Going global: ASU grad students tackle challenges around the world

ASU Global Development ResearchSaurabh Biswas likes to ensure that no good ideas, or sunlight, go to waste. That’s why the School of Sustainability PhD student created Sustainable Rio Claro 2020 – a sustainability game-plan for the Brazilian village of Rio Claro. Through ASU’s Global Development Research program, Biswas lived, worked and studied in the small agricultural community, collaborating with community members and local organizations. He also got hands-on, providing assistance to a local photovoltaic (PV) solar startup making rooftop PV accessible to Brazil’s urban communities. Biswas is one of more than twenty graduate students to become a GDR scholar since the program’s inception. In 2014, ASU was chosen as one of six universities to partner with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Global Development Lab. Through the partnership, the university created the GDR program, which connects graduate students to USAID Research and Innovation Fellowships. The program, managed and administered by the School of Sustainability, is designed to improve lives around the globe by cultivating international collaboration and use-inspired research. GDR scholars work to identify and close the research gap while getting applied, practical experience. GDR projects also empower students to promote the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, such as Affordable and Clean Energy and Sustainable Cities and Communities. In 2016, the program sent 17 scholars to eleven host countries. In their respective locations, scholars collaborated with local organizations to help solve critical challenges. Mishara Mitchell, a 2016 GDR scholar, says that her experience in Colombia changed her life. “I am so thankful to have been a part of this program,” Mitchell says. “I cannot express how much of a passion it has cultivated within me, how much it has opened my eyes to the beautiful connections that are available in this world, and how truly grateful I am for it.” As for Biswas, he will return to Brazil in 2017 to check in on the progress of Sustainable Rio Claro 2020. He explains, “This experience has added richness to my understanding of the local context, appreciation of the importance of local partners, and linking seemingly unrelated dimensions in a grand idea of sustainability.”