POND ISLAND–Last week proved to be momentous for country St. Maarten as University of St. Martin (USM) welcomed its first-ever doctoral researcher, Lysanne Charles.
Charles became the first person to commence her doctoral studies on island while being hosted by the university on September 6.
A local sociologist and civil servant, Charles’ research will be centred on climate change policy and governance in St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius. She will be studying the importance of community engagement and participation in the development of policies that will support the islands and their people in becoming more resilient during the intensification of hurricanes, drought and coastal erosion.
Climate policy and governance is one of four areas covered by the programme Island(er)s at the Helm, which USM, the Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies KITLV, TU Delft, University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and University of Amsterdam kicked off in September.
The programme was awarded 3.5 million euros by the Netherlands Research Council NWO for research into the co-creation of sustainable solutions to climate change challenges across the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom.
Island(er)s at the Helm, the five-year enterprise headed by former USM President Francio Guadeloupe and Leiden University Professor Corinne Hofman, will use archaeology, cultural anthropology, engineering and political science to advance practical answers for problems related to water, shelter and food.
Also commencing their journey to earning their doctorates with Island(er)s at the Helm are visual artist Sharelly Emanuelson in Curaçao and archaeologist Harold Kelly in Aruba.
Emanuelson will conduct multi-site fieldwork related to the “coloniality of disaster” on all six islands of the Dutch Kingdom and Kelly will be looking into long-term evidence of social adaptation to climatic changes in Aruba, Bonaire and St. Maarten. Charles, Emanuelson and Kelly constitute the first cohort of Ph.D. candidates of the transatlantic research programme.
Charles will be employed by UVI in partnership with USM for a period of four years to complete her research and will submit her doctoral requirements to University of Amsterdam.
“I am pleased to have been selected to conduct research on governance strategies and climate change policies as a part of the Island(er)s at the Helm programme and I am excited to be based at University of St. Martin. The issues of security around water, food, shelter and energy are critical to the well-being of populations on small islands such as St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, and I look forward to conducting research and engaging with the diverse communities in all three places.
“As a daughter of the region I am proud and happy to be attached to a Caribbean institution; academically, it feels good to come home and to have come full circle, having completed my undergrad in the US [United States – Ed.] and my graduate studies in the Netherlands. Having worked with and for vulnerable groups in the past I am eager to see what role research can play in supporting the development of sustainable policies and strategies for our own survival and advancement,” said Charles.
For this Ph.D. position, Charles had to undergo rigorous evaluation by the kingdom’s highest scientific authorities and compete with other highly qualified candidates. USM President Antonio Carmona Báez, who will serve as Charles’ supervisor, highlighted the importance of having a local person studying policy development.
“If political science is the study of power relations and we are conscious that knowledge is power, the findings of one local Ph.D. student in this field will become extremely valuable. What we are doing here is placing knowledge in the hands of the people of the islands to help shape our destiny. Ms. Charles has set out to engage the community in the development of just, equitable and sustainable policy solutions related to climate change,” said Carmona.
Before joining USM, Carmona published research on development theories, sustainable energy policies and decolonial thought in the Caribbean and the Netherlands.
Island(er)s at the Helm is one of three research initiatives USM is co-hosting with other institutions in the region such as University of Curaçao and University of Aruba. The other two are Food Security and Economic Diversification, and Upholding Human Rights during the Pandemic, which looks at the impact of COVID-19 policies on vulnerable families in Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten.
In partnership with UVI and TU Delft, USM will host an additional Ph.D. researcher in architecture in January 2022.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/usm-welcomes-its-first-phd-researcher