Ph.D. Student Passionate About Wildfire Management Research
Every year there are a couple of months where you have smoke everywhere, all the time. That’s how I developed this passion for wildfire management, after seeing it firsthand.
When Devin Stein ’23 Ph.D. moved to Logan, Utah in 2011, he was taken aback by the haze that hung in eerily orange skies during the summer, nearly hiding the sun from view for days on end. The native of Long Island, New York, had ventured west to attend Utah State University, and he soon learned that the wildfires behind the phenomenon were a regular occurrence.
“Every year there are a couple of months where you have smoke everywhere, all the time,” says Stein, now a Ph.D. candidate at the Whitman School and a fellow of the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society. “That’s how I developed this passion for wildfire management, after seeing it firsthand.”
The topic feels especially salient to Stein, who spends much of his free time hiking, camping or working as a ski instructor.
While an undergraduate major in environmental studies felt like a natural fit for Stein’s long-standing interest in the environment, he says he “kind of stumbled” onto his current research track. A course on environmental policy during his senior year in college made an especially profound impact. “I realized that environmental policy was probably one of the easiest ways to make a big difference in the world,” he says.
Stein completed a master’s degree in economics at his alma mater, supported by Strata Policy, a think tank in Logan, Utah, where he worked on environmental policy for three years.
“One thing that really stood out to me is that policy can be a little far away from what actually happens on the ground; it often focuses on creating major legislation,” he says. But he knew from his environmental studies that many organizations and individuals try to address problems around them directly, without going via the political route. “So I wanted to study that more, and entrepreneurship and the role of entrepreneurs kept coming up in my research.”
Attracted to Whitman for its “phenomenal” entrepreneurship program, Stein has spent the past three years examining the interactions and knowledge flow among for-profit, public and nonprofit organizations in the context of wildfire management. As he finishes his dissertation this year, he plans to go on the academic job market.
“I really hope I can find a good position at a university that lets me continue to do this research that I think is really important, while also teaching undergraduates a broader perspective of entrepreneurship,” he says.
By Olivia Hall