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Developing New Perspectives on Sustainability and Climate Change

Abigail Moses

Abigail Moses

1. What encouraged you to apply to Johns Hopkins SAIS?
While many are attracted to Johns Hopkins SAIS due to its prestige within the field of international relations, initially, I was afraid of applying for that exact reason. I questioned if I was equipped or deserved to enter a graduate program of this rigor and status due to my background coming from a small liberal arts university and being out of school for many years.

I heard from a few fellow Fulbright scholars who previously attended or are currently attending SAIS about the positive experiences they've had, especially in their relationships with professors, the vast opportunities to engage outside of the classroom through forums and lectures, and the amazing career guidance available. Hearing about SAIS from peers helped me find confidence in the accessibility of the programs and the school's investment in individual student success.

I took a chance on applying during the late admissions process after researching the opportunity to build a course load tailored to my experiences and career goals through the MAIR pogram's Development, Sustainability, and Climate Change track, and considering what I could offer as a student and eventually as an alumnus.

2. What program are you in and what do you hope to gain from it?
I am a part of the MAIR program, most specifically focusing on Development, Sustainability, and Climate Change with a regional focus in Southeast Asia. My language proficiency is in Bahasa Indonesia, though I am fluent in Bahasa Malaysia and my accent in Bahasa is very Malay.

In addition to having invaluable insight provided by professors and peers in developing my perspectives on sustainability and climate change, I hope to gain a wider understanding of the historical steps that have led to current conditions and the many factors that block equitable development. In addition to the wisdom and knowledge that I have gained through my coursework and studying under extremely accomplished professors and alongside skilled peers, I hope to see real-world examples of upholding integrity and empathy in sustainability.

3. What were you doing before attending the school?
I received a bachelor's degree in political science with minors in international relations and public service from Abilene Christian University in 2017, where I served as both student body president and vice president, developing green programming and equitable policy. I lived in Malaysia after my stint at Abilene Christian University for approximately four years. I started my tenure in Malaysia as a Fulbright grantee in Terengganu, serving as an educator and hosting state-wide educational events and camps focused on supporting students learning English through the application of local storytelling and culture to guide relevant curriculum development. Following my grant, I was a program coordinator for Fulbright Malaysia and managed the 2019 cohort of 100 American educators.

After such a wonderful experience with Fulbright, I decided to stay in Malaysia and work at an IB World School, but quickly transitioned away from education to financial management for small businesses to gain experience in finance to build those specific skills. I also married a Malaysian and became a full-time step-mom to four amazing children during that time. I experienced restlessness with the private business field and pursued sustainability and justice work opportunities since I always had an interest in those fields. Consequently, to be the best version of myself in both a family and career-oriented life, I decided to leave my role working in Malaysia and pursue my dreams for development and sustainability work and began working at the World Resources Institute in Washington, DC, where I currently serve on the Faith and Sustainability Initiative, coordinating programs focused on empowering faith-based organizations in climate mitigation and sustainability efforts. At the moment, I am juggling all my favorite hats, being a new mom, student, and worker.

4. What has been one of your favorite experiences or classes at the school so far?
As cliché as it may seem with my background living in Malaysia and previously Cambodia, I have absolutely loved the content in my Modern History of Southeast Asia course. There is never a time where I leave the class without thinking about topics discussed, especially regarding colonialism, syncretism of religion, and nationalism that has led to deep racial divides. As an undergraduate student, I had not studied Southeast Asia, so this is my first learning about these topics and exploring them further through response writings. I do not think this feeling of being intrigued by the content is exclusive to this class since I also find myself connecting dots between most of my courses. The way the content of courses at SAIS directly aligns with my past experiences, current work, and overall interests allows the classes to have a lasting impact on my perspective.

5. As a first year, what are some things you are looking forward to?
As all of my chosen classes have been online, truthfully, it has been quite a different experience. I appreciate how SAIS has equipped me to learn successfully in an online environment and look forward to being on campus and engaging directly with peers and professors, especially continuing to build relationships with those around me. I truly believe most of the value in being a member of any graduate cohort is the connections that you make. Therefore, I look forward to building toward my future by making connections with peers and professors who will support me throughout my career and paying it forward by empowering peers when opportunities arise. I am also excited to be involved in the extra programming available to SAIS students.

6. What do you hope to do with your degree after you graduate?
Following graduation from SAIS, I am looking forward to continuing work in the field of sustainability and faith regarding climate justice. Having my home now in Southeast Asia, I see the vulnerability of my family and community to climate change in an urgent and terrifying way. Therefore, I hope to be actively involved in works that inspire and inform climate action through the mitigation of assets or behavior. I am a woman who finds great inspiration in faith practices and have always held a deep respect for faith communities, and I believe there is an incredible opportunity for a global response towards climate change founded in faith-based communities, many of which have been historically exploited and forgotten by policymakers. I hope my work can be a link to research-based data and informed action for ordinary people who have good intentions for the Earth, but who have not had the privilege to explore the topic or options for climate action due to economic or political oppression. In the fight for our Earth, I believe that there will inevitably have to be a simultaneous shift in the way in which our economies and policies are made—so, I hope to tackle issues of oppression by empowering communities to influence their policymakers and economies toward carbon neutralization and demanding equitable development of communities in the transition.

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