Acquiring the Passion and Skills to Help Countries in the Global South Respond to Climate Change
Simone Rawal’20 is passionate about the environment and determined to raise awareness about threats to it. She also believes in the power of story telling.
Simone brings the two together in Anthropause, the environmental podcast she co-founded. Episodes feature speakers who share perspectives on the current climate crisis grounded in the their lived experience and occupations, whether they are entrepreneurs, artists, or students, or work in other sectors. Notably, the majority of speakers are from South Asia, as Anthropause intentionally focuses on South Asians’ experience of the crisis and their response to it.
Ultimately, Simone hopes to help countries in the Global South understand the environmental threats to them and take action to reduce them. To this end, she is enrolled in a master’s program in the Institute of Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. As a graduate student, she is continuing to develop her quantitative and qualitative research skills. She’d gotten her feet wet using these methods when conducting field research after her first year at Beloit, when she traveled to China with Beloit’s Rivers in Transition program.
“It was the first time I was introduced to interdisciplinary research and both quantitative and qualitative research methods. For example, we learned out to conduct interviews and used GIS to create maps in order to understand the interactions between the Yellow River and the people who live alongside it. The experience continues to influence my research interests and the methods I use. It also helped drive my passion for understanding how humankind and the natural world interact and influence each other.”
Simone qualified for the program because she was studying Chinese and followed her first-year advisor’s advice to take a geology course. “My advisor, Sue Swanson, who teaches geology, was really supportive. She believed in me and encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone. I’m so glad I did.”
And step outside she did. Having arrived at Beloit with no particular major in mind, Simone soon settled on environmental geology, then added a computer science minor. “Minoring in computer science was such a good choice. A lot of my fellow graduate students only know qualitative methods. I so happy to be abe to use both qualitative and quantitative methods. Plus, I’m really excited about the power of numbers to tell stories.”
Simone’s also glad to have taken courses outside of STEM , something she is continuing to do as a master’s student. “When I took Jo Ortel’s environmental art history course, I had no idea it would be remotely practical. But I find myself regularly bringing up examples from the class in discussions about the work our institute does. I once mentioned a Brazilian artist who uses trash to make art. Everyone asked, ‘How do you know that?’ Because I studied the liberal arts.”
The contribution of the liberal arts to Simone’s current graduate studies is clear.
“People often denigrate the liberal arts. But being able to apply perspectives from a variety of disciplines and experiences is crucial when trying to address and understand a problem. In my thesis project, I’m considering cases from both the global south and global north in which nature-based responses have been integrated into more ‘traditional’ ones - think dams and seawalls - to manage flooding.”
“My interest in nature-based solutions comes from the environmental studies class I took with Pablo Toral on sustainable cities, while the flooding aspect comes from the geology work I did with Sue Swanson.”
Simone’s development as a student and future professional has also been shaped by her study abroad experiences, not only in China but also in New Zealand, where she spent the 2019 calendar year. Taking courses for both her major and minor at the University of Canterbury, she also witnessed New Zealand’s embrace of its indigenous people, from language and culture to decision-making.
“Most of the New Zealanders I met had taken some formal instruction in the Maori language. Their visibility and inclusion in New Zealand life and decision making helped me understand the importance of indigenous, local knowledge. That inspired me to use my work to help amplify indigenous voices.”
Through the geology department, Simone attended conferences where networking helped her meet students from other colleges with similar interests as well as Beloit College alumni. She also served as a geology teaching assistant for five semesters and engaged in a summer research project that extended into the fall semester. As a graduate student at UBC she has taken the same approach to expanding her knowledge and network.
“I’ve found it so helpful to form connections with people in other disciplines who share my concerns about climate change. And given my interest in engaging people with this problem, during the academic year I worked on my journalism skills as a reporting fellow with the Global Reporting Center. Then this past summer, I interned at Metro Vancouver to assist in their sustainability efforts.
Applying to graduate school can be a daunting task, but Simone was not left on her own. Instead, Career Works staff members Emily Sager and Jessica Fox-Wilson played prominent roles.
“Emily and Jessica were helpful, understanding, and dedicated throughout the process, They were also available to help me choose the program I would attend, once I was accepted by several. Navigating the stressful application process would have been very difficult on my own.”
Looking back, Simone is happy to declare attending Beloit College was the right choice for her. Beloit Beloit not only prepared her for her future academic and career endeavors, but helped her develop personal and life skills.
“Beloit provided me with the freedom to explore different fields and take different courses. That has shaped who I am today. Looking back, the holistic education, the opportunities, the love, welcome, and support that Beloit provides were essential. They helped me to become my best self and to initiate my career development.”