Faculty Spotlight: Christine Alfsen, IES Abroad Nice

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Having recently given a TEDxTalk in Paris at TEDxSciencesPo on the urban biosphere, Professor Christine Alfsen continues to share her global experience in the IES Abroad Nice classroom. Professor Alfsen encourages IES Abroad students in her course to think critically about the ways humans impact ecosystems locally and globally. Read on to learn more about Professor Alfsen’s nearly 40-year career with the United Nations and the work she continues to do today.

Watch Professor Alfsen’s TEDxSciencesPo talk, “Reconnecting people to and through their natural environment”:

Meet Professor Christine Alfsen

At IES Abroad Nice, Professor Christine Alfsen teaches Global Risks, Regional Vulnerabilities and Sustainable Development Pathways in the Mediterranean Region. The course examines the economic, social, and cultural exchanges of the region with particular attention to the unsustainable human pressures on social and ecological systems. Professor Alfsen takes her lecture outside of the classroom with a course-related trip to the Provence Alpes-Maritimes region where students see first-hand the different challenges of sustainable development and tourism.

In addition to her IES Abroad course, Professor Alfsen teaches at The Paris Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po, Paris). Previously, she taught at Columbia University in New York, and has been published by Oxford University Press and the Ecology and Society Journal. Professor Alfsen has graduate degrees in Public Law and Development Economics from Sceinces Po, as well as degrees in Russian and Romanian languages from Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO).

Professor Alfsen’s academic accomplishments are augmented by her years of experience with the UN working in roles such as: Senior Advisor to the Secretary General Global Sustainability Panel, Director a.i of the UNESCO office in New York, and a UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) officer in charge of natural resources. She has spent time living in Paris; New York City; Bangkok, Thailand; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

An Interview with Professor Alfsen

IES Abroad: What can students expect if they take your IES Abroad courses?

Christine Alfsen (CA): Students can expect hands-on-learning as they experience the interconnected social, environmental, and economic challenges facing Northern and Southern Mediterranean countries through course-related trips.

IES Abroad: What is the most important takeaway you hope students leave with after taking your course?

CA: I hope students walk away with a sense of the complexity of challenges in the environment and society of the Mediterranean region, and an awareness of possible solutions at all scales from local communities to the EU level of governance.

IES Abroad: Your work focuses on development economics, political ecology, and urban sustainability. How did you develop interests in these fields?

CA: My work at the United Nations focused on natural resources management in a context of fast economic growth and social transformations. This experience led me to focus on the connections between people and nature in cities with an emphasis on the developing world.

IES Abroad: You were a civil servant with the United Nations for nearly 40 years. Describe your proudest career achievement in that time.

CA: I participated in the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations in Cambodia (UNTAC) from 1992-93. UNTAC was one of the largest ever peace keeping operations undertaken by the UN. It was unique in that it included a rehabilitation component in addition to its mandate to organize free and fair elections. The idea was not only to establish the groundwork for good governance, but also to help the elected government establish legal systems and institutions that would provide an architecture for good stewardship of resources.

In that context, I was in charge of natural resources essentially forestry and mineral resources to make sure that revenues from their exploitations would get to public coffers while maintaining the health of ecosystems. We helped pass a Security Council resolution prohibiting the export of logs from Cambodia and established forestry codes.

Learn more about the courses you can take with Professor Alfsen when you study abroad in Nice.

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