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 Young Alumna Award 2006

Meredith FOWLIE'93
Meredith, a former Prefect, was well respected by her peers. She personified ambition, goal orientation and perseverance, while maintaining a charming sense of humour and well-balanced life,” says her former teacher, Nanci Smith.
 
While completing an undergraduate degree in International Agriculture at Cornell University, Meredith did a research project in Nepal and held a summer position at the International Food Policy Research Institute inWashington, DC. Following graduation in 1997, she worked on small hydropower development in Northern Pakistan with theAga Khan Foundation.
 
After returning from Pakistan,Meredith continued her work on energy and environment issues, first as a research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies on the Celanese Canada Scholarship in 1998, and then at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
 
Meredith returned to Cornell to earn her M.Sc. in Environmental and Resource Economics, graduating in 2000.While her husband, Duncan, finished his Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, Meredith taught Environmental Economics for her alma mater.
 
Meredith has spent the past five years completing a Ph.D. in Environmental and Resource Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation looks at pollution-permit trading in electricity markets. Always a top athlete at Branksome, Meredith excelled at the intercollegiate level as well. She competed in both rowing and bicycle road racing, winning a collegiate national championship with the UC, Berkeley cycling team in 2003.
 
This fall, Meredith will be an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, with appointments in the Ford School of Public Policy and the Economics Department.
 
Excerpts from Meredith's acceptance speech
Receiving this award is a huge honour. For me, Branksome was all about learning from an eclectic collection of experiences in the hope that, in the end, it would all add up to achievement some day.More than ten years later, I am still very much in the collecting and figuring out stage.
 
I left Branksome with a healthy dose of idealism. My plan was to save the planet from the environmental destruction that my science teacher,Mrs.Merrilees, had talked to us about with such compelling conviction. Over the years, I have learned some uncomfortable, but important, lessons.
 
First, environmental problems are devastatingly large and overwhelmingly depressing if you try to take it all in at once. Second, environmental degradation is, in essence, an economic problem. It is not that we don’t have the scientific understanding to do something about it. It is more a
matter of misaligned incentives and misallocated resources.
 
Fortunately, Branksome fosters not only a get-out-there spirit, but also an invaluable, pragmatic resilience. After teaching us about the challenges that loom, our teachers inspired us to recycle pop cans, start compost piles and volunteer with local charities. Branksome was full of students trying to respond tangibly to what they were learning.
 
Through the course of aMaster’s and a Ph.D. in Environmental Economics, and time spent working in government research labs and energy institutes, I’ve had to become more narrow in my focus and more modest in my objectives. It seems to me that this trade-off is inevitable.
 
If you want to develop the depth of experience needed to make an informed contribution to policy change, you need to pick a tiny part of the larger problem that keeps you up at night, and get to work. Here again, the Branksome balance between inspired optimism and down-to-earth rigour has served me well.While I have relied upon idealism to stay motivated, the realities of doing environmental economics require a certain level of dedication and perseverance.This fall, I will begin exciting and challenging work at the University ofMichigan, where I will practice the three most important stress management tools I learned at Branksome: don’t take yourself too seriously; take time each day to get outside and run around; and finally, surround yourself with great friends
 
I wish to thank my parents for their unwavering support and my
teachers who were such terrific role models. I also want to thank the
amazing group of girls that I found at Branksome who remain as animated
and as inspired as ever.

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