Pre-College Programs

June 1, 2017

Instructor Snapshot: Q & A with Doctoral student Edwige Cavan

Coming from Brown's faculty, graduate students and visiting faculty, Pre-College instructors bring to each program a diverse range of backgrounds, experience and knowledge that they are eager to impart to their students each summer. In this Snapshot series, we check in with some of these instructors to find out more about how they approach teaching and what students can expect to take away from their class.

For this post, we spoke with Edwige Cavan, a third-year doctoral student at the Sorbonne in Paris who is wrapping up a second stint at Brown as a visiting scholar. Cavan’s research examines ways to protect the natural resources of the Arctic. This summer, she’ll bring her expertise to two Pre-College Programs: Summer@Brown and BELL: Alaska.

How did you end up at Brown the first time?

I came to Brown for the first time in the fall of 2014 as a visiting research scholar. There is a partnership between the Sorbonne (in Paris), where I am a doctoral student, and Brown that was established more than 10 years ago. I applied and came for a semester and worked with Caroline Karp (senior lecturer in international and public affairs), who was working at what is now the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES). I worked with Professor Karp on my dissertation topic, which was on transboundary water resources. I decided to come to Brown because Professor Karp has huge expertise in that area.

You came back to Brown this fall. How did that come about?

I finished up my semester at Brown in January 2015 and went to Duke University for a semester. After that, I went back to France and taught American Studies at the Sorbonne. Last spring, I was at Columbia University. I wanted to return to Brown, so I applied for a Fulbright Scholarship and was able to come back for an entire year. I started the year working with Professor Karp and now my advisor is Professor James Morone (director of the Taubman Center and professor of political science and urban studies). I’ll defend my Ph.D. at the Sorbonne.

What does your research look at specifically?

I first became interested in studying transboundary water resources while working on my master’s thesis. I read a lot about natural resources conflict and water wars and it got me curious. Is it true, really? I wondered. Starting out, I looked at the resources of the Great Lakes and how they are managed by the U.S. and Canada. Working with Caroline, we realized it would be great to look at the Arctic. That area involves more than two countries and the resources go beyond just water.

Google ‘Arctic resources’ and you’re going to find information about countries scrambling to claim it and Russia planting a flag there. It has that dramatic sense, but once you start digging in, you realize there is a risk but there are buffers before a catastrophe. So the question is how do we organize? That’s what I’m looking at: How does the world establish a protected area in the Arctic high sea that’s to say beyond national jurisdictions, where we don’t exploit natural resources? So far oil is too cheap to dig into Arctic for, but one day it might be the last we have. We need to plan ahead.

Arctic Russia Claims 2008

What are your plans for your Summer@Brown course?

Through my interest in the Arctic, I was offered a two-week course in June called “Arctic Geopolitics: A multidisciplinary approach.” It will be based on my dissertation research but more general.

I’m very excited about teaching the class. I don’t want to lecture them. Since they are high school students, I would like them to acquire an understanding of academic methodology, that you have to give a structure to your ideas, and that there is a process behind it.

I also hope to help them realize that this topic is highly international. We’ll be comparing the Arctic to the Antarctic, which has a treaty that’s similar to the moon treaty, and designing a mock treaty for the region. I want them to have this perspective and gain awareness of environmental issues, which I’m sure they already have. I also want them to enjoy their stay at Brown and hopefully come back to us some day.

BELL: Alaska - Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound, Alaska

What about BELL: Alaska are you looking forward to?

I visited Alaska and the Yukon 15 years ago through a partnership between my hometown (Brittany, France) and Whitehorse, Yukon. I was there for three weeks. The wilderness was such a shock to me. I grew up in a place where civilization has been there for 2,000 years, which is very different from the presence of nature in North America. I couldn’t even imagine that in some places there would be just nature for hundreds of kilometers.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of that again, and getting to know the students.

BELL: Alaska Whittier Glacier

Students at the Whittier Glacier

What do you hope to teach the BELL: Alaska students?

I want to give them as much as I can in terms of my knowledge and research. In that environment, it’s such a huge opportunity to do something that matters and to share all we know with the students. Part of my research is on trans-Arctic relationships. Rather than thinking only about NATO or other commercial or trade relationships, this is a new relationship we have to build together and I’m hoping with the students we can think about how the world can come together and protect this pristine environment for future generations.