“Fun at Reed often involves colors, costumes, and dancing. My friends collected all kinds of shiny outfits in this beloved “treasure chest’”
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Adviser: Alex Montgomery-Amo
Thesis: Risky Genes: Analysis of International Biosafety Negotiations and the Shifting Notions of Sustainable Development
What it’s about: I examine the diplomatic negotiations of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. These negotiations reinvigorated disputes over the meaning of sustainable development because this protocol tries to cope with the potential transboundary risks of new technology.
What it’s really about: GMOs are scary but maybe they can help us get rich and protect the environment.
Who I was when I got to Reed: My freshman self was some amalgamation of idealism, enthusiasm, and naïveté and that is probably still true. My first day on campus I joined an anti–bottled water campaign and everyone got to know me as the “water girl.”
Influential book: Governing Water by Ken Conca.
Cool stuff I did: Think Outside the Bottle campaign. Supplemental Hum 110. Camp Wellstone activism training. Went to New Orleans to help residents recover from Hurricane Katrina. Worked as editorial assistant for the Election Law Journal. Thesis wedding. Dance parties. Traveled to the Klamath River basin to study water disputes. It was amazing because we saw how politicized the science was—every single stakeholder had their own biologist.
Favorite spot: Public Policy Workshop! Some of my best ideas have been outlined during white board sessions in the Eliot basement.
Obstacles overcome: I have struggled with the culture shock that comes with upward class mobility—I had never heard of kale before I came here. I came from a part of Columbus where I’m the only one of the friends I know that is going to have a four-year degree, let alone from a private college. I don’t think my friends growing up were any less intelligent than my friends at Reed, but they just never got an opportunity like this.
Random thoughts: Thanks to the great financial aid I have received, I have been able to come to this amazing school. I’m not going to have any debt when I graduate. Very few people can say that.
How Reed changed me: Through my social, emotional, and academic struggles, I have been forced to leave few stones unturned. I am glad that I finally know what I want to cultivate in myself. Reed makes you intimately aware of all your strengths and weaknesses.
What’s next: Hawaii. I’m going to teach my roommate to drive. In a less escapist vein, I am pursuing environmental policy internships.
“GMO” refers to a genetically modified organism. For example, “Roundup Ready” crops that have been modified with a gene that confers resistance to glyphosate. The term “GMO” carries with it a particular political connotation, often negative. It’s been co-opted by people who are against GMOs, or at least their widespread use. “Living modified organisms” is more politically neutral and more specific. It refers to things that are alive, like seeds.
I’m looking at the political framing of GMOs and the risks they pose when they’re traded across borders—the idea being that a GMO might pose new risks in a new geographic context. A GMO that is relatively uncontroversial in the United States might pose different risks in a tropical climate or an area where they don’t have irrigation or when the local species are different. I looked at the political negotiations over the interstate trade of these biotechnologies.
I could have gone deeper into the science of GMOs and their objective risks, but what I was interested in is the politicization of risk and the role it plays in negotiations.
My overarching interest lies in sustainable development—how can we develop our economies but also take care of the environment, be good stewards, and make space for future generations to have prosperity. This is a political concept that proposes that we can get rich and save the world. —ARL