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Student Following Her Desire to Safeguard the Environment for Future Generations

Master of Public Policy (MPP) Candidate Cheryll-Ann Wilson Drakes was awarded the prestigious Alexander and Cleaver Fellowship this academic year at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Focusing her studies on energy and environmental policy and climate finance, Wilson Drakes credits the School of Public Policy program with “broadening [her] interests to include alternative sources of energy, emissions reduction, adaptation and mitigation at the levels of state and local governments” which are all connected with the common thread of finance.

Before joining the School, Wilson Drakes studied management at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago and earned her MBA at University of Central Florida, where she was at the top of her class and was invited to join the select Phi Kappa Phi honor society. She also obtained a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential from the CFA Institute in Charlottesville, VA. After earning her degrees, Wilson Drakes worked in investment banking, primarily with originating, arranging and distributing bonds on behalf of Caribbean states and state-owned enterprises. In addition, she has commercial banking experience, including providing credit to institutions and high-net worth individuals.

She returned to school to pursue her passion in environmental policy and her desire to “safeguard the environment for future generations of all the earth’s inhabitants, not just humans” and “protect the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves.” Her studies at SPP have enabled her to gain practical experience with experts in her field of interest as she works on an independent study project related to climate initiatives and their impact on states and local governments. Additionally, she is immersed in her capstone project where she is creating a model for her client to estimate transportation greenhouse gas emissions, through which she is integrating her extensive financial background with her MPP coursework.

“Getting to know and learn from this team of professors who are so generous with their time and expertise” has been a highlight of her experience at the School. The MPP program has also had some surprising personal impacts on her life, particularly the course Human Health and Environment. “Not only have I become very interested in the environmental impacts of our ubiquitous and indiscriminate use of chemicals, I have made lifestyle changes as well. I scan labels now before making food and other household purchases, and undertake recycling with an almost religious fervor.” While her long-term future may include the pursuit of a PhD investigating the “issue of unlocking private capital for climate and environment activities,” her short-term plans are focused on “helping both the public and private sector in transitioning to a low carbon future.”

Wilson Drakes’ passion for the environment extends beyond the classroom. She is an avid outdoors person and fondly recalls a Sunday morning hiking group in Barbados “that resembled a mini United Nations” and took trips around the world to hike places like Mt. Kilimanjaro and the subsidiary peaks of Mt. Everest. Her group even acted as “sight guides on hikes organized for members of the local Association of the Blind.” While school and work have prohibited her from exploring much of the outdoors around Maryland, she enjoys reading whenever she can and has pondered writing a novel of her own.

While she is no stranger to academic excellence, Wilson Drakes stresses that learning, not grades should be the most important. She encourages other students to “embrace this outstanding opportunity to benefit from some of the best minds in public policy.”

“To paraphrase an old parable I read (Deepak Chopra’s “Creating Affluence”): when you focus your attention on the Goddess of Knowledge, the Goddess of Wealth becomes jealous and will follow you,” she says. “In this context, academic excellence and accolades will follow your pursuit of knowledge.”