Watson Institute at Brown University
International Relations

Michele Schein '18

How did you use the IR Research and Travel Grant this summer or winter break, and what did your project entail?

This past summer, I used the IR Research and Travel Grant to support my travel to Amman, Jordan to study the state of the renewable energy sector in Jordan. I was researching under what conditions do developing countries transition to renewable energy sources for electricity production, and more specifically, what is the role in the receipt of foreign direct investment for this shift? My time in Jordan involved living in Amman and working with a member of the renewable energy research community, who provided me with access to interviews with various government and private individuals who have played a role in Jordan's transition to renewable energy to date. Using my knowledge of Arabic, and my continued study of Arabic in an intensive Arabic program on top of my research, I was able to collect responses that captured the opinion of different interested parties in the renewable energy sector as to what has contributed to the transition to renewable energy, and more specifically, the role of regulatory policy changes for creating an enabling environment to attract FDI.

How has this experience shaped your learning as an IR concentrator, and/or how has your experience as an IR concentator informed or contextualized this work?

My experience as an IR concentrator provided me with exposure both to the issues of developing countries and the obstacles that are present, both political and economic, to shift away from imports in an effort to develop their economy. Specifically, I studied energy development in the Middle East via an examination of Iran's nuclear program, which inspired me to think about energy issues in the region. I found that as a result of my studies in IR, I was inspired to spend more time in the Middle East and focus on a particular research question for a new study that would speak to both a geopolitical and economic issue that I believe will be the focus of the field going forward. Additionally, my time in Jordan shaped my studies as an IR concentrator as I have since pursued an independent capstone paper where I am using the information and literature I gathered to write a stand-alone literature review, which now narrows in on the concept of laws and regulatory policies and questions whether Jordan fits the model for the regulatory framework necessary to increase renewable energy development established in the literature.

How does this experience relate to your involvement with the Brown community, the Providence community, and/or any other communities you are engaged with?

This research specifically reflected my interest in the politics of the Middle East, specifically through my involvement with issues surrounding Israel and its portrayal on campus. Through my involvement in this activism, I have been exposed to a variety of viewpoints on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and thus wanted to explore an issue area that has provided for both cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians, and has created many points of contention. As climate change will continue to inhibit Israel and its neighbors as a result of the increasingly dry conditions throughout the region, I was inspired by the cooperation on environmental and energy issues that has taken place to date to live in Jordan for a summer and conduct research. Specifically, I brought alumni from the Arava Institute in Israel to the Watson Institute for the past two years, whereby a Palestinian and Israeli student presented their experiences studying the issue of cooperation on environmental issues while living together at the Arava Institute.