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Former UMaine student discusses interdisciplinary thinking post-grad

On Monday, Feb. 6, the University of Maine’s Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions in Norman Smith Hall welcomed Dr. Emma Fox, UMaine alumni and associate at Industrial Economics, Inc. (IEC), to discuss the company’s approaches to consulting as well as her educational journey prior to joining IEC.

As a UMaine graduate student studying ecology and environmental science, Fox worked with the Mitchell Center on the New England Sustainability Consortium (NEST) Safe Beaches and Shellfish Project, along with the NEST Future of Dams Project. These research projects were multi-institutional, meaning they prioritized the strengths of differing disciplines and universities to ensure successful scientific decision-making, as well as promoted collaborative efforts with a long-term goal of increasing sustainability.

In the Future of Dams Project, Fox was exposed to the process of multiple-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) through balancing the competing alternatives for how to approach the Penobscot River Dam, with the options being to increase the dam’s hydropower capacity, refurbish the structure or remove it from the river altogether.

Fox gave credit to her former stomping grounds for allowing students unique opportunities to gain valuable experience prior to entering one’s professional career.

“Exposure to the different ways of doing economics and applied research is really important. The University of Maine is great in that respect. I think having those project examples and being able to work on a research project is so valuable,” Fox said.

Graduate school was only the beginning of Fox’s involvement in sustainability-based projects.

“IEC provides expert analysis, advice and project management services to government agencies, private firms, international governments and NGOs,” Fox explained. “IEC is internationally recognized in the field of natural resource assessment.”

The clients IEC takes on are often involved in creating climate and energy policy that will ultimately result in the development of programs aimed at improving conditions in underserved communities.

In regard to the emphasis on interdisciplinary thinking in a professional environment, Fox explained how this approach to thinking goes hand-in-hand with collaboration to sufficiently tackle problems that may prove to be both complex and multifaceted.

In her consulting work, Fox has found success through implementing interdisciplinary thinking to provide clients with a more complete picture on how to reduce their carbon footprint. Her specific areas of expertise at IEC include energy policy analysis, energy technologies, decision support and stakeholder outreach and engagement.

The Mitchell Center’s Spring 2023 Sustainability Talks series hosts guest speakers every Monday at 3 p.m. in Norman Smith Hall and via zoom. For upcoming events, visit

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