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IU's 2015 Tillman Scholar in Africa to study relationship between natural resources, conflict

July 16, 2015

School of Public and Environmental Affairs second-year MPA student Richard "Drew" Marcantonio is spending his summer in Zambia, studying the relationship between water security and conflict.

Richard Marcantonio at SPEA


But it's not just something he's studying. It's something he's lived.

As a U.S. Marine who served two combat tours in Afghanistan before coming to study at IU, he saw conflict firsthand and witnessed how much his team's work establishing security measures helped empower local leaders. Now, he wants to help create sustainable security and economic stability in underdeveloped communities in an attempt to quell violence at its source.

The third generation of his family to serve, Marcantonio was recently named a 2015 Tillman Scholar by the Pat Tillman Foundation. The program supports active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses by investing in their higher education. The foundation honors Tillman, who put his NFL career on hold to serve in the U.S. Army in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.

"I am very honored to be selected as part of this outstanding cohort of scholars," Marcantonio said. "When you look at what everybody is doing, you can really see this group using their military-learned skills in the private and public sectors, helping promote social progress. And the financial assistance is so helpful and makes such a difference."

Richard Marcantonio

Marcantonio stands at Machu Picchu in Peru. After he left the Marines, Marcantonio traveled internationally with his best friend and their fathers, further evidence of his global mindset. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DREW MARCANTONIO

While in Zambia, he is spending his days gathering data from indigenous groups about water scarcity, conflict and adaptation. He hopes his data could help draw conclusions and inform potential future actions to promote local level adaptive capacity and stability.

He received a Student Sustainability Research Grant through IU's Office of Sustainability, and will be working alongside School of Public and Environmental Affairs assistant professor Shahzeen Attari  and IU geography professor Tom Evans. Both are also research associates with The Ostrom Workshop, while Attari also works with the Attari Lab in SPEA and Evans with the Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change.

Marcantonio will be in southern Africa through August and will work alongside the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute.

When he returns, he's looking forward to his final year in his SPEA program and applying for doctoral programs.

"I've changed my focus since I first came here, but SPEA provides so much," he said. "It has a great mix of the environmental and social sciences, both in skills and information."

Marcantonio's work here and overseas aligns with several priorities in the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success, catalyzing research and global engagement.

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