Portrait of Valdez
Three Cairns Scholars

Laura Polanco Valdez, Dominican Republic

Goal: Work as a bridge between policymakers and academia to advance climate mitigation and adaptation strategies

Climate change poses a particular threat to island nations. Laura Polanco Valdez, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, understands this very well. Her homeland was ranked one of the 10 most affected nations by climate events between 1997 and 2016, according to the Global Climate Index. The pace of these events is only accelerating, and their scale increasing.

The local urgency of the crisis brought Polanco Valdez to the Yale School of the Environment, where she is pursuing a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree. “YSE will allow me to obtain an integrative vision of climate change and learn about the cutting-edge methods being implemented to solve problems caused by the climate crisis,” she says. “In addition to the formal education, the new knowledge and different perspectives I get from sharing with my colleagues outside of the classroom setting are extremely valuable. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about this community.”

Polanco Valdez is particularly focused on sustainable agriculture. Food production in the Dominican Republic — and the Caribbean more broadly — is heavily threatened by projected changes in climate. In the future, she hopes to develop and promote policies that make the agricultural sector more resilient and productive, particularly for small farmers as they respond to extreme weather events.

“I want to work as the bridge between policymakers and academia to advance evidence-based strategies to help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change,” Polanco Valdez says. “The interdisciplinary training offered by YSE will help me accomplish these goals.”

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