Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, July 13, 2015

Doherty helps communities adapt to climate change

Meghan Doherty Meghan Doherty

Meghan Doherty is right where she wants to be a year after graduating from the La Follette School: working on natural resource management and environmental policy in an international context.

She is a Project Manager for the Urban Adaptation Assessment, led by the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, which compiles its free, open-source Country Index that summarizes a country's vulnerability to a changing climate in combination with its readiness to accept adaptation investment. The Global Adaptation Index aims to help stakeholders better prioritize investments for a more efficient response to the global challenges ahead. Doherty is part of a team downscaling that assessment to the local, urban level.

“Government, non-profit and business leaders will be able to apply the Urban Adaptation Assessment to inform market and policy positions that improve livelihoods and save lives,” says Doherty, who completed her Master of International Public Affairs degree in 2014.

As a Project Manager Doherty manages the execution and implementation of the Urban Adaptation Assessment. “I manage the ND-GAIN UAA team, support the advisory committee process, initiate project communications, write grant reports and support fundraising.”

Her La Follette School training in policy analysis helps her synthesize large quantities of complex information. “I distill the information into key points, identify different responses and turn it into actionable items,” Doherty says. “This process necessitates impartiality, attention to detail and an ability to keep the end goal of the team in mind. The policy analysis skills I learned at La Follette are just some that I use every day at work.”

The statistical skills Doherty gained at La Follette help her collaborate with the Urban Adaptation Assessment’s data scientist and research scientist on their analysis. “Our ability to understand and communicate with each other greatly benefits the team and, ultimately, the project,” Doherty says. “I enjoy collaborating with diverse stakeholders in a research setting.”

She also appreciated collaborating with classmates at La Follette, especially Tara Baumgarten, Constance Chucholowski and Katie Lorenze and thanks them for the support system and motivation they provided.

While at the La Follette School, Doherty was a project assistant with the National Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education. In that role she supported research assessing the effect of urban freight on livability and used a perception survey to establish metrics analyzing air and noise pollution in regard to a community’s livability priorities.

She spent the summer of 2013 at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources researching best practices for holistic watershed management and authoring a report on holistic management principles and successful case studies.

“La Follette offers a well-rounded, challenging curriculum with an emphasis on professional development,” Doherty adds. “While honing my (previously non-existent) quantitative skills, I was able to get real, useful work experience that helped me in my next position.”

That post-graduation position was serving as a resident Hatfield fellow at the National Policy Consensus Center in Portland, Oregon. “I researched collaborative governance and its application to natural resource management,” she says. “I conducted a comparative theoretical analysis for collaborative governance and administered a survey to evaluate watershed councils as a collaborative system.”

Now Doherty is back in the Midwest, based in Chicago, helping to adapt a global data resource to help local communities make decisions. “Ultimately,” Doherty says, “government, non-profit and business leaders will be able to use the Urban Adaptation Assessment to build social, physical and natural systems that are resilient to the impacts of climate change.”