Alumnus Profile: Jonathan Lautze | WSSS | Tufts University

Alumnus Profile: Jonathan Lautze

by Libby Mahaffy

WSSS Alumnus Jonathan Lautze

Jonathan Lautze, a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy with a WSSS certificate, was working in Sri Lanka when Libby Mahaffy interviewed him about his experiences in March 2010. Jonathan Lautze is a postdoctoral fellow at the International Water Management Institute specializing in transboundary water management and water and health, currently based at IWMI headquarters in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Libby Mahaffy is a graduate student in the UEP program and an intern at the Tufts Institute of the Environment.

Learn more about Jonathan here.

Libby Mahaffy: Why did you join WSSS?
Jonathan Lautze: In some ways I feel like I backed into it. I was working with Paul Kirshen and taking a lot of the classes when WSSS was in the pipeline and then when it became a program it was a natural thing [for me to do].

LM: What was your favorite part of the WSSS program?
JL: The support from the people I was working with to explore a lot of interesting areas. If youíre motivated and you want to do things, people will support you. This comes not only in intellectual support, but also financial and resource support to pursue your avenues of interest and water-related topics. I got a range of small funding here and there when they saw me making progress.

LM: What was the most difficult part of WSSS?
JL: The classes – and this is the nature of an interdisciplinary program – sometimes they are well-aligned with your background and area of interest and other times it can be a struggle to acquire some of those skills. When you throw people into environments theyíre not necessarily comfortable with they learn from it, but there are growing pains!

LM: How are you using what you learned in WSSS in your current work/profession?
JL: In WSSS most people get a broad perspective on water resource issues, so when you get out into the water field you can draw on that background – skills as well as knowledge. For example, classes like GIS or systems engineering gave me practical skills; classes like hydrology or integrated water resource management gave me exposure to a lot of issues. At Tufts I picked up a broad range of knowledge about water – with a focus on specific areas – and also the ability to publish and write analytically, and convey messages clearly and concisely. In what Iím doing now at the International Water Management Institute, youíre expected to write well and publish.

LM: Something about WSSS you never expected?
JL: I started out at the Fletcher School doing a masterís in Environmental Policy and Development Economics. I joined WSSS as part of my masterís, but through the program I received funding to do a PhD in the engineering department focusing on health, and within health, malaria. I explored the topic to understand how water resource management affected it. This was definitely not expected, but there was a lot of support to develop key partnerships to tackle this topic. I donít work much in the area of malaria transmission now, but Iím looking to go back to it.

LM: Whatís one piece of advice for an incoming WSSS student?
JL: Itís really what you make out of it. If you come in and youíre driven and you want to use it for your own needs – or if you already have your objectives – it helps you meet your goals. WSSS is great that way. Make it work for you. Donít look at these required classes as just a way to satisfy the program requirements, treat them as a vehicle to something bigger. Go for it! Try to push the envelope.

LM: If WSSS was a Jelly Belly, what flavor would it be?
JL: What are the options? Youíre catching me off guard – I donít really eat a lot of jelly beans! [laughs] I think WSSS would be a whole batch of jelly beans. You go in and you pick the one you want and you make what you want out of it.




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The Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) program is a graduate research and education program that provides Tufts students with interdisciplinary perspectives and tools to manage water-related problems around the world.

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