Global Development Research Scholar: Sean McAllister

Sean McAllisterSean McAllister, a doctoral student in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, is currently researching energy transitions in Brazil through ASU's Global Development Research program. Coming from Sioux City, Iowa – a city with a rich history of fluctuating social and industrial transitions – McAllister believes the Brazilian community he is researching is like an echo of his hometown’s history. He is interested in learning how different levels of governance, policy and incentives play out on a local level, and how this affects energy outcomes and individual and community decisions. What is the focus of your research project? This project, which began last year, started with finding better ways to improve water quality in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Now, we are exploring technological change driven by the community. We have delivered locally-developed technologies, such as solar water heaters and solar ovens, to the community and have seen that people are genuinely interested in the technologies we are putting forth. In the long run, this small push towards enhancing energy services that residents rely on has the biggest impact on the community. The key being that by organizing, sharing information and utilizing the skills of the people, the community can improve itself and the lives of its residents. So far, what is your favorite part of studying abroad through GDR? Going into the houses of Rio Claro and meeting people. I get a unique opportunity to find out how the locals feel about their community and their country, to ask about their goals in life and how technology plays into that. It’s absolutely fascinating and humbling to receive so much hospitality, but its energizing as well, especially when I’m offered some of the very strong and very sweet coffee that folks make. What advice would you give to other students considering the GDR Program? My advice is to go for it. I was worried about quite a few things: finances, being out of the loop with my program, not having time to read the things I need to, not being able to speak the language. I’ve had a lot of support from my program and from the GDR program, email works here, I have plenty of time to read, and through the wonder of modern pocket computers, I have been able to easily pick up a working knowledge of Portuguese. I have had an amazing experience that will color my research and dissertation in the most illuminating ways. I think I would advise anyone who is wavering between a three- or six-month program to seize the opportunity to stay longer. The longer someone is able to work on their project, the more they can give and the more they will be rewarded.