International forestry students win money to go home

Beginning this fall, six Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies international students will receive funding to work in developing countries.

The new Andrew Sabin International Environmental Fellowship will provide $20,000 for tuition to second-year masters students in an effort to attract high-caliber international students to the school. If, within two years of graduation, the students have completed 12 months of work in a developing country, the fellowship, coordinated by the Tropical Resources Institute at Yale, will award them a $10,000 post-graduation prize.

“We want to get them right back to where they came from so they can work on the ground,” said Tim Northrop, Deputy Director of Development & Alumni Services at the environment school, who worked with longtime Yale supporter Andrew Sabin to design the program.

The problem, he said, is that international students who study at Yale incur student debts and need to find employment in the United States in order to pay them off.

Paulo Barreiro FES ’12, a Bolivian student who came to Yale to learn environmental expertise to use at home, said that many of his international peers face a choice between financial security and an immediate return home upon graduation.

The financial pressure is caused by the difference in currency, Barreiro and Northrop agreed.

“A lot of the jobs in the developing world just don’t pay to the same scale,” Northrop said. “It’s a simple economic decision [not to return].”

Barreiro said he is considering applying for the Sabin fellowship, for which applications are due March 23. But even if he does not receive the financial support, he said he intends on returning to work in his home country.

Northrop said Barreiro’s goals perfectly match what Sabin wants to accomplish with the fellowship funding: to encourage students from developing nations to learn at Yale in order to resolve environmental crises abroad.

The fellowship is supported by the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, not by Sabin himself, but as president of the foundation, Sabin personally engages with its investments, Northrop said. As treasurer of the Evan Frankel Foundation from 1990 to 2007, when it exhausted its funds, Sabin oversaw an earlier scholarship for international students at the environment school, Northrop said.

But this fellowship is different: it tries to provide a financial incentive to bring new environmental expertise to developing nations, Northrop said. Sabin and the fellowship designers also wanted to make the opportunity more competitive, so they took the selection process out of the hands of the financial aid department, Northrop said. Sabin will serve on the selection committee.

“[Sabin] is not a donor who likes to give money and look the other way,” Northrop said. “For him I think the greatest joy is the personal interaction with the students that benefit from this.”

Bryan Garcia, program director of the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, has worked with Sabin for the last three years on designing, implementing and awarding the Sabin Prize, which goes to the winners of an environmental venture competition.

Last year the Sabin Prize went to a consulting product designed by Max Uhlenhuth ’12, Zack Parisa FES ’09 and forestry professor Chad Oliver. In 2010 they created SilviaTerra, a consulting tool that computes forest inventory for clients all over the world.

The school’s growing focus on forestry in the world is a natural progression, Northrop said.

“Climate change, nutrient cycling … These are not issues that are U.S. issues or country-specific issues,” he said.

Between 2001 and 2008, the percentage of incoming international masters students at the forestry increased by about 10 percent to 34 percent of the overall incoming class.

Sabin is the president of Sabin Metal Corporation, an environmentally conscious precious metal refiner.

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