Global scholarship and public engagement: Professor Ivanova’s role(s) in environmental governance
When discussing how global governance and academic research overlap in achieving social and environmental change, Professor Maria Ivanova cites the power and necessity of globally engaged research. An academic working on global environmental governance, she was most recently part of the Rwandan delegation to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya, which met in February and March 2022. Rwanda and Peru led the political process for the “End Plastic Pollution” resolution. : Towards a legally binding instrument”, which governments adopted in Nairobi.
Ivanova’s work in Rwanda began in 2018 as part of UMass Boston’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, which received a $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. As co-principal investigator, she co-taught a course on African environmental issues and co-led a group of 30 UMass Boston students and faculty on a trip to Rwanda, where they formed meaningful collaborations with local authorities. Ivanova continued to work with various government agencies in Rwanda, and in 2022, this substantial and long-term engagement led to an invitation to join the country’s delegation to UNEA.
The presence of an academic at UNEA was notable, as Ivanova was the only academic in a government delegation to UNEA. She acknowledged that government delegations often recruit and rely on academic input to inform policy-making in climate change negotiations, but this has not always been the case for UNEA. She said: “It was great to see this happen and to be such an academic in the delegation from a small state, negotiating and leading a very big global issue.” Rwanda has helped evolve the traditional conceptualization of plastic pollution as a marine debris problem to focus on the full life cycle of plastics and was one of the first players to reassess our business relationship with plastics, banning plastic bags in 2008 and single-use plastics in 2019. Rwanda’s negotiations with Peru on climate change, and in particular on plastics, reflect the role of multilateralism in impacting positive global change while emphasizing the role small nations can play globally
Ivanova’s presence at UNEA demonstrates her commitment to fusing scholarship and practice and reflects her position that separating the two is an impossibility. Such integration is standard practice at the McCormack Graduate School. As she explained, “As a school of public policy, … McCormack is not just a place that allow purse committed to arrive; this waits purse committed to perform. It’s the norm. It’s the wait. That’s the aspiration at McCormack, and that’s what drew me here 12 years ago, and that’s what continues to inspire me.
In 2010, Ivanova joined UMass Boston as a faculty member as part of former provost Winston Langley’s vision to create a program in human security. The framework of the Doctoral Program in Global Governance and Human Security at the McCormack Graduate School, as noted by Ivanova, aligns with the definition of human security as “the ability of humans to lead healthy and productive lives in harmony with nature”. The doctoral program combines the objective of human security – the “what?” – with the practice of global governance – the “how?”
Ivanova’s commitment to “fundamentally engaging students and scholars in academia as well as the outside world we inhabit” has informed her academic and policy work, as well as her administrative work as Director of the Center for governance and sustainability. and the Director of the Doctoral Program in Global Governance and Human Security in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance. In these roles, she is committed to preparing students for their future careers as thought leaders in important areas of politics and governance by engaging them in real-world experiences related to policymaking. and social and environmental change.
Indeed, Ivanova’s pedagogy is deeply invested in the successes and opportunities of McCormack Graduate School students. Meg Hassey, Brian Harding and Wondwossen Sintayehu, doctoral students from the McCormack Graduate School, were also present at the United Nations Environment Program alongside Ivanova. Meg Hassey’s engagement is aligned with the delegation’s objectives, as her current thesis work focuses on plastics. “So you see,” Ivanova said, “our PhD students are already embedded and engaged in this area.” The opportunities for academic work outside the walls of the University so that scholars can “integrate and engage” with the real world in which they operate and exist inspires and motivates Ivanova as an educator. As she summed it up, “This is… what fuels my passion: the ability to engage academia in governance and encourage young people to learn and practice learn and solve environmental problems.”