Jenny Thapa ’12 came a long way to attend Dartmouth, all the way from Kathmandu, Nepal. “I wanted to be in a small college with a world class faculty and I knew at Dartmouth students had opportunities to work one on one with professors, which was a big selling point for me,” she explains.
Research is important to Thapa, a senior double major in economics and environmental studies, for both philosophical and practical reasons. “Research is about gathering information and good information is vital in understanding any issue and making a sound decision,” she says. Thapa reflects upon the complexity of the learning process and the role of research in that paradigm. She sees research as integral to the translation and application of what is learned in the classroom to what is happening in the real world.
“Research is a way to break out of the ideal world scenario and understand the complexities of the real world. Research helps achieve new knowledge that we could use to solve current issues that, in turn, contributes to the betterment of the society,” she states unequivocally.
Her adviser, environmental and ecological economist Richard Howarth, the Pat and John Rosenwald Professor in the Environmental Studies Program, adds, “I see undergraduate research as the centerpiece of a Dartmouth education. Our classroom courses equip students with basic knowledge and understanding, but it is only through practice and experience that students can achieve a true mastery of high-level intellectual skills.”
This Dartmouth Now series highlights the research of undergraduate students in an array of academic disciplines. The week’s headlines include:
Though a long way from home, Thapa chose to research a topic that has serious relevance for what is happening today in Nepal. “My research project looks at the community forestry model and policies in Nepal and how it impacts the socioeconomic lives of disadvantaged groups. I looked at the effectiveness of community forestry in its ability to enhance the livelihood of the poor,” she says. Community forestry is a forest management policy based on partnership between government and local communities.
“I grew up in Nepal where social dynamics are very complex with the caste system and gender playing a big role in everyday life,” Thapa continues. “I saw how the community forestry model positively impacts the lives of women and people from lower castes and I wanted to learn more about the policy and structure behind community forestry and its impacts.”
Thapa plans to work in financial services prior to entering graduate school.
Howarth adds, “Jenny’s project is wonderfully interdisciplinary and it illustrates Dartmouth’s international scope in an especially compelling way. I think this project is a way for Jenny to draw together many elements of her academic and personal interests and experiences.”