Kaubin Neupane can make sense of the duality in his life only if he studies in the United States with the intent of contributing to help people in his native Nepal and in other developing countries.
"When I was growing up in Kathmandu, I took the local environmental problems for granted and accepted them as another facet of difficult life," the first-year student says. "Now I am here, learning about political economy of the environment, and I realize life in Nepal and similar countries doesn't have to be that way."
Neupane came to the United States in 2007. Six years later, he graduated in environmental policy, politics and managerial economics from the University of California, Davis, and now considers California his home away from home.
Neupane spent the first half of 2014 in central Borneo, Indonesia, on an internship with the United Nations to work on an incentive-driven finance approach to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from degradation of peatland and forests. "The REDD+ Programme gives incentives to developing countries to not cut down their forests," Neupane says. "It also involves selling carbon credits in the international market. I worked with government agencies, NGOs, INGOs to help do that work. Through the experience, I came to better understand the importance of considering opportunities and constraints involved in the policy process."
The experience in Borneo internship is helping Neupane focus his interests for his studies at the La Follette School's Master of International Public Affairs degree program. "I would like to continue to do that kind of work," he says. "It has a lot of opportunities. I hope my studies at La Follette will endow me with policy tools to address policy challenges, and make efficient and equitable use of resources."
Neupane plans to study environmental and development policy, and how the two fields intersect. He also intends to earn a certificate in culture, history and environment at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
These opportunities are why he chose the La Follette School. "When I was looking at schools, the MIPA program was appealing — it offers exactly what I want, the opportunity to go into more depth with my studies. The school has a really good program and faculty."
The offer of a fellowship and scholarships also made the La Follette School attractive. "Without that funding, I could not be here," Neupane says, noting he is grateful to those who have donated to the Penniman, Dresang and Alumni-Friends scholarship funds. "With this fortunate opportunity, I am now more determined to do the best I can to get myself into the position where I hope to be of help to those who need it the most."
Neupane also likes La Follette's class size of 50 in contrast to his class of more than 200 at UC, Davis. "At Davis, it took a long time for me to be recognized by my teachers," says Neupane, who was cited for outstanding undergraduate achievement by the Environmental Science and Policy Department in June 2014. "At La Follette, the professors already know me by my first name. That feels personal."
Neupane is continuing to work on research he started with a professor at UC Davis, on public involvement related to the introduction of hydraulic fracturing in New York and Pennsylvania. "The two states have different laws on fracking — New York has a moratorium, while Pennsylvania allows it," Neupane says. "We are comparing how citizens react. Are they speaking up at public municipal meetings? What causes them to talk about fracking? What are relevant variables?" His professor presented the paper at a conference and they are now revising it for publication. An earlier paper examined how the locus of policymaking authority affects civic engagement in regard to fracking.
Neupane looks forward to adding his La Follette School training to his experience with the fracking research and in Borneo. "The quantitative skills will give me a different perspective on a situation. Numbers tell stories — not the only stories — but it is really important to understand the stories the numbers do tell," he says. "I want to learn as much as I can about quantitative methods of policy analysis. There is so much to learn."