PhD student chosen for UNWTO Fellowship an Ohio State first
Hanna Paulose’s vision to make a difference started when she was just a young girl.
As a fourth-grader, she planted and nurtured a small, idyllic forest on her grandparents’ farmland in India.
When she was a teenager, she was an integral part of a group that combated use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in their farm community. Because the chemicals were linked to reduced crop productivity and hurt the local ecosystem, they developed biofertilizers and educated farmers how to use them.
Paulose is still safeguarding the environment. As a doctoral student in consumer sciences, she became the first Ohio State student to receive a PhD Research Fellowship with the United Nations World Tourism Organization in 2016.
She traveled to Madrid helping reach the organization’s goals for worldwide sustainability in tourism — to protect tourist spots that 1.2 billion people visit annually.
“This gives me a chance to go out to the field and see how things are done,” Paulose said. “It enables me to not just see the numbers but to see the lives behind the numbers and use the results to do something important.”
Tourism’s love-hate relationship with the environment
The relationship between tourism and the environment, Paulose will tell you, is complicated.
Tourism puts pressure on the natural resources it’s built around, affecting wildlife, habitats and waterways and contributing to pollution. Yet it also provides opportunities to raise awareness and support environmental conservation.
Many tourist destinations need extra help, but developing countries often don’t have the means to protect the environment, Paulose said. Those places need tourists to help.
One simple way is to charge admission to protected areas, as the U.S. National Parks Service does. The parks service estimated it would collect more than $230 million in 2017 to protect and restore lands and provide visitor services.
“The idea of the Sustainable Development of Tourism department at UNWTO is to use tourists to protect the environment in similar ways,” Paulose said.
Part of the organization’s work is driven by the United Nations’ goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all in the next 15 years. These goals led Paulose to the fellowship.
“I really wanted to be a part of the implementation of these goals to create a sustainable and economically prosperous world,” she said.
Taking advantage of every opportunity
People who meet Paulose quickly realize she turns her passion into action.
At 18, she traveled 12 hours from home to present her undergraduate research on aircraft control mechanisms at a technology symposium in Tokyo. The moment was seminal for her, and gave her the confidence to do more.
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Mahatma Gandhi University, she was chosen for a 15-day journey across India to see how others with similar passions are creating social revolutions in her home country.
“The journey and the social entrepreneurs I met made me realize that innovations which transform the society have a social component,” Paulose said. “And understanding the social dynamic is crucial in developing solutions in line with the needs of the society.”
That experience drove Paulose to find a way to make her own impact. She stumbled upon the work of Jay Kandampully, professor of hospitality management at the College of Education and Human Ecology. His research on service management and innovation intrigued her; she had to let Kandampully know.
“There’s one thing I always do, if I read a research paper and I am impressed with it, I leave the author a note,” she said.
Kandampully replied. Their conversation led her to the masters and PhD consumer sciences programs at Ohio State.
As a doctoral student, Paulose authored six papers in peer-reviewed academic journals. She also interned in Sweden and Switzerland, including for the United Nations Environment Programme.
‘An original thinker’
To get the UN internship, Paulose endured a rigorous interview process before she and an Iranian doctoral student were selected.
“They were the best,” said Dirk Glaesser, director of the Sustainable Development of Tourism Programme at the UNWTO. “They will help us build bridges of academic learning into the UN world.”
Paulose’s skill as a researcher and ability to make sense of complex data pushed her to the top of the list. Her work at the College of Education and Human Ecology underscores her talent.
Besides publishing her journal articles, she worked on eight research projects with her advisor, Milos Bujisic, assistant professor of hospitality management.
Her research investigated sustainable innovation, service innovation and social enterprises.
“She really is an original thinker,” Bujisic said. “She has a clear agenda on what she wants to do, and she knows her literature well.”
During her year with the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Paulose’s focus was on three main projects:
- Developing a global survey of sustainable tourism strategies;
- Organizing an event at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) in November in Morocco; and
- Updating guidelines to measure the environmental, social and economic impact of tourism in destinations.
An ambassador to Ohio State, too
Paulose credits Ohio State and the College of Education and Human Ecology for helping her achieve her academic goals and pursue opportunities worldwide.
“The support I received – the financial and personal advice – has been immense,” Paulose said. “I would have never gotten to Geneva or done an internship at the UN if not for the support from EHE.”
Her professors say she is the ideal ambassador for EHE and the consumer sciences program.
“What she has done takes the name of Ohio State to new places. Now people in the UN will know us and our program,” Kandampully said.
As a student, Paulose has been encouraged to pursue her own research agenda, to travel to get greater understanding of her goals and to seek financial support to grow in and out the classroom.
“I had interest in seemingly unrelated topics but they are very related when you put them together. Environment is very important for social development and technology is the main factor we use for making environmentally sustainable solutions. I also grew up in Kerala, India, a society structured around the idea of hospitality and tourism.”
The push from her professors to “go for it” makes Paulose grateful.
“Ohio State took off the restraints I had in pursuing what I wanted to do,” she said. “That was really important for me. And it would never have happened without EHE and the university.”