Energy and Sustainability Concentration

Training the sustainability professionals of the future

Steph Wilson

Steph Wilson

Describe your current area of research and/or your academic interests.

My area of research is in sustainable development and the food, energy, and water (FEW) nexus. My research project assessed the challenges to food, energy, and water access in the communities surrounding Lake Turkana in northern Kenya and made cross-sectoral recommendations for the sustainable development of the region. Other areas of research throughout my graduate studies include an analysis of Brazil's energy portfolio and a case study of Africa's "Great Green Wall" project. I am interested in the intersection of climate change, environmental justice, and economic development, and GMU's Interdisciplinary Studies program allowed me to explore these topics from many different perspectives.

Why did you choose George Mason to pursue your studies?

I have always had an interest in and passion for international development, and I studied Anthropology and Foreign Affairs with a concentration in African studies at the University of Virginia. After undergrad, I canvassed for the Nature Conservancy, which linked my personal passion for environmentalism to my career aspirations in development. I decide to go back to school to further my understanding of climate change and sustainability in order to pursue a career in sustainable development. George Mason's MAIS program inspired me, because I truly believe that we cannot solve the world’s problems without interdisciplinary communication and understanding.

Are there faculty or staff members who have made a difference thus far during your Mason career? Please give an example of this impact if possible.

My committee chair and mentor, Dr. Jennifer Sklarew, not only introduced me to the topics that would guide my research in her exceptional courses, but she was crucial in guiding my professional development. Dr. Jen opened the door for work opportunities, including a coordinator position with a local non-profit and a research position on an OSCAR Summer Team Impact Project. She has also provided excellent recommendations, which have helped me win this scholarship as well as a post-graduate job in my field.

How do you hope to use your degree and studies in the future?

Interdisciplinary Studies has shown me all of the different ways that I can make the impact I wish to have on the world. Before my advanced study, I was limited in my view of what careers existed in the field of sustainability. Now that I have experience with environmental policy, environmental science, and data analysis, I am much more confident in my ability to reach beyond small, community-based campaigns and make larger, more systemic change. I believe I can move past assisting individuals in their conservation efforts to instituting large-scale policy changes and holding governments and corporations accountable for their contributions to climate change. I am happy to say that I have started a position as the Business Development and Marketing Coordinator with Environmental Incentives, a consulting company that works to improve the performance of conservation and development programs worldwide. I'm grateful for the courses and opportunities provided by Mason that led to this new career path!

How will the Dean’s Challenge scholarship support your studies?

The Dean's Challenge scholarship will allow me to take the time to pursue publication of my research on the FEW nexus. Because I started working quickly after graduation, I have not had the time to work with my committee on publishing my work in academic journals. This scholarship will give me the flexibility to update my research and submit it to academic publications.