Barry McLaughlin, a passionate and sustainability-minded student of University of California, Berkeley, is the winner of the 2021 Sustainability Scholarship awarded by finduddannelse.dk
We are pleased to announce and recognize Barry McLaughlin as the winner for our 2021 Sustainability Scholarship. Barry has been awarded €5,000 towards his tuition fees for a Master in Development Engineering (specializing in Energy, Water & Environment Sustainability) at University of California, Berkeley. Learn more about Barry and watch the winner-interview or read the interview transcript below.
Watch the interview with this year's winner here:
If you're inspired by Barry's story, please check out Earth Action Hub, an international youth-led project that Barry co-founded, aimed to inspire climate action through collaborative online communities. Also check out the launch of their first annual event on May 21-23, which will include workshops, talks and, live-stream conversations all centered around combating climate change.
Read the interview transcript here
Emilia: Hi I am Emilia Petersen, and I am a Digital Content Editor at finduddannelse.dk. I'm here to do an interview with the winner, so welcome Barry.
Barry: Thanks for having me, I am delighted to be here.
Emilia: You are the winner among so many applicants. So how have you been feeling since you were told that you were granted the scholarship?
Barry: I mean I am delighted. I am lost for words really, like words can’t describe how thankful I am to win the scholarship. The fact that it’s helping cover the cost of tuition for my education, and also the fact that just being a scholar is helping me applying for my visa and different things like that, for going to USA. I mean it has just been amazing to be awarded and even the exposure of being a scholar will help me make a bigger impact and promote environmental awareness. And it has also given me great confidence, it’s a good confidence boost. And besides giving me that, it’s given me the drive to succeed in my studies moving forward, so thanks for believing in me.
Emilia: Of course. You have earned it so much. And can you tell us a little bit more about where you're from and what has let you to your passion for sustainability?
Barry: Yeah so, my name is Barry. I come from a small island just off the North Coast of Ireland. And I suppose I've grown up in some of the most spectacular wilderness being along the North Coast and had a lot of wilderness at my front door. It is inevitable that I was always going to grow up becoming mesmerized by the natural wild and all its glory. But at the same time I've also witnessed first-hand the accelerating loss of biodiversity and alteration of ecological patterns resulting from climate change and the growing human population. I suppose you know my generation in general has grown up with consequences of environmental problems being at the forefront of our media. And again seeing the complexities of how the growing human population is impacting the natural word. I suppose it is that perspective which has sparked my ultimate goal of pursuing a lifelong career dedicated to sustainability and environmental protection. So I suppose with that going hard, I spent the last several years as an volunteer for a number of conservation projects, along the coast of Ireland. And with these ventures walloping, completing my degree, my undergrad environmental Sciences at Ulster University.
Emilia: Because of what you’re talking about now, I am really interested in how you have chosen your education path in general. Because now a lot of universities have great sustainability programmes. So why did you choose to study at Berkeley in California and then how did you end up choosing a master programme in development engineering.
Barry: Yeah, I suppose obviously the volunteering kind of gave me that conservation background and then again completing my degree in environmental science kind of gave me that passion and ambition to protect the natural world, but I suppose having those two experiences were quite different. Even though they’re both in the environmental bubble, they’re kind of different as well in their disciplinarian approach. They kind of gave me that ambition to strive to transcend conventional scientific boundaries to work within environmental science sectors and also create new solutions such as conservation and the use of advocacy so we could address global challenges based in biodiversity, environmental protection and sustainability from a more disciplinary approach, rather than being specialized within one degree, you can look at that and other disciplinary as well.
Emilia: That makes so much sense because you have done a lot of volunteer work, which really has shaped your path. Can you tell us just a little bit more about where you work specially with conservation and why you think that's important?
Barry: Yeah, no problem. I suppose my experiences in conservation stem from, when I was really young growing up on the West Coast of Ireland a lot of my neighbours were all scientists and all of them moved there to be in the middle of national parks and things like that. So growing up my childhood, instead of like going out with my friends, I was always like attached with those guys I followed on their science expeditions and things like that. I suppose I got exposure then from a really young age into that whole conservation networking bubble. So I got to go on different experiences along the North Coast both within the marine environment but also terrestrial environment as well. And I suppose more recently over the last five years I've been working on the Inch Patridge Project, which is a re-introduction project here in Ireland and were based on each island and our aim is to create a suitable environment, where captive bred and straight Partridge can feris in the wild. We use our project as totem for the best demonstration of farmland management for the conservation of Irelands growing nest in Barnet birds. So that is really where my background within conservation groups and I suppose why that is important is we've lost over 50% of our diversity in the last few years. And that is due to obviously climate change, but also the growing human population and habitat loss. And we are having an ecological crisis right now, and it is up to us to protect the natural world for generations to come. We have lived side to side with nature for thousands of years, but it is only in the last 100 years that the rate of climate change and the rate of human advancement, you know ecological and then densification of agriculture that is basically too fast for nature to adapt on the side of this. So I suppose it is important, because if we don’t act now time is going to run out.
