are they] representing? [These questions] are critical to what the outcome may be.”
Autumn Dutelle, Master’s Candidate, Conservation Medicine, Tufts University:
“The project workshop was a great [culmination] of the weekend’s lessons. It was priceless being exposed to other graduate student’s potential projects and ways of thinking about our world.”
Some of the most enduring memories that alumni take with them into their lives beyond Tufts, both professional and personal, are those particularly noteworthy classes that made a major impression on them as students.
Over the past several months TEA has been reaching out to alumni and polling them on classes that are particularly memorable, or have been particularly applicable in their careers, both for the interest of other alumni as well as potentially for current students.
According to Alison Simcox, G’98, “During my days as a graduate student at Tufts, two professors, Richard Vogel and William Moomaw, had a great influence on me… [Professor Vogel] has a rare talent for combining theory and real-world engineering, so that students leave his classes with marketable skills like designing culverts, analyzing reservoirs, and, most importantly, with a broad knowledge of hydrologic systems. He is one of those people who have found their calling and whose enthusiasm is contagious.
“My interest in global issues led me to take some courses at the Fletcher School, where I, of course, met William Moomaw, Director of the International Environment and Resource Policy Program. Dr. Moomaw is another professor who seems perfectly suited to his position. I still have my notes from his course on international environmental policy, and consider that course to be one of the best of my long career as a university student (four degrees and lots of questions about when I would finish!). On the last day of the course, the class gave Dr. Moomaw a standing ovation. When I think back on classes that I took at Tufts, the ones that stand out had two ingredients: subjects of intrinsic interest to me and dynamic professors who loved what they taught.”
According to Hannah Kahler (A’12), two classes from her undergraduate career stand out in particular. One was Animal Behavior, taught by Professor Philip Starks, which she says was “a fun, interactive class teaching you about the intricate social structures and behaviors of many species. Professor Starks is an engaging lecturer and a very knowledgeable biologist.” A second was a memorable senior environmental seminar with Professor George Ellmore. In the words of Kahler, this class helped prepare her for a career in environmental science by requiring her to plan and execute two major projects with a team member, delivering the presentations in front of a large group of people.
For Mieke van der Wansem, F’90, one of her most memorable classes was also taught by Professor Moomaw, who is currently in the the process of stepping down from teaching. The class demonstrated to her the interconnectivity of critical issues such as climate change and fisheries – in her words, Professor Moomaw excelled at “linking theory and practice.” The class had the opportunity to explore policy issues first-hand through a unique experience called the “Space Bridge” –a satellite link established with Russian students at a chemical engineering university in the then-USSR, through which Tufts students were able to ask, via interpreter, questions about pollution issues in their country. Van der Wansem and other Tufts students were later able to visit the USSR themselves, which she found to be an eye-opening experience. At the end of the course the students wrote a “co-letter” suggesting recommendations to Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev. Van der Wansem has found that the lessons from this course, taught twenty years ago, are still applicable today.
According to Clifford Polycarp, F’09, his coursework in security studies and international finance helped to put into geopolitical perspective the environmental issues he had already been working on prior to Tufts. A core course, Processes of International Negotiation, helped him to better map out stakeholders and actors involved in environmental issues, and the emphasis on treaty behavior in Professor Michael Glennon’s International Legal Order class helped him to better understand certain states’ positions, such as the U.S.’s averse stance toward internationally-binding environmental treaties. Polycarp also found that coursework in corporate finance with Professor Laurent Jacque has been “incredibly helpful” in meetings and in other situations to be able to “talk the language” of the private sector, a skill that many in the environmental field will increasingly need. In a similar vein, Doug Shuster, F’98 has found that courses in development economics have helped him to put policy issues in his subsequent career in government into macroeconomic context. Understanding the political and economic contexts of host countries is critical for successfully developing foreign investment projects such as wind or solar farms.
According to Zachary Crowley, A’03, “Creative writing and English literature courses taught me how to tell a story – a necessary skill when working with legislators and administrators to enact good environmental policy. In politics you quickly realize that even the best and most effective policies can lose out if you fail to communicate them simply and well.” Interdisciplinary programs like TIE have allowed Tufts’ environmental students to emerge armed with skills as diverse as writing, business and international law, serving them well in their future environmental careers.
Claudia Schwartz ‘F14
Tufts University is one of only seventeen schools nationwide which has been selected to compete in the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) competition, a reflection of its leadership in the field of sustainability and innovation.
This year, Fletcher student Quang Truong (F’13) was selected as the winner of the award and $10,000 prize, in recognition of his team’s research to develop the EvapTainer, an evaporative cooling device to preserve the longevity of produce in developing countries. The TEA newsletter spoke with him to learn more about his work.
