Growing up on an island, Priyanka always felt connected to the ocean. She joined the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts to explore her interests in oceans through an economic, political, legal, environmental and social perspective.
“Since the ocean is a transnational topic, I wanted to learn about the experience of other countries around the world and investigate the opportunities and challenges they are facing in transitioning to a sustainable blue economy,” she said, defining the blue economy as the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.”
An international relations and economics double major with a finance minor, Priyanka dove right in. As a sophomore, she took an “Oceans Laws and Policies” course, mastering the provisions of the United Nations Convention for the Laws of the Seas and writing a research paper on the Chagos Archipelago sovereignty dispute between her home country, Mauritius, and the U.K.
She studied abroad at the University of Oxford, and, in the summer before her junior year, she went to Colombia through the Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Program to conduct research on the blue economy.
“Together with a team of marine scientists, economists, and environmentalists from the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut, and the Ocean Society, I supported vulnerable coastal communities in identifying local grassroots science-based solutions to unsustainable fishing, the growing threat of climate change, marine pollution, and the migrant crisis. I also had the opportunity to interview, listen to and interact with women, youth and migrants of Nueva Valencia Ciénaga Grande, a highly vulnerable floating village and also the Kogi indigenous population of Santa Marta,” she said.
“These encounters allowed me to gather first-hand information on how those local communities confront the realities of climate change on a daily basis, which directly impacts their incomes, economies, food security and livelihoods.”
Priyanka interned over the summer with the World Bank Group, joining a with the team working on the Blue Economy and collaborating with organizations like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Center for the Blue Economy.
At the Symposium, Priyanka made a case that transitioning to a sustainable blue economy requires sound ocean governance, research and innovation, and most importantly, finance.
“I introduced the concept of blue financing and blue investments to my audience and emphasized the importance of investing in the blue economy in 2020 and beyond. Ultimately, I presented the innovative idea of the Global Ocean Institution (GOI),” she said.
After graduation, Priyanka plans to continue her work with the World Bank, and then pursue law school and a career as an international maritime lawyer working for the United Nations.
“I am committed to making positive contributions to the Blue Economy agenda and to make meaningful changes in the lives of vulnerable coastal populations in small island developing states and other big ocean states around the world,” she said.