This summer, the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs managed to connect with a very recent alum from both the center and UC Irvine, Lora Vaioleti. Lora’s association with CUSA began in 2011, when the affairs of both Vaioleti and Director Richard Matthew had seemingly aligned in both space and reason. Since then, Lora has ascended to higher and more active roles managing the environmental, human, and cultural security issues in the Pacific, primarily. Recounting her time with CUSA, the current research fellow stakes the claim that the simple, but meaningful connections she first established with the center have now grown and stretched to the most integral nerves of the world, and even back to her most meaningful connection: home.
Q: Describe your involvement with CUSA. What project(s) did you work on?
A: I came to UCI from New Zealand on a Fulbright scholarship to finish my Masters in Management and Sustainability. My research has focused on human security and climate change in the wider Pacific region and the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs attracted me immediately for its bold, innovative and forward looking take on global security. I approached Professor Matthew while I was still in New Zealand to float the possibility of connecting with CUSA during my year at UCI, and was happy to be wholeheartedly accepted.
My research over the last 2-3 years has been towards laying a foundation for implementable projects to build the long term resilience of the wider Pacific. The Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face many ecological challenges in the coming decades and the high risk the region faces is met with a certain level of vulnerability due to geographic isolation and a financial incapacity to adapt. I am developing both theories and pragmatic tools that marry traditional, contextual Pacific knowledge with the latest scientific projections for climate change to encourage social and ecological resilience.
Q: What was a highlight of your time working at CUSA, and how did your experience(s) at CUSA influence your future endeavors?
A: The weekly meetings during my first term at CUSA were especially interesting for me. Hearing of the work that students and faculty of the Center were leading and involved in was truly motivating. In terms of highlights, it was a pleasure to connect the TML’s Director, Beth Karlin, with the Dean of Sustainability at the University of Waikato, my home university, on her recent trip to New Zealand. I also enjoyed events such as attending the quarterly breakfast club meeting of CUSA’s steering committee and meeting both CUSA alumni and leaders in business and government with ideologies that align with ours.
The personal connections I made remain effective points in my network that I am continuing to leverage for research and projects I am currently working on.
Q: What have you been up to since you left CUSA?
A: In the two to three weeks after finishing my Masters at UC Irvine, I got a travel grant from a professor at UCI to conduct research around Northern California interviewing Pacific Americans about their experiences taking in family who have migrated, with the intention of building understanding around the capacity of global Pacific social networks to buffer potentially great numbers of climate migrants in the future. I then took up an internship with the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA) of the United Nations Plaza in New York City. GLISPA works with global island leaders to help catalyze their efforts for conservation and sustainable development. It also helps raise the voices and visibility of unique island challenges that around 650 million people worldwide are faced with. I finally returned to New Zealand from New York in late June.
Q: Are there any words of wisdom you would like to leave to current and future researchers about your career path during and after your time at CUSA?
A: I would just recommend greater efforts to connect and talk with fellow students and research associates on the projects being developed under CUSA. We can learn so much from each other and there is much experience and potential within the center. Reach out to CUSA colleagues to chat, even in a social or casual setting. Also, attempt to access CUSA alumni that are now in the workforce or who have progressed on in their careers – there is much intellectual and networking capital in CUSA and it is growing. Enjoy!