Truong originally developed the idea as part of a class at MIT, “Development Ventures,” intended to act as an incubator for social entrepreneurship ideas. The idea of an evaporative cooling container to store produce has existed for centuries in many different cultures around the world; the likely first commercialization of the idea was the “Zeer pot” in Nigeria in the early 1990s. Truong had come across the technology in his previous work in agricultural development, but had noticed that the technology had not reached the scale that it should have based on how useful it is. The major issue was that Zeer pots and other evaporative cooling vessels were not made to be portable, which represented a major obstacle to their use across the supply chain. It was in addressing this challenge that Truong says he was able to apply an important insight he’d gained from classes and in speaking to Fletcher classmates: the key is targeting transporters, as opposed to the farmers themselves. Truong says he learned that “it’s really hard to work directly with the rural farmer,” but that it’s easier to work with people from other stages of the supply chain such as the aggregators who pick up each farmer’s produce, or the urban wholesalers who sell it. Truong says that by targeting these actors, his team made the innovation of making the product lighter by changing the materials and other modifications.
The EvapTainer is based on a traditional invention that is simply a large ceramic pot with another smaller one inside it, and a layer of sand in between. When the sand is wetted the moisture begins to evaporate, which draws out heat from the inner pot, using the same principle as sweating.
Truong plans to use the $10,000 that the team won from the competition to start prototyping models this winter in the MIT “hobby shop.” The team has already gone through several rounds of design changes and modifications. The team has also received funds from the Tufts Fletcher School’s Institute for Business in the Global Context to conduct marketing research abroad. The next step for the team is to identify one or more pilot partners and a country to begin in, with possible candidates including Ghana, Morocco, Ethiopia and Egypt. Truong says that one of the biggest challenges is finding the right place to start, because this will inform for which produce the device will be used, which will inform its design. Another issue is the problem of water scarcity in some places, as water is needed for the container to work, although it does not need to be potable.
Truong says that one of the positives of the project has been the level of support, interest, suggestions and referrals that he has received from all of the people with whom he has discussed this idea. Truong, who graduated in December 2013, intends to continue pursuing the project with his team. He says their main motivation is intellectual curiosity, and they are perpetually interested in the process of trial and error and seeing whether their results “work like we think they will.” For the future, Truong looks forward to following the EvapTainer “as far as it goes.”
Claudia Schwartz F’14
Many Tufts students are interested in careers in environmental and renewable energy policy, but what do these career paths look like in practice and what skills do they require? The TEA newsletter recently spoke with two Tufts alumni to learn more.
Clifford Polycarp, F’09, is a Senior Associate and Deputy Director at the World Resources Institute, a “think-and-do tank” headquartered in Washington, DC which conducts policy research and advocacy at the intersection of the environment and socio-economic development. Doug Shuster, F’98, now at his own consulting company, has worked for over ten years in the US government at the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), covering countries across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Both offered their thoughts on how their Tufts educations prepared them for their career trajectories.
Before coming to The Fletcher School, Clifford Polycarp received an undergraduate degree in economics and worked for eight years, conducting research on international environmental and economic issues at organizations including the British High Commission’s Climate Change and Energy Program in India and the Stockholm Environment Institute. At Fletcher he added to this environmental background with coursework in international security studies and finance. Since graduation from Fletcher, Polycarp has worked at the World Resources Institute in the environmental finance group, where his research is focused on how to finance environmentally-sustainable investments, particularly in renewable energy. He is especially interested in these issues from the perspective of developing countries such as Brazil, China and India.
According to Polycarp, two critical skills to develop in his field are the ability to communicate ideas, and to think strategically. These skills are necessary to be able to connect with decision makers and influence policy. Polycarp recommends that students choose classes that strike a balance between helping them in their immediate careers after graduation, and classes that will help later in life, and that they focus on developing the skills, knowledge and networks that they will need both in the short-term and the long-term. Polycarp also acknowledges the importance of networking; he himself did not “see himself as a networker,” but in hindsight he has found that narrow, targeted networking helped him to generate his first consultancies and jobs after graduation.
Prior to his studies at Fletcher, Doug Shuster gained his first experience in development while working as a grassroots water and sanitation Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana. He complemented this hands-on experience with studies at Fletcher in development economics, which he says were important to understand investment policy issues in their larger macro context and to weigh project costs and benefits, for example the development benefits of a renewable energy project. In his words, many recent graduates coming out of school have either a “rifle or a shotgun,” i.e. a focus that is either narrow or broad in scope; according to Shuster, students coming out of multidisciplinary institution such as Tufts are lucky to have “a shotgun.” He credits this interdisciplinary background, as well as the ability to absorb information quickly, with the flexibility that many Tufts students have in their career paths after graduation.
