The decision to attend MSU wasn't based on a desire to stay in Michigan, but on the opportunities available for Ph.D. research, says Adams. His search focused on finding faculty whose research topics and methodologies matched his interests. Adams was attracted to the work of Leo Zulu (Geography), who works on community-based natural resources management in Africa with political ecology as his approach. Political ecology is the study of relationships between environmental issues and political, economic and social factors. For Adams, a Ghana native, Zulu's research location was particularly appealing, since he hopes to base his own dissertation work in Africa.
At Michigan Tech, Adams did his thesis work on management of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), a program under UNICEF and the UN. He looked specifically at how the nongovernmental organization (NGO) staff's views on water privatization influenced WASH programming. Water privatization is private sector involvement in providing water services and sanitation. For his Ph.D., Adams plans to continue his research on water policy and governance, but through the lens of political ecology.
Adams' interest in water use and policy is rooted in personal experience. Growing up in Ghana, he lived in a small town where having water meant early morning, miles-long walks. "Every night you go to sleep, you are worried about waking up [to get water] the next morning," he says.
As an undergrad studying Fisheries and Watershed Management in Ghana, Adams' research was mostly lab-based water quality analysis. But after spending some time working with the African Trusteeship Foundation, a local NGO, his interests shifted to human-environmental interactions, especially water policy. Adams sees ESPP as a great way to gain the interdisciplinary, policy-based background he needs to improve water access in places like Ghana. "I'm happy staying in the water [research] area," he says, "I know how it feels" to be lacking water.