Andrew Irvin -  USP Alumni Network

Name: Andrew Irvin
Country: USA
Programme: Post-Graduate Diploma in Climate Change (2016)

Why did you choose your field of study?
I decided to work through PaCE-SD towards a Masterís Degree in Climate Change in order to build my research and professional skills to better address conservation needs in the Pacific and feed into the sustainable transport demands currently underserved within the region. IUCN works closely with PaCE-SD (among other departments at USP), so it seemed a natural fit for pursuing environmental sustainability with energy conservation in mind.

Briefly reflect on your student life at USP?
Since I was a non-residential student, taking classes primarily oriented toward online interaction, I gained the bulk of my time on campus through weekly seminar sessions in the PC414 - Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation and PC425 Ė Strategic Environmental Assessment & Environmental Impact Assessment courses. I found myself on campus for other activities mostly related to my professional work, but as a full-time employee and parent of three, I havenít invested much of my time in the campus life offerings many other students may enjoy.

Greatest achievement[s] as a student:
Iíd say the most useful outcome of my student work so far involved developing a brief analysis of World Bank policies in Strategic Environmental Assessment & Environmental Impact Assessment which has served as a stepping stone with IUCNís Headquarters to propose to World Bank the incorporation of adding evaluation of environmental & social safeguards into the annual Ease of Doing Business reports. My paper juxtaposed the existing gap in coverage of social/environmental regulatory climate with the rigorous assessment standards published elsewhere by World Bank regarding screening of projects to fund. While it is an ongoing discussion, being able to flag this issue has proven mostly likely of all my work thus far to lead to greater impacts.

Career Highlights since Graduation:
Graduation was only a month or so ago, so I guess the best development since has been successfully launching of a Low Carbon Fund to subsidize energy efficient appliances in Niue this March.
Who/what do you credit your success to? What inspires you? I credit much of my success to the focus my wife and children demand of me. I would definitely not feel the same sense of drive and responsibility if I didnít have people I love relying on me to keep things moving forward every day. Creating a better world for my kids inspires me to keep working on small steps towards big solutions, because anyone looking at the path ahead can see trouble unless we radically shift course in our cultural practices as an increasingly globalized civilization. I want my children to live in a world they know I have worked diligently to keep intact and improve for their enrichment and fulfilment.

How do you think USP helped you in your career?
My undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Department of Dance, Drama, and Film at Kenyon College back in my home state of Ohio. Attending USP and getting a deeper foundation in science, particularly climate change-related matters, helps strengthen my understanding of issues in the region and improves my range of methodological tools to assist in ongoing and upcoming projects.

Describe any challenges you face to reach where you are today and how you overcame those challenges?
Iím not from this corner of the world, nor did I come out of my undergraduate studies with a background in the work Iím now doing, so Iíve definitely put a lot of effort into switching gears both professionally and culturally to adjust my expectations and abilities to meet the unique demands of living in the Pacific. Itís been hard to find people who have shared similar paths to mine, so Iíve had to cultivate a strong sense of purpose in carving my own way in the world. The biggest challenge is always figuring out how to meet the expectations I set for myself and confronting the limited amount of work I can do in a day.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)?
In ten years, Iíd hope to have expanded the impact of my work to the global stage, particularly in my efforts to create a broader understanding of systemic issues and collaboratively generate solutions. In addition to continued work with IUCN, I expect to be part of a sustainable transport planning & design firm where I have the opportunity to collaborate with world-class engineers and creative minds on a path toward shifting from the current paradigm of the internal combustion engine toward clean models for low carbon transport.

What advice would you give to current and future students of USP?
If you want to work outside the Pacific, set a pace for yourself well beyond that which is demanded of you, and put that work into pursuits that help wind back the wheel of continual consumption. We live in a world wildly off-balance, and every good mind needs to be working in harmony to generate a different tune.

Please share top three tips that you think are most important for our current students or recent graduates that will help them when starting out on their career paths.
1. Money never sleeps Ė there are selfish people who will constantly pursue their own agendas, so donít stop with only doing what youíre asked to do or what is comfortable. Continually doing the right thing involves endless effort, doing what is required wonít impress anyone, so pursuing your passion will require many hours off the clock Ė make sure that passion serves the greater good, because a world of over seven billion doesnít need one more selfish person fanning the flames.
2. The worst justification for any line of action is simply, ďWeíve always done it this way.Ē Traditions exist for lots of reasons, and itís always good to turn the lens back on ourselves and our cultures and look at why certain practices persist and some fall away.   Purpose must be rooted in reason, and itís always good to ask the next question and follow ideas and practices back as close as possible to their source for a better understanding of why they arose in the first place.
3. Diversify your views and experience Ė the tunnel vision I often see in people who have spent their entire careers specializing sometimes keeps them from connecting the dots in other sectors and demonstrating the flexibility of perspective to create new solutions and partnerships. While sometimes I wish Iíd gotten a degree in engineering as an undergrad and started my career in conservation earlier, I wouldnít trade my experiences in the world of art, music, and film for anything, because often I can find analogous situations or processes between disciplines that Iíve noticed people with more partitioned backgrounds donít necessarily pull together.

What has your involvement been with the University since you graduated?
Iím currently a masterís candidate with PaCE-SD, working on my thesis for completion by November, 2016. I continue to serve in my capacity as IUCN focal point with USP for the Oceania Centre for Sustainable Transport, through which my thesis supervisor, Dr. Peter Nuttall, and I are attempting to coordinate a range of national and regional projects to support independence from the fossil fuel paradigm and spur interest in non-motorized and other renewably powered transport modes.

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