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Dean's Blog: Knowledge for Impact

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is one of a few organizations around the world known as multilateral development institutions, or simply multilaterals. They provide grants and loans for sustainable development projects to developing countries. The IDB is focused specifically in Latin America and the Caribbean. Last week, I was honored to participate in and speak during the IDB Group’s 2023 Knowledge Week

Attendees came together to consider how to best positively inspire and impact 3.5 million students across 16 countries. We discussed such important topics as climate change and biodiversity, sustainable infrastructure, knowledge for impact, impact financing, and equity and inclusion issues. We asked and discussed options to challenging questions including 'What steps can be taken to reduce the digital gap in education?' We also highlighted the need to reduce the gender gap in this important region of the world.

The event definitely inspired me. A grand connection of government, academia, industry, and community, we came together to determine how we can best share knowledge, work together, and assess our impact. Also, given the large proportion of Mason students with roots in Latin America and the Caribbean – Mason is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution, the IDB is a natural partner for our research and educational programs in science and STEM at large.

I spoke on the panel sharing influential stories driven by digital transformation. As a hydrologist and water resources engineer, my research and experience with simulation models of surface and groundwater hydrology, climate-vegetation-hydrology interactions, stormwater management and water quality modeling was important for this region to consider within the intended transformation. I could also share the stories of Mason’s diversity and collaboration across our scientific body of work, networking with researchers and potential collaborators to better understand the challenges and how the Mason Science community might help.

I was joined on the panel by Marie Lam Frendo, CEO of Global Infrastructure Hub, Orlando Santiago Cely, the General Manager of Transmilenio, Bogotá, Maria Julia Bocco, Lead Economist at the Water and Sanitation Division of IDB, and our moderator was Agustina Calatayud, a Lead Transportation Specialist at IDB. Each of us brought rich professional and academic experiences to the conversation. I looked to plant ideas for future STEM pathways and opportunities for those in this region and suggest to how partner with those of us at Mason with the expertise and opportunities to make a positive impact. 

One of the major concerns for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is climate change, and specifically the impacts on water, water availability and scarcity, extreme weather events and how institutions like IDB can innovate to avoid negative impacts and take advantage of potentially positive opportunities. I shared some insights based on what we are doing here at Mason through our research centers and academic departments, and a vision of why I am very optimistic about the future of water in this region, where I grew up and took my first steps as a scientist.

Attending events like IDB’s Knowledge Week is a part of my role as dean I thoroughly enjoy. I get the opportunity to represent our university and our science disciplines on an influential global stage (literally), while also developing an in-depth understanding of the global challenges we face and how our Mason Science programs and research might help solve them.