Clayton Whitt

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Climate change in the Altiplano region of Bolivia
Faculty of Arts
Gaston Gordillo
Middletown
United States
Vanier Scholarship
 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I became interested in this topic while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia from 2005 to 2007 and hearing from local farmers about their experiences with climate change and their fears for the future. I realized that I had much to learn about this and that returning to explore further through anthropological research would be the best way to do it. Eventually I developed this idea into a proposal, and here I am.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I chose UBC because I knew that the Department of Anthropology has a very strong international reputation, and also because I wanted the opportunity to work with my research supervisor, Gastón Gordillo. The chance to live in such a beautiful city was a strong inducement too! I feel very privileged and grateful to do my work here.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I have been pleasantly surprised at the willingness of both faculty and graduate student colleagues to take the time and help each other with exchanges of ideas and feedback on papers and proposals. Our department has a collaborative and supportive atmosphere that I have found to be invigorating and helpful.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

I want to explore new ways of telling the story of climate change, in terms of the more subtle, and less predictable, effects that will reverberate through people's daily interactions with their surrounding environment. I have much to learn from the people I will be working with in the community, but I hope that our results will contribute to the broader understanding of climate change and its consequences for humanity.

What has winning a major award meant to you?

Winning this award has provided me with a tremendous opportunity to focus on my research goals. I appreciate the vote of confidence this provides for the project as I have developed it so far, but now the pressure's on!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Make fellowship and grant applications your top priority in your first year. Handling these applications along with all of your papers and reading is a lot of work, but keep at it. Get as much feedback as possible on your proposals from faculty and peers. Apply for everything you can, even if you doubt your chance for success. You learn something from each application and often develop ideas you can use for later proposals.