Studying natural resource management as an undergraduate student in Ghana, Felix Yeboah believed that solving environmental problems, like deforestation, could be as one-dimensional as planting a tree.
Now, as a Ph.D. student in Community, Agriculture, Recreation, and Resource Studies (CARRS), Yeboah understands environmental problems as more complex. “You have to plant a tree and make sure the people aren’t going to cut it down,” he said. “You have to manage the tree and manage the people. The two interact and affect each other.”
After earning his bachelor’s in what Yeboah describes as an “ecology-based” program, he felt that his education had taught him to see only one side of environmental issues. “I lacked the social, economic and political dimensions,” he said.
Yeboah spent the next year as an exchange student at Washington and Lee University in Virginia—an experience he credits with his introduction to development economics and its use as a powerful tool to study natural resource management and policy. After a semester as an outdoor educator in Dallas, TX, Yeboah joined the CARRS department as a master’s student, later deciding to pursue his Ph.D. as well.
“I was coming to MSU with the goal to become an environmental policy analyst,” said Yeboah, who found the interdisciplinary nature of both ESPP and CARRS to be a great fit for his academic goals. “Environmental policy issues are more interdisciplinary and have to be explored from various perspectives...There’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.”
Yeboah is a unique ESPP student. He is the only student to complete the master’s specialization in environmental policy. While students can still take the ESPP doctoral specialization, the master’s program has been suspended after a failed faculty search.
The environmental policy specialization complements Yeboah’s academic program in CARRS. His Ph.D. study is in environmental policy and international development, and he has an additional specialization in environmental and resource economics.
Yeboah’s research focus explores potential linkages between social cash transfer programs and productive economic activities. Social cash transfer programs provide monetary support for families on a regular and reliable basis. In linking this cash transfer with economic activities, the money, for instance, could be used for agriculture and other productive ventures to improve food security. Yeboah is studying this issue among Ghana’s rural poor population.
As a master’s student, Yeboah was involved in a study to assess behavioral barriers to implementing sustainable practices at MSU. Yeboah is still a contributor to this ongoing study.
After completing his PhD., Yeboah hopes to return home to Ghana and help inform environmental policy.