A Dialogue of Civilizations program that Michael Tormey, E’20, completed three years ago highly influenced his academic choices and future plans. He enrolled at Northeastern as a civil engineer, and only after his Dialogue on Climate Change Science and Policy the summer of his freshman year, did Tormey realized how scientific advancements in sustainability affect and are affected by a city’s or country’s political and economic background. He was inspired to declare a second major in economics to explore these topics in an interdisciplinary manner.

“The Dialogue I went on with Professor Auroop Ganguly, civil and environmental engineering, in India was a perfect opportunity to learn more about international sustainable development issues, and also about the policy possibilities around them, and how they combine,” he said.

The Dialogue took place in India and involved visiting 15 cities there. It was exciting to travel and learn about different environments and people from all over India, Tormey mentioned.  “It was really interesting to not just get one picture but get this broad picture of what development and climate change science and policy might look like in various regions and see how complicated that can be,” he said.

Tormey did his Climate Change Science and Policy Dialogue in May-June 2016, but he has been working on other sustainable development projects in the years since. By the end of the Dialogue, Tormey had gained substantial knowledge about climate and built a strong working relationship with Professor Ganguly, which led to an opportunity to keep working in this area of study beyond the Dialogue. Tormey developed an independent research project under Ganguly’s supervision for his entire second year at Northeastern. A year after his first Dialogue, Tormey and a few others from the group crossed the ocean again; this time it was an independent study in Singapore and Indonesia, where he could further pursue his own projects, examining how cities can build and preserve green and open space in the face of rapid development and growth.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to take what I learned as a student and then apply it again as a researcher,” he said.

When he came back from his research study with Ganguly, he kept on working on his project, which produced meaningful findings on best practices of green space development in coastal cities, and soon after had opportunities to present it at conferences in Kansas City and Toronto.

“It has just been an incredible progression, all because I went on that Dialogue freshman year,” he mentioned.

It has been three years since Tormey did his Dialogue in India, and he’s currently doing his second co-op at the Boston Planning & Development Agency. Tormey said the transportation planners at the BPDA he interviewed with were impressed with his research project and the conferences where he presented it, and it really helped him to get a job he wanted. For Tormey, coming home from a four-week study abroad in India was not an ending, but a beginning. He is still interested in sustainable development and resilience issues, and wants to work in ‘smart city’ planning after graduation.

“This has been way more than just one Dialogue. It went all the way to my third year and beyond,” Tormey said.