A Year at YSE

Authored by Bipul Mayank (MEM Candidate, Class of 2021)

It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago on July 26th when I left India to begin my journey at Yale School of the Environment. The memory of my first day in New Haven kindles a sense of joy and accomplishment. After months of preparing my application and anxiously waiting to hear my admissions decision and the status of obtaining a U.S. Visa, I was finally starting a new experience. An experience that has provided me with a remarkable learning opportunity accompanied by the fantastic community.

First Semester: Key Learning Moments

In my first semester, I was embraced by a much welcoming group of young environmentalists coming from extremely diverse backgrounds. The point, however, where the perspectives converged was to build a healthier, just, and empathetic world. No wonder, that the only course we would all attend together was called ‘Perspectives’, which functioned as the foundation for me to imagine myself as an environmental manager. Every class I attended at Yale encouraged me to challenge my proclivities and look for new dimensions of bringing change for a sustainable world.

 The biggest aspect of my learning came from the blend of classroom discussions and practical opportunities to test those theories. As a matter of fact, my most memorable experiences in the class are the ones that materialized into hands-on engagements. There was one occasion where I analyzed Nestle’s brand image as a sustainable player for a class in Corporate Environmental Management and Strategy.

With Paul Polman at COP25, Madrid, December 2019

With Paul Polman at COP25, Madrid, December 2019

In another instance, I found myself vocalizing the need for climate actions as a representative of Canada in a mock G-20 negotiations for our Climate Policy class. Later in the semester, I realized the imperatives of such a curriculum when I represented the school at the COP25 Climate Summit in Madrid. Not only was I able to witness actual climate negotiations, I also met the former Nestle Executive Mr Paul Polman for a casual chat where I discussed an assignment that I had previously submitted on him.

Second Semester: Spring Break and COVID-19 uncertainty

While speaking about Disruptive Ways to Finance Youth Climate Action at the UNFCC Resilience Lab at the COP, I found a new interest in the role of financial world in mobilizing the sustainable agenda. As the second semester commenced, I took advantage of the interdisciplinary curriculum of the MEM program to enroll in finance-related courses. Meanwhile, I was also selected to participate in Yale SOM’s Global Network Week program in Indonesia. Although the trip was cancelled due to COVID, the time spent preparing for a week-long agenda that was weaved around Sustainable Financing allowed me to bolster my classroom learning.

 With fellow participants at the UNFCCC Resilience Lab at COP25, Madrid, December 2019

With fellow participants at the UNFCCC Resilience Lab at COP25, Madrid, December 2019

In the middle of the semester, I made the difficult decision to leave the U.S. to be at home in India, in anticipation of the ongoing global health crisis to recover. While the situation did not exactly turn out as planned, I found myself humbled by the opportunities that came along my way. First, I was selected as an EDF Climate Corps Fellow. Later on, I was awarded with the Andrew Sabin Fellowship for International Students. Both of these fellowships are going to play an instrumental role in what I do with my remaining time at YSE and thereafter, towards environmental leadership.

As of today, I am working with the City-Business Climate Alliance on empowering certain cities to implement their climate action plan with adequate synergy with the private sector. At the same time, I am helping the State Bank of India’s mutual funds wing to conduct ESG related research on Indian PSUs. Everything I do in my work takes me back to some class or experience in the last year that helped me broaden my understanding of the complex environmental challenges we face today. This creates an urgency to be back at the school and be hopeful that things will return to normal once again. There is so much more left to learn and take away, even with the realization that nothing will be same again. And that is why, a year later, there is anxiety and wait again.