The nexus of science and decision-making

Jane A. Flegal '09 presenting on her most recent work

Jane A. Flegal ’09 presenting on her most recent work.

Jane A. Flegal ’09, Doctoral Student/Graduate Researcher

Major: Environmental Studies

Concentration: Environmental Politics, Policy, and Economics

Advanced Degrees: PhD, In progress

Graduate Program: Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management, UC Berkeley

Internship: Bipartisan Policy Center, Washington, DC

One of the many assets of a Mount Holyoke education is that it equips one with tools to understand and analyze complex and multidisciplinary challenges.

As an Environmental Studies major, in particular, I was trained to approach environmental problems through multiple lenses, and in a wide range of methods. From tree-coring near the Connecticut River to analyzing the intersections of race, gender, and the environment, my Environmental Studies education enabled me to understand how environmental science is produced, how it is used and contested, and the implications for society.

As a student in Professor Bubier’s Environmental Science course (for which I later served as a teaching assistant), I was intrigued by the controversy around whether or not to allow deer hunting near the Quabbin Reservoir (a management strategy with implications for water quality). I became very interested in the nexus of science and decision-making: How do science—and scientific uncertainty—and human values influence decision-making in highly contentious areas? Motivated by these questions, I moved to Washington, DC to intern at the Energy Project of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) after graduating from MHC in 2009.

The BPC is a think-tank and advocacy organization, unique in that it aims to generate rigorous scientific and technical analysis, and to promote the adoption of its recommendations by governments through aggressive advocacy on the hill. My interdisciplinary training at Mount Holyoke made me effective at both tasks—I was technically proficient, but also had a sense for US environmental politics and economic trade-offs.

For the next four years, I worked as a Senior Policy Analyst on a wide range of issues, including climate policy, energy innovation policy, and climate engineering research policy. It is worth noting that, during my time in DC, I frequently worked with Mount Holyoke alumnae, who were terrific advocates and colleagues. In 2013, I left the BPC to pursue a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California at Berkeley, where I am now a third-year graduate student working on the politics of science and expertise in the governance of energy and climate technologies.