New Penn State School of International Affairs faculty add interdisciplinary expertise in energy and development

SIA welcomes to the faculty Associate Professors of International Affairs Elizabeth Ransom and Mare Sarr and Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Environmental Engineering Wei Peng.
SIA welcomes to the faculty Associate Professors of International Affairs Elizabeth Ransom and Mare Sarr and Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Environmental Engineering Wei Peng.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State School of International Affairs welcomes three new faculty members starting in the 2018-19 academic year who bring expertise in energy and development public policy. Their interdisciplinary and transnational work will play a critical role in the school’s collaborations across the University and around the world.

Elizabeth Ransom comes to Penn State as associate professor of international affairs at SIA and senior research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute. Mare Sarr joins the SIA faculty as associate professor of international affairs. And Wei Peng will begin at SIA in the spring 2019 semester as an assistant professor of international affairs and environmental engineering—SIA’s first joint appointment with the College of Engineering.

“We are tremendously excited to welcome these three impressive interdisciplinary scholars to the School of International Affairs,” said Dean and Professor of International Affairs Hari M. Osofsky. “Their hires represent a major step forward in SIA’s strategic efforts in energy and development policy, and they also bring important regional expertise on Africa and Asia. I look forward to the collaborations that they will help build for the school through their joint appointments in the College of Engineering and Rock Ethics Institute.”

Ransom and Sarr—both of whom concentrate much of their work on the continent of Africa—complement the school’s academic strength in this area. Ransom’s research focuses on globalization and development, with a particular emphasis on eastern and southern Africa, and the political economy of agriculture and food systems. Sarr, a dual Senegalese and French citizen, has conducted research on environmental economics and the political economy in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Tunisia, among other projects. They join SIA’s Africa group with Professors Johannes Fedderke, a native South African and a leading economist who works actively with the World Bank; Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and former senior director for African Affairs at the National Security Council; and Tiyanjana Maluwa, a native of Malawi who previously served as legal counsel to the Organisation of African Unity—the predecessor to the African Union.

Peng and Sarr help to strengthen SIA’s academic prowess in international energy and environmental matters, a priority of SIA and Penn State’s Energy University initiative. Peng’s research focuses on the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of decarbonization efforts in both emerging markets and advanced economies, and Sarr concentrates much of his research on environmental and natural resource economics. Peng also has particular expertise on China, strengthening SIA’s regional expertise in Asia. Peng and Sarr complement SIA’s existing energy faculty, which includes Osofsky, whose research focuses on improving governance and addressing injustice in energy and climate change regulation; Professor David Titley, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and nationally recognized expert in the field of climate, the Arctic, and national security; Flynt Leverett, who is both a scholar of energy and the Middle East and a former member of the National Security Council; and others at SIA.

Ransom, who has been awarded two grants from the National Science Foundation, comes to Penn State after serving as associate professor of sociology at the University of Richmond. Her published research includes more than 25 journal articles and book chapters. She has co-edited two books, Rural America in a Globalizing World: Problems and Prospects for the 2010s and Global Meat: The Social and Environmental Consequences of the Expanding Meat Industry (forthcoming). She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Michigan State University and her B.A. in sociology and political science from Western Carolina University.

Sarr, who has received research grants from United Nations University and South Africa’s National Research Foundation, was previously an associate professor in the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town and director of its Environmental Policy Research Unit. His work includes publications in World Bank Economic Review and Environmental and Resource Economics, among other peer-reviewed journals and contributions to policy papers, commissioned reports, and book chapters. He holds Ph.D. in economics from University College London, an M.Sc. in economics from University of Warwick, and a bachelor’s degree in management from Reims Management School in France.

Peng, a native of China, comes to Penn State from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, where she was a Giorgio Ruffolo Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Her research has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Energy, and Nature Sustainability, among others. She earned her Ph.D. in science, technology, and environmental policy from Princeton University and her B.S. in environmental science from Peking University.

The appointments of Peng, Ransom, and Sarr bring the total number of SIA core faculty to 15, in addition to 33 affiliate faculty members from a wide variety of disciplines across Penn State. Their combined strength allows SIA to offer students a highly flexible, interdisciplinary master’s degree program. The current faculty includes former ambassadors, retired Navy admirals, senior government advisers, higher education leaders, senior officials of international organizations, and foreign policy experts, each of whom brings unique regional and subject matter expertise. Together, they represent a unique combination of world-class scholars and highly acclaimed practitioners.