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BU launches new global development policy center

Not just a think tank, a do tank

portrait of Keven P. Gallagher
Kevin P. Gallagher
Professor of Global Development Policy at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies

Global partnerships are key to solving the planet’s biggest social, economic, and environmental problems. That’s a main driver behind one of our newest University-wide research centers: the Global Development Policy Center.

Its mission? To conduct and promote policy-oriented research “for financial stability, human well-being, and environmental sustainability across the globe,” says Kevin P. Gallagher, professor of global development policy and the center’s director.

The road to that mission is paved with rigorous research and continuous dialogue with policymakers, civil society, and media from around the world. The new center of excellence, jointly housed at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies and BU Research, brings all of the global policy research, seminars and workshops, and publication activity taking place across the University and alumni networks under one umbrella, creating a hothouse of cross-disciplinary collaboration. The center also serves as a physical space where scholars and stakeholders can gather and will offer hands-on learning for BU students.

When the center formally opened in February 2018, it was inaugurated, fittingly, by former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a standing-room-only event. The South Korean diplomat, who headed the UN from 2007 to 2016, said academic institutions are crucial partners for global change. “They are launchpads for the solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problems that we face.” He urged BU students, particularly those who plan to work in public health–related jobs, research, or diplomacy, to think of both the planet and humanity beyond national boundaries.

Nabeel Nissar (CGS’16, CAS’18, GRS’18), a BU graduate student whose family hails from the impoverished and disputed Kashmir region north of India and Pakistan, was in the audience. Inspired by the center’s mission, he said he wants to better understand ways he can have a global impact through his science studies. “It’s easy to get sad about all the conflicts around us,” he said. “But it’s important to recognize the responsibility we have to help.”

Global research

Passport to knowledge

David Henderson, chair of psychiatry at the School of Medicine, is teaming up with a colleague in India to develop an effective mental health intervention for homeless people suffering from serious mental illness, both in Boston and India, thanks to a $30,000 grant from BU Global Programs and BU Foundation-India.

Henderson and Vandana Gopikumar of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences School of Social Work in India plan to design and develop a model of mental healthcare for vulnerable populations that can be scaled up to a systems level.

That’s just one corner of the world where our people are working to make a difference. Here are some others:

  • Muhammad Zaman, a professor of biomedical engineering, recruited students Helen Lindsay (ENG’18) and Anna Helfrich (ENG’18), along with Devika Nadkarni (CAS’17), a researcher in his Laboratory for Molecular & Cellular Dynamics, to help teach a three-week course on refugee issues in Lebanon that was taught at the American University of Beirut. The students interviewed residents at refugee camps to learn what needs engineers and public health workers could address.
  • Michael Sorenson, a professor of biology, and researcher Katie Stryjewski (GRS’15), studied speciation in New Guinean finches to help biologists better understand ways new species emerge, revealing more about evolution as a whole. Their work was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution in October 2017.
  • Dual anthropology and archaeology major Elizabeth Hannigan (CAS’18) spent two weeks studying the 1,300-year-old remains of a woman near the Mayan city of Xultún in northern Guatemala. Her findings suggest that there were more roles available to women in Maya society than was previously thought.
  • Catherine West, a research assistant professor of archaeology and anthropology, traveled to remote Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands to study butter clams and seal bones, to see how humans and animals adapted to a sudden drop in temperature thousands of years ago, research that has implications for climate change in our own time.
  • Christopher Schmitt, an assistant professor of anthropology and biology, is studying the primates of the Vervet Research Colony at Wake Forest University and in the wild to understand what combination of genes, environment, and ancestry may trigger obesity.
  • Diane Thompson, an assistant professor of Earth and environment, and postdoctoral researcher Hussein Sayani are analyzing coral records at Kiritimati Island and Butaritari Atoll to characterize the strength and direction of tropical Pacific winds over the past century, work that will help them better understand the relationship between wind patterns and global climate.