In our sixth edition of the e-introductions, meet Manasi Akhilesh Nanavati. Manasi loves to dance, wants to one day produce a television series about society’s role in development issues and social evolution, and most looks forward to “making it in New York.” Welcome Manasi! You’ll do great here.
Full Name: Manasi Akhilesh Nanavati
Degree Program: MPA in Development Practice
Anticipated Graduation Year: Spring 2018
Hometown: Vadodara, Gujarat, India
Undergraduate University: The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda
Undergraduate Major: Environmental Science
Undergraduate Graduation Year: 2010
What’s your professional background?
After my Bachelor of Science, I worked in a private environmental consultancy in my hometown Vadodara where I assessed various commercial and industrial project proposals for their potential environmental impact. I shortly left for my MS in Environmental Science in UIS (Illinois) and earned a Graduate Public Service Internship at Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) which was the other side of the table for me. I assessed data of state laboratories for their accreditation status with IEPA and also peeped into an extensive audit process. After I graduated from UIS, I worked with Greenvolved, LLC – an NGO where I assessed community led project proposals for their applicability in the proposed developing country. These professional experiences summed up to expose me to the workings of both private and government agencies in and for both developed and developing countries approaching various issues from both top-down as well as bottom-up direction. I returned to India and began to work for the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Mumbai where as a research consultant, I assist in projects to address gaps in local governance and articulate climate change considerations in regional planning which was my key professional interest from the very beginning.
Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
The answer is both. I am already working in the field of urban resilience and sustainable development that extends to policy reformations. However, my academic background is pure science and I realize that I need to sharpen my technical side, especially on the political and economic front. SIPA offers perfect blend of courses and professional opportunities that cater to my career interests.
What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
I was in my office when I saw an email with a subject line “your decision is ready to be viewed” and the world suddenly stopped moving (no exaggeration)! I prepared myself and opened the letter. I, with great anxiety, took a fleeting glimpse at it to make sure that I do not read phrases and words like “impressive BUT” or “regretfully” in the first few lines. I actually did not even notice confetti. When I read “congratulations”, my face turned red with all the excitement, I took deep breath and called my father. I read the whole letter only after I called my family members.
Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
I had applied only to SIPA since MPA-DP matched all my academic aspirations at this stage of professional and academic pursuit. It felt right for me in all senses. As soon as SIPA agreed to have me, there was no question of not agreeing to it. Also, I cannot neglect the New York City as one of the beautiful reasons.
What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
I look forward to three things – 1. Sharpening my analytical skills and grasp on multifaceted development space 2. Having profound professional network, and 3. Making it in New York
Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
Only one – finance. It is a huge expense for me and my family which I hope will turn out to be a meaningful and worth investment.
What are your goals after SIPA?
I intend to engage in projects that organizations like UNDP and the Rockefeller Foundation are funding in developing countries to ensure scientifically robust and socially inclusive policies and development practices that maintain resource pool for the future generations. I could see myself working with organizations like the Earth Institute, ARUP or UNDP in future. I am also interested in teaching and should an opportunity present itself, I would take up a teaching position and/or engage in academic research projects. In later part of my life, I would like to extend my reach and produce television series or short films that make people envision their roles in a society as active participants of development and social evolution and not faceless entities at the receiving end of political will.
If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
I would want us all to realize consequences of smallest of actions that we take in our daily routine. Since I read Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons”, I have been subconsciously analyzing my own choices and reasons that lead to them. Not to put any pressure of morality whatsoever but if we could find it in our capacity to be a little more aware and a little more thoughtful in our actions, our personal gain will multiply and in addition, the world will be a better place.
Tell us something interesting about yourself:
I have inherited inclination toward art, especially theatres and music.I like watching movies and love discussing them afterwards. I am a sincere admirer of regional literature – Gujarati literature in particular due to greater exposure to it. Having parents who both worked in All India Radio, I have my share of exposure to radio programs, production and direction of advertisements, plays, featured talks as well as type of voice modulations; as a result of which resounding voices immediately capture my attention. I have considerable capacity to watch TV series all day long, walk long distances at a single stretch, drive for hours. I am practically unable to resist dancing and laughing hard on a good witty joke!