Her current climate-change research at the Center for Strategic and International Studies tackles how to transition from carbon-based energy in a way that protects and even benefits communities and economies. That’s known as “just transition,” and it’s the type of work Mary Margaret Allen ’17 aspired to well before she started college.
She’s a research assistant and program coordinator with the respected think tank’s Energy Security and Climate Change Program, her second job out of college. A geosciences major at Hamilton, it took her first job for Allen to realize her deepest interest.
Just out of school she worked as an environmental consultant, assessing and remediating contaminated sites. In the process she discovered her desire to cover greater ground. Allen was drawn to policy and policy research and its potential to foster systemic change. That led to the research center and a job that satisfies her passion for social and environmental issues.
“Our research objectives are related to improving energy security, addressing climate change, and alleviating energy poverty, and environmental injustice, so that really resonates with me on a personal level. And I feel like it’s informing policy that I hope will lead to a more sustainable, stable, and inclusive future,” Allen says.
The just transition work is in its early phase, developing a conceptual framework, which means Allen is immersed in research to understand the perspectives of the varied stakeholders: funders, labor and environmental groups, governments. Also, her group is building a soon-to-be-public database of just transition resources and policy tools.
Allen says the next phase of the work, funded through the World Bank, will be to provide more granular policy insights to help governments and other stakeholders manage the process of socio-economic change. “And so that brings about a lot of justice considerations, like who benefits, who pays, who loses out,” she explains. “And some of these communities are already subject to injustices or historically marginalized. And so another important consideration is who gets to be involved in all of these really important decisions.”
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Her geosciences major isn’t directly related to her career, but prepared her in a broad sense, Allen says. Her professors taught her to think critically and independently and to recognize patterns. She says her Hamilton education readied her for the interdisciplinary nature of her policy work.
“I think that Hamilton really teaches you to think holistically. It’s a challenge, I think, to understand the complexity and interrelatedness of a lot of these issues, but I think a Hamilton education really equips you to do that,” she says.