Africa Initiative

IGERT LogoIn 2014, the University of Massachusetts Boston received a $3.1 million Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the new program “Coasts and Communities: Natural and Human Systems in Urbanizing Environments.” The program, a partnership with several academic, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organizations in the Horn of Africa, will train the next generation of environmental problem-solvers.

Set to start in the fall of 2014, the program supports eight fellows per year for three years each over the course of five years. Fellows are PhD students across several departments and colleges at UMass Boston: environmental science, environmental biology, global governance and human security, and business administration. They will study environmental challenges in urban coastal areas in the Massachusetts Bay area and countries in the Horn of Africa. The program will draw associate fellows across the university – graduate students who will not be funded through the grant but will participate in the program and add to the disciplinary depth and breadth.

Robyn HanniganAfrica Initiative GEG, Dean of the School for the Environment, and Maria Ivanova spearheaded the initiative, engaging faculty across UMass Boston, Addis Ababa University, and the University of Nairobi as well as officials at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The grant confirms the value of the partnership between the Center for Governance and Sustainability and the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network at Addis Ababa University, which has fostered a culture of transdisciplinary collaboration among scholars and practitioners over many years.
Through the Coasts and Communities program, students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to devise and apply innovative and sustainable solutions to environmental problems across disciplines, scales, and geographies. As one of the reviewers of the grant proposal noted, “Graduates of this program will be very attractive in multiple job settings: state, federal, and municipal environmental, regulatory, social service, and global security agencies; NGOs and non-profits; governmental policymaking organizations; international organizations; as well as universities and research institutions that are posturing to tackle the intractable problems that the Anthropocene is bringing to us all. This type of transdisciplinary training will contribute to the defense against a huge and real threat.”

More information about the Coasts and Communities program and application instructions are available at


Beyond the IGERT program, we also have a number of research associates at the Center who engage directly with African issues in their dissertations or in their research for the Center. They are engaged as practitioners and researchers in diverse topics, like China-Africa relations, agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa, and the science-policy interface. Click here to browse their profiles.