From Mozambique to the Arctic Circle, Bryce Bray’s tireless search for strategies to address the climate crisis has already taken the 2018 Middlebury Institute graduate halfway around the globe and won him three of the nation’s most prestigious postgraduate fellowships.
Fellowships offer an opportunity for many MIIS policy program graduates to delve deeper into their chosen field and continue building their professional expertise and network. Since completing his MA in International Environmental Policy with a concentration in Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, Bryce Bray MAIEP ’18 has scored a remarkable fellowship trifecta, having been awarded a Boren, a Fulbright, and most recently an Institute of Current World Affairs (ICWA) fellowship.
“The policy program at MIIS helped develop my expertise in legal, economic, governance, and technical solutions for dealing with wicked, global problems such as climate change,” says Bray, specifically citing courses on international marine law, governance, and climate science as key building blocks in his effort to develop expertise in his chosen field of climate policy.
Bray put that expertise to work as a Boren Fellow in Mozambique, where his fellowship focused on “climate impacts on rural, food-production-related livelihoods such as farming, grazing, and fishing. These livelihoods are generally extremely dependent on climatic conditions, which have become erratic and hard to predict.” His Fulbright also examines the dynamics of climate impacts, but with a focus on coastal fishing communities in Senegal.
“The more fragile a society is now,” says Bray, “the more drastically and sooner it will be affected by climate change’s impacts on ecosystems that support agriculture, fishing, hunting, and other types of food production and livelihoods. Fragile countries and communities already living on the margins, such as those in very arid regions, are going to be climate change’s primary victims in its initial stages.”
Shifting geographical focus, Bray’s upcoming ICWA Fellowship will examine climate impacts in the Arctic and include exchanges with Russian experts and officials in order to help determine paths forward for the region. In the Arctic, Bray adds, “there is another major issue: a newly navigable ocean forming with the loss of sea ice, making way for new shipping lanes that will decrease transit time from Asia to Europe significantly, causing more oil, gas, precious metal extraction, rich fisheries, and, of course, multiple overlapping territorial claims. So far, the Arctic and Antarctic have been relatively good examples of international cooperation, probably because they have been frozen. Let’s see what happens now.”
Bray points to language proficiency as a critical factor helping him to stand out from competing candidates for each of these fellowships. “Being able to demonstrate international experiences and some sort of official classification of your language skills is key. I don’t speak all of the languages I have studied (Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German) perfectly, but speaking is only part of the picture. Official exams like the DELE for Spanish, Goethe for German, CELPE-Bras for Portuguese, etc., capture writing, listening, and reading skills as well and are great for your résumé. Language learning is not a strong trait for many Americans, so this sets you apart.”
Bray’s focus on the Arctic in his ICWA Fellowship also represents a return to his MIIS roots. “As a graduate student at MIIS, I chose Russian as my language of study, focusing on the Arctic’s ecosystems, peoples, and geopolitical situation in my coursework and as a student in the Russian Federation in 2017.” He is quick to point out the common threads winding through the three fellowships: “Just like those arid regions in Africa, Arctic communities have long survived on the very edge of habitable zones for humans, meaning that, with the massive transformations already underway due to climate change, they will be the first to see their way of life, and thus cultures and identities, eroded.”
A multi-lingual environmentalist, Middlebury Institute alumnus Bryce Bray is passionate about the connection between climate-fragility and security, a topic he will research as a Fulbright Scholar in Senegal.
Students Bryce Bray and Siobhan Gibbons each learned this week that they won a Boren Fellowship, the first time that two students from the MA in International Environmental Policy program have ever been awarded a Boren in the same year.