Fulbright in France: UMass dual-degree alumna studies sustainability in developing countries

Friday, June 23, 2017

-- Via UMass Amherst News and Media Relations

Sorelle Mbakop ’15, a UMass Amherst alumna from Cameroon, was always curious about resources in developing countries, and now with a Fulbright scholarship, she is pursuing her passion at the University of Auvergne in France.

After graduating with a dual degree in journalism and environmental/natural resource economics from the UMass College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Mbakop spent a year as an urban business initiatives analyst and then started a master’s program in sustainable development through the Fulbright program in fall 2016.

Sorelle Mbakop ’15.She is one of 16 UMass students who received this award to study, research, or teach English for one year in other countries. UMass Amherst has earned recognition as a “Top Producing Institution” from the Fulbright Program for the past two years. This year’s Sweet 16 is a campus record.

Mbakop applied for a Fulbright in her senior year with support from the UMass Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA). ONSA assists students in applying for scholarships and fellowships like the Fulbright Program, a highly competitive grant for international educational exchange.

Mbakop spent many hours working on her application with the ONSA advisors, who, she said, helped edit her personal statement at least 20 times. “I don’t think I would’ve gone to Fulbright without UMass. I worked so much with ONSA. They genuinely care and want students to get the Fulbright,” she said.

In her master’s program Mbakop analyzes environmental development initiatives to plan the best practices for farmers facing droughts in developing countries. Prior to the “sustainable era,” sustainability and natural resource management had been missing from development initiatives in these countries.

Her UMass macroeconomics and environmental economics courses and others gave her the foundation for her current research. In her junior year, Mbakop took “Poverty and Global Economy” with Professor of Resource Economics Julie Caswell, a class that would shape the rest of her academic career.

“While at UMass, it was a great privilege to take courses with amazing professors who are also passionate about development and economics in general,” she said.

Mbakop’s experience at UMass Amherst and the support from professors and ONSA advisors validated that she was on the right path. “Many students that leave UMass have a lot to contribute to the greater world,” she said. “I am so thankful.”