At graduation Shuster began a career in the field of infrastructure investment in emerging markets, much of it in the public sector at USTDA. During his time at USTDA he worked across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, including heading up agency offices in Afghanistan and South Africa, as well as in the Office of the Economist. As part of his work he has supported projects from renewable energy power in sub-Saharan Africa to environmental technology transfer in Asia.
Shuster says that two of the emerging trends to watch in the renewable energy field are small-scale, off-grid solar and hybrid energy solutions. He is particularly interested in the trend toward smaller-scale renewable energy. Renewable energy costs are coming down for a number of technologies, such as solar photovoltaic technology, which is becoming more affordable at a faster pace than anyone had every expected. Geothermal energy costs are also decreasing, due to technology advances such as directional drilling.
Both Polycarp and Shuster’s careers demonstrate the ability of Tufts alumni to take their interdisciplinary backgrounds, combine them with real-world experience, and translate them into careers that tangibly impact environmental policy around the world.
Claudia Schwartz F’14
Science and Urban and Environmental Policy & Planning Research & Instruction Librarian
Research & Instruction
Tisch Library, Tufts University
When I was a young girl, I often remember saying to my father, “It isn’t fair!” And of course Dad would sometimes respond, “Well, sometimes life isn’t fair.” While I know he was trying to teach me valuable lessons about sharing, acceptance, and respect for others – I did sometimes wonder why fairness was only for some and not for all.
Introducing Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning and Practice, written by Julian Agyeman, Professor in Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, tackles why, and how, justice and fairness are attainable for all communities.
Just Sustainabilities is an excellent book for those who are interested in researching, learning more about, or working on the complex relationships between humans and their environments, and the related history, theories, and policies surrounding them. The book’s core is dedicated to defining sustainable equity, justice, and fairness across all cultures, acknowledging that many communities might think they have just, culturally appropriate planning policies in place, but in reality they have not incorporated culturally inclusive practices. Either on purpose or unwittingly, community government, elected officials, citizens, and policy planners have not necessarily been exposed to cultural competency education that would lead to just, sustainable planning practices. One excellent example of this from the book is neighborhood gentrification – the common wisdom might be that the gentrification process is a positive development for a community, but Dr. Agyeman discusses how this is not always the case, as when a neighborhood has a bike path foisted upon it with no discussion with the community as to how this will affect the culture they have fought to maintain and grow. As a trained biologist/ecologist, my first thoughts would be that such policies would be an unmitigated benefit to the neighborhood, the surrounding communities and the environment overall – but of course I’m looking at this issue through my cultural and educational lens and likely not understanding the consequences on the neighborhood’s inhabitants.
The introductory chapter in Just Sustainabilities is written so anyone can grasp the important frameworks within which to understand culturally appropriate planning practices. The frameworks – food, space and place, and culture – are defined in such a way as to make it very clear why these areas should be forefront in policy research and planning. Each framework is supported by current examples of how equity and justice are realized, or not, and suggestions on how to move from being culturally exclusive to culturally inclusive. As a research librarian I appreciated the added notes and references, making this an ideal work to which to refer students and others when beginning their research in just sustainability.
Some might ask, “So why should cultural equity, justice and fairness in policy planning concern me?” If we want our spaces, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our personal and collective environments to be culturally inclusive, respected and sustainable places, we must be fair to all.
Introducing Just Sustainabilities: Policy, Planning and Practice
London, New York: Zed Books.
February 13: Third Annual Environmental Career Night
• Dowling Hall, Room 745, Medford Campus
• Alumni-Only Networking & Light Dinner: 6:00 – 7:00 pm
• Career Panel: 7:00 – 7:45 pm
• Alumni-Student Networking: 7:45 – 8:30 pm
March 3-4: Fletcher’s Warming Arctic Conference: Development, Stewardship and Science
• Third international inquiry into implications of the warming arctic, with focus on economic development in the circumpolar region
• Program to include panels, photography exhibit, professional reading of play
• Aidekman Arts Center, Tufts Alumni Hall; Coolidge Room, 2nd Floor, Ballou Hall
March 8-9: Tufts Energy Conference
• The Fletcher School, 160 Packard Avenue, Medford MA
• Full-day agenda on both Saturday and Sunday featuring panels, a competition, an exhibition booth showcase, and more
April: TEA Spring Annual Speaker Series
April 11: WSSS Annual Symposium: Water and Cities
• Behrakis Auditorium, Tufts University School of Medicine, 150 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA, 02111