Professor Poonam Arora Receives $5M Grant from National Science Foundation on Climate Change

By, Pete Janny & Niamh DelargySenior Writer & Contributor

In late September, professor and department chair of management and marketing Poonam Arora, Ph.D. and a group of researchers from six institutions received a five million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation.

Arora and her contemporaries will work to “understand socio-environmental and economic drivers affecting resilience to coastal hazards in North Carolina ‘’ in light of the region’s vulnerability to storms. The bulk of the research will occur at the Albe-marle Pamlico estuary system located on the coastline of North Carolina.

Arora has thought about how to create solutions to these issues for years while trying to find ways to fund her research. The news of the grant is just the start of a project that is expected to run for five years.

“This grant represents tremendous recognition for the O’Malley School of Business and the excellence of our professors,” said Donald Gibson, Ph.D., dean of the O’Malley School of Business.

“So there are about six institutions involved with this grant and there’s a lot of professionals and academics from all of them involved,” Arora said. “Research like this rarely starts once the money comes in. It’s usually questions you’ve already been tinkering with and it’s things that you’re already thinking about.”

The project is led by East Carolina University and will pave the way to the creation of the Coastal Environmental Justice Institute, a facility that will help carry out service and outreach efforts related to this specific area of research.

“The Institute will allow communities from the area to come together in a neutral space so you can have communities that may feel like they’re vulnerable and have had economic and justices laid against them and those that have taken advantage of the environment,” Arora said. “And we can put them all together in the same room and actually have an open conversation to understand what the issues might be and you begin to work through them.”

Arora also touts the unique opportunity the researchers will have to combine aspects of different academic disciplines while working toward a common goal. This particular project ties in with a variety of economic and environmental challenges — such as poor water quality, hurricanes, floods, droughts, and rising sea levels — which Arora will experience firsthand in North Carolina.

Arora has no personal connection to North Carolina, but rather views the natural disaster problems going on there as a microcosm of a bigger question about climate change in society.

“The most pressing thing coming out of climate change right now are actually extreme weather events and the impact they have on coastlines,” said Arora. “It’s almost like the perfect real world laboratory to actually begin to understand these dynamics so we can then begin to think about solutions that can be applied the world over.”

Climate change is not solely an issue facing the physical sciences, according to Arora, it also has social causes and impacts. Her Ph.D. research at Columbia University informed her of this social phenomena and how business decisions can contribute to more positive outcomes for society.

“Climate change, along with issues of social inequality and income inequality, are probably the pressing problems of our generation,” Arora said. “And the answer to anything that has to do with economics is going to require that we put social sciences and physical sciences together, and we situate them in a business context … business now has to start becoming part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

Arora’s role on the project’s leadership team forms links between Manhattan College and the other institutions involved, as well as interdisciplinary links. Arora and her colleagues at the O’Malley School of Business pledge to educate students on issues of sustainability and social justice.

Arora’s role on the project’s leadership team forms links between Manhattan College and the other institutions involved, as well as interdisciplinary links. Arora and her colleagues at the O’Malley School of Business pledge to educate students on issues of sustainability and social justice.

“I think it’s amazing to be able to be at the cutting edge of issues that businesses, organizations, and world governments have to deal with tomorrow,” Arora said. “Our students are going to have a chance to actually be part of that dialogue and have that solution.”

Alexander Nieves ‘21, an MBA student in the O’Malley School of Business, is inspired by Arora’s teaching methods and emphasis on bringing innovative thinking to the classroom.

“Her classes are different not because the concepts are hard, but because they almost always make a meaningful, sustainable impact on our world,” Nieves said. “Dr. Arora understands that these sorts of things are only accomplished through collaboration, passion, and determination, so I would highly recommend that everyone either have a conversation with her or take one of her classes.”

“I think it’s amazing to be able to be at the cutting edge of issues that businesses, organizations, and world governments have to deal with tomorrow,” Arora said. “Our students are going to have a chance to actually be part of that dialogue and have that solution.”

Arora wants everyone to know that no matter where you live or go to school, it’s never a bad time to help others and the planet.

“Whether it’s at the level of just Manhattan College or in New York, or the US or the globe, whatever level you’re looking at, thriving requires us to have some kind of balance between sort of our economic well being, our social well be- ing and the planet’s well being,” Arora said.

Arora will make her way down to North Carolina this month to start surveying the Albe-marle Pamlico estuar y system.