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Alumni Success Story

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Planning Out a Perfect Future

Pushkala Lakshmi Ratan, SIS/MA ‘01, had everything perfectly planned. Her passion for economics had already led her to an undergraduate degree in the subject from The Ethiraj College in Chennai, India. She would complete the MA program in International Affairs at the School of International Service (SIS) at American University, and then do a PhD in Economics back home in India.  No sweat.

But one class, and one professor, threw a twist into her neatly-designed future. 

“When I joined SIS,” Ratan explains, “my objective was to hone my knowledge and skills on a macro level … but Environmental Politics with Dr. Judith Shapiro made a tremendous impact on me and determined the path I wanted to pursue.”

Ratan did indeed get her MA from AU – in one year, instead of the usual two – and her PhD at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras. While she pursued her PhD, she spent an exciting three years at Vestas India, an organization that explores the uses of and potential for wind power energy; the position allowed her to learn more about the field, but also to examine its policy and regulation. (Not coincidentally, Ratan’s PhD thesis at the Indian Institute of Technology was titled “Power Purchase Agreements in the Wind Energy Sector in India: A Comparative Analysis.”)

But as her interest had refined, so had her career path, and, as it happened, the perfect position found her before she had a chance to start looking.  At a 2007 conference in Singapore, Ratan so impressed Deutsche Bank that they offered her a job shortly after.  “Deutsche Bank is a stalwart in the emissions trading business and was setting up its carbon and Renewable Energy financing portfolio in India and Southeast Asia, which was exactly what I wanted to pursue,” she notes. She’s been working as a Vice-President with Deutsche Bank since November 2007, focusing on renewable energy and emission reduction.

Ratan is happy to have found a position that not only plays to her strengths, but helps her feel as if she is making a difference, too: “The realization that combining my knowledge of economics and my passion for environmental and energy policy could result in tangible outcomes came with a sense of responsibility.”

And what does Ratan’s future hold for her? Education, perhaps. “I am keen to teach at some stage of my career to encourage more people to learn and work in the area of energy and environmental policy. Just as Dr. Shapiro has had such a strong influence on me, I too want to be able to guide those interested in researching and working in this field,” Ratan enthuses.

With luck, she’ll pass on her enjoyment and appreciation of environmental politics to one of her equally eager students, just as it was passed down to her.