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Public Policy and its Partners to Offer Study Abroad Course on Climate Change

Much research shows that climate change is an existential threat to the planet. So what do we do about it? Students interested in exploring solutions can now do just that in a new study abroad program developed jointly between the Public Policy Program and its partners at the W&M Law School’s Virginia Coastal Policy Center, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), and the Whole of Government Center of Excellence.

The program, entitled Responses to Climate Change: A Comparison of Opportunities for Potential Solutions in the Netherlands and the Coastal United States, will help students examine current and potential future responses to climate change, learning from the experiences of the Netherlands, a country with a long history of living with high sea levels. They also will explore the work of global policy-making institutions around climate change at The Hague. Students from both the undergrad and graduate level from any discipline have the opportunity for this study abroad experience. It will commence with a virtual spring exchange with the University of Leiden, before embarking on the trip after the spring semester.

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(Pictures above taken by Cam Bruce: Master’s Student in 2022 Delegation. The images above picture the streets of The Hague and the Dutch Parliament Building close to the hotel where students stay.)

Students will analyze how both the United States and the Netherlands have worked to raise awareness about climate change and the solutions each is creating. Students won’t only compare these countries through classical education but also through real experience. During the class, students will observe different solutions to increasing sea levels, severe storms, and floods, trying to see how the coastal United States could use these strategies. It’s an opportunity where education is right in front of the students’ eyes, containing chances to advance one's career.

Professor Sarah Stafford, Chair of EconomicsProfessor Sarah Stafford, the Department Chair of Economics here at William & Mary and one of the faculty advisors of the program, explains that “since the in-country portion [of the program] is only two weeks, students can also do other things over the summer like an internship, a job, a research experience, or just travel through Europe.” This program doesn’t have to be the only experience you have this summer, as Stafford continues that the course can also lead to new opportunities, as “it’s a unique experience that not many will get to have, so it should distinguish participants from other potential candidates for an internship or job.” 

This past summer students and professors from multiple disciplines traveled to The Hague to help develop the curriculum for the program. Leah Rego, a senior of the class of 2023, receiving herLeah Rego, Class of 2023, BA in Public Policy Bachelor’s of Arts in Public Policy, and one of the student representatives for the public policy program, explains: “we provided our perspectives as students from different disciplines as to what we thought would be the most beneficial aspects of this class for the students who will be going in summer 2023. Graduate and undergraduate students truly worked together to make the program open to everyone.” The content was created for students by students who took every discipline into mind.

Cam Bruce, Class of 2023, Master's in Public PolicyCam Bruce, a Public Policy Master’s student, graduating in 2023, who also was part of the student delegation, explains that one of the huge benefits of the program is the genuine connections one can form not only with other students but also William & Mary faculty, saying, “The connections I made to the law school and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science were something I didn’t expect but am so grateful to have.” He also continues to state how the program “cemented [his] sureness to focus on environmental and climate policy.” This experience truly combines a student’s education, career aspirations, and wants for travel, making it a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

This program is truly open to everybody, combining disciplines from public policy, economics, politics, law, and environmental and marine science. Students will learn from multiple perspectives, which have informed contemporary efforts to address climate change and its effects. Learn more about the program and how to apply here.

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(Pictures above taken by Leah Rego: Undergraduate Senior and Representative of the Public Policy Program. Pictures showcase Wageningen University, the North Sea Offshore Wind Farm which students visited to learn about the development of wind turbines, and the Deltares Center for Coastal Research which students toured to see the Atlantic Basin Model, a simulation model of real-life waves and currents.)