Returning to Madagascar with a renewed purpose
Written by Charles Kamper
University of Michigan student Katie Browne is passionate about environmental justice.
At a time when the world is in need of environmental activists, Browne has made it her mission to use her knowledge of climate policy in a country she loves.
Before coming to U-M to pursue her doctorate in natural resource policy and behavior, Browne spent three years volunteering with the Peace Corps in Madagascar putting to practice her master’s degree from U-M in environmental justice.
She is now returning to her favorite country in Africa for her doctoral dissertation, thanks to a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship.
“Madagascar is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world for climate change,” Browne said. “I had contacts in Madagascar, I speak the language, and with those advantages, it made sense to return there to perform research.”
On a typical day in Madagascar, Browne continues her doctoral research. When not in traffic, she is conducting interviews with policymakers in the government, members of civil society and members of interest groups as they continue to combat climate change.
When she first considered completing her dissertation research, Browne said she knew she wanted to do it abroad.
In fact, after 10 months in Madagascar, she will be traveling to the island country of Mauritius in Asia, which is also combating climate change. She calls her comparative climate research in foreign countries “an adventure.”
Similar to her connection with Madagascar, Browne knew that U-M was a perfect fit for continuing her education after her master’s program.
“A big part of the reason why I decided to do my Ph.D. at Michigan is because it is a globally engaged university,” she said. “There are so many faculty who do international research, and it’s the same for students as well.”
The Fulbright-Hays Fellowship that Browne has earned focuses primarily on students who are willing to learn their research country’s language. She takes pride in her ability to speak Malagasy, the national language of Madagascar.
“I want to work in Madagascar for a long time, so building my language skills is also very important to me,” Browne said. “The most valuable part about this opportunity is the chance to bring a new lens to a place that I know well. It’s really important to come back as a researcher and experience a different perspective.”