When Solange learned of WPI as a potential option for her Fulbright Scholar placement, she was ready to discover more about the STEM focus. With a dedicated interest in climate change and community, she knew the university’s Community Climate Adaptation master’s degree program would offer the well-rounded approach she was seeking in a graduate school program.
The academics and hands-on project and field work would also provide the kind of comprehensive skills and interactions she wanted. “I am hoping to improve my technical skills not only in climate change but also in other relevant themes, such as women's development, urban sustainability, access to water and sanitation, and clean energy,” she says. “I’m also interested in the effect of climate variability on health and ecological services.”
Before arriving at WPI, Solange connected with professors Sarah Strauss and Jeanine Dudle, directors of the CCA program in The Global School. After chatting on a Zoom call, Solange realized she would have opportunities to advance her research skills in topics that were meaningful to her and that WPI’s engaged faculty would offer excellent guidance. Professor Strauss is now Solange’s academic advisor, helping with her research process and proposal work.
With a research proposal that focuses on a critical assessment of community engagement for participatory climate adaptation in Puerto Rico, Solange is gaining valuable perspectives around using science and technology for effective results with community work. “I am interested in understanding how the government and nonprofit organizations have interacted with communities during the planning of climate adaptation strategies in Puerto Rico, what is the role of community engagement in the decision-making process, and how the affected community would like to be involved in the future,” she says.
While it sometimes takes a while to settle into a new environment, Solange quickly established a pattern of campus life. “I like the classroom spirit,” she says. “All the classes I have taken so far have fewer than 10 students. It gives an opportunity for everyone to engage and contribute to the class discussions.”
And Solange has found an outlet and some new campus connections in the Friday pick-up basketball games at the Sports & Rec Center. “It’s a diverse team of professors and students,” she says. “I like how everyone is welcomed, regardless of their basketball skills.”