“The abstract of my experience is to find the optimal level that you can have an impact,” said Arman Golrokhian, a third-year dual degree graduate student in the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ford School of Public Policy. “At the city level, that’s what I found to be the scale for me. When I work for a city, I can see my contributions.”
Golrokhian attended Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, majoring in mechanical engineering. Initially, he worked in the oil and gas industry in Iran. But after learning about global warming and the effects of non-renewable energy, he decided to work in energy efficiency.
“I started working on projects in energy efficiency, and I learned that the problem is much larger than technical issues. I got interested in the social and economic aspects,” Golrokhian explained. “There’s not much good interdisciplinary education in Iran, so I applied to universities and got into Michigan. I started in SNRE, and then I shifted even more from my technical background when I applied to the Ford School of Public Policy.”
Golrokhian expressed that, even though Ann Arbor is colder than he would like, the University of Michigan has satisfied all his expectations for a professional program.
“I had a really good time here at Michigan. U of M is a great place to be,” Golrokhian said. “One of the things that I love about Michigan is that there are so many opportunities here at the University. Basically, when you know what you want, all these forces help you get what you want.”
Golrokhian wanted to work with the U.N. and was able to utilize the vast alumni network of the University of Michigan to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference.
“In the past three years, I’ve been to the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] conference. I was in Paris when the historic agreement was made,” Golrokhian said. “Just a couple of months ago, I was in Morocco for the most recent round of negotiations. I’ve been very interested in following the negotiations, and seeing what’s happening at the international level.”
Golrokhian listed some of the courses that he’s taken at Michigan. He felt that the best courses were the ones that directly impacted his career path and his analytical skills.
“One of my favorite courses was a negotiations class with Professors Steve Yaffee and Julia Wondolleck, in SNRE,” Golrokhian said. “It gave me a good understanding of analyzing negotiations in a systematic way. To know what’s happening before, during and after negotiations. That class equipped me with the kinds of tools I needed in the UN [United Nations] meetings I’ve gone to.”
In his local work, Golrokhian served as a Climate Corps Fellow for the Environmental Defense Fund in New York City. He was responsible for designing a framework for the energy planning of the city.
“New York has set a target to reduce emissions by 90 percent, by 2050. When I got there, I started looking into the data." He discovered that the city was not on target, and created a model for the city to track the data and provide information about trends and energy use problems in city buildings. “That was a great experience, using my technical background to do the modeling and analysis, and using my public policy background to understand stakeholders, while also understanding sustainability problems and their importance.”
As is the case with many upcoming graduates, Golrokhian is not entirely sure where his career will take him. He would like to work with the World Bank or the United Nations, but is unsure if his Visa will allow him to travel as extensively as those jobs would require.
“As an Iranian, it’s a little more difficult for me to have a clear vision of what I want to do,” Golrokhian said. “Right now, because of issues with my Visa, I’m planning to work with consulting or private companies. I’m open to anything where I can feel the impact. Having an impact is my main criteria. I want to be doing something meaningful.”