Emilia: Yes, and there is no doubt that what you are doing has a huge impact. You are truly an important youth voice in sustainability and you have done so much in terms of climate change activism and also you have co-founded the Earth Action Hub. Can you tell us about that project?
Barry: Yes I can. So Earth Action Hub is a global youth project which I have co-founded since last september alongside my final year. I have co-founded the project with seven learned environmentalists whom I met online, so we have never met in person and they are from New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Brazil and the UK. So we basically want to create an online space where people can connect across the world, just like us, and share resources and run projects for sustainability and also share different ideas from across the world. But alongside that our aim was to burn the gap between generations, cultures and then the global northern side all for climate action and we also wanted to make it accessible to everyone so not just all the Greta Thunbergs of the world, who are doing all of these amazing things. But also people that are aware of the environment, but they are not necessarily climate active yet. So far the whole project has been amazing, it has been incredible both the foundation of environmental education and force Wavers are offered to be our host organization and throughout our platform we are hosting our first annual event in may from the 21-23rd. It is gonna be over three days and we have over 56 events from opening ceremonies and closing ceremonies with speakers, and workshops and partner discussions. We got a phone premiere and different network opportunities and we teamed up with some of the world's most leading organizations to do all of this.
Emilia: Wow, It’s so impressive, and it’s so important. I also want to ask you a few questions about the scholarship, because we had a lot of applicants, and I am really curious if you have any tips for people applying, maybe in general or this particular scholarship, and if you would share some of that insight?
Barry: Yeah sure. I suppose the advice i would give, treat your application like a diamond. If you think of a diamond, the more sides it has, the more shine and value it has. So if you can do that with your essay, treat your essay like a diamond, the more perspectives you can bring to the table, the more it’s gonna stand out. So you know, show different sides of your personality, whether it’s about your interests, your passions, or even the challenges you have overcomed or the successes. The more different perspectives you can bring in there, the more people are gonna relate to you on a human level, and understand your ambitions and where you are coming from. And if it’s an application form, and you have multiple questions, and you’re talking about one of them, talk about one experience, and if you have another question, talk about another experience as well.
Emilia: Mmmmh, yeah that’s such a good idea. Treat it like a diamond!
Barry: Haha, I suppose don’t treat it like a CV, because if you wanted a job, you would treat it as a CV. But a lot of scholarship organizations, they are investing in you as a person. So don’t make your application as a CV, make it more in depth, make it more personal.
Emilia: Yeah, that was also what we could really feel your drive and ambitions. And also for this interview, I'm interested in hearing about your long time goals with this program and where you wish to be in the future?
Barry: Yeah definitely. Well I suppose my short term goals is really with the Earth Action Hub, so i’ll be working alongside with that and for as long as I can, so hopefully we can make it as big an impact as possible, so we can help as many people we can, and do the best work we can for our planet. And I suppose as well, well I'll be going away to do my masters, and through my masters, my aim is to throw out my voice , and be an advocate for environmental education, but also to pursue my career with sustainability development. And I suppose, how that carrier is gonna develop in the future is quite open. And I know myself, even in the last couple of years so many different doors have opened, and even with COVID you would expect that a lot of doors would have been closed, but moving into the virtual realm, and even more opportunities are open. So I'm quite open, and my aim is to work in a role where I can make as big an impact as possible and do as much for my planet. So whether that is working with no multinational og nongovernmental organizations or even moving into environmental entrepreneurship. One thing I know is that I wanna make as big an impact on the planet as possible.
Emilia: So inspirational, and one thing is sure, you’re going to achieve great things, and we’re just really thrilled to be able to support you on your journey and see where it takes you, so thank you so much
Barry: Thank you! And thank you again for having me, and for the scholarship, it’s life changing so thank you!
Watch Barry's reaction on being this year's winner here:
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Due to the high quality and quantity of applicants to this year’s Sustainability Scholarship, we'll be awarding another one for 2022. Click to learn about eligibility and the application process below!