Former F&ES ‘Star’ Joins UN Science Advisory Panel

Fifteen years ago, when she was a graduate student at F&ES, Maria Ivanova M.E.Sc '99, M.A '99, Ph.D. '06 helped create the Global Environmental Governance Project, an ambitious initiative that has explored strategies to improve the international response to environmental challenges and make a more sustainable planet.
Last week, Ivanova was appointed to an international panel that will advise top United Nations leaders, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as they tackle those very goals.
MariaIvanova web
Maria Ivanova
Other members of the 26-member UN Scientific Advisory Board include Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Prize-winning chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former Dorothy S. McCluskey Fellow, and Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel laureate in chemistry and professor at the California Institute of Technology.
“Governments have been exploring ways to improve the science-policy interface for sustainability, and the creation of the UN Scientific Advisory Board is a very positive development,” says Ivanova, who is now a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “Contemporary global problems require innovative solutions that combine insights from a number of fields. The board will seek to bring such innovation from the academy into the global policy process.”

And in many ways, she says, the purpose of the new board reflects that of the Global Environmental Governance Project, which she helped develop in 1998 with F&ES Professor Daniel Esty, her advisor at the time. The project — which she still directs out of UMass Boston as part of the Center for Governance and Sustainability — has provided a clearinghouse for the latest developments in environmental governance, a sometimes “brutal” analysis on how leaders are doing, and an honest broker that brings different groups together.
"In a sense, the UN board taps into exactly the same functions,” Ivanova says. “Each of us can tap into clearinghouses of knowledge and the state-of-the-art science across our various fields.”
She added: "Many of us have devoted our lives to pursuing particular questions — often very policy–relevant questions — but the UN has not engaged us. This is a way to change that dynamic."
What has happened to me is a result of the mentoring I received at Yale. And I'm trying to create that experience for my students
— Maria Ivanova
Ivanova says her time at Yale shaped her thinking, and her professional aspirations. For instance, there was the trip she took as a doctoral student to Nairobi in 2005, when she and a group of F&ES students spent one week with the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) governing council and another with the women of Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement. During that trip, Ivanova recalls, she witnessed the link between environmental governance at the global and local levels.
"Maria was a star at F&ES and she has gone on to do truly important things," said James "Gus" Speth, who was F&ES dean at the time and who helped create a class on UNEP that Ivanova taught. "No one understands the UN system as well as she does, and it is great to see the Secretary-General recognize her in this way.
"Personally, I am proud to have had a small role in her career," he added. "That is what old deans have to live on." 
In turn, Ivanova said she is excited to relay her experiences with the UN back to her own classroom in Boston. "What has happened to me is a result of the mentoring I received at Yale," she said. "And I'm trying to create that experience for my students."
– Kevin Dennehy    203 436-4842