Q&A with Chris Boylan

Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Marine Affairs?

I decided to pursue a graduate degree chasing the idea that reconnecting coastal communities to their green and blue spaces would lead to a higher quality of life in those regions as well as generate more preparedness as those communities begin to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Why did you decide to come to UW’s SMEA for graduate school?

With my goal in mind, I decided to come to SMEA because of its interdisciplinary approach to policy making.

Four people stand flanking a digital display, two on either side. The screen reads United Nations Climate Action Summit Meeting of Climate and Ocean Leaders.
Photo provided.
Chris and other SMEA community members participate in local and global meetings and conferences.

Are you doing a thesis or capstone project? 

I went the capstone route. Working with a real-life client on a collaborative, real world problem was another one of the reasons that I picked SMEA. For my capstone I worked with the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification to create a toolkit of best practices for taking policy action on ocean acidification.

What has been your favorite class at UW so far? Why?

My favorite class at UW was in the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance: PUBPOL 559 – Advanced Performance Management: Quadruple Bottom Line Lab. The class explored how governments, universities, or even coffee shops can measure their success not just in terms of profit, but also in the areas of people, planet, and culture. It was really useful thinking for anyone interested in sustainability. My biggest takeaway from this class that I applied to my capstone project was the idea that we need to embrace and acknowledge all options when it comes to sustainability and climate policy design, because they are really hard problems that no one person is an expert at solving. 

SMEA student Chris Boylan wearing a blue button up shirt, black shorts, sandals, and carrying a canvas bag over his shoulder stands on a walkway near a large body of water.
Photo provided.
Chris was drawn to SMEA given its emphasis on policy development with an interdisciplinary lens.

What do you like most about SMEA? 

My favorite part of SMEA is the people. We are all passionate about the natural world (be it wet or green), and we all have different approaches to preserving, restoring, or adapting it. Also, because students are encouraged to explore their interests within and outside of SMEA, there is a lot of freedom for you to mold your degree into something that best represents your interests.  

What’s it like to live in Seattle? What do you do in your spare time?

SMEA student Chris Boylan stands in a gray sweatshirt and black biking shorts wearing a bike helmet. He stands in front of an interpretive sign with two red bicycles, one on either side of him. There's a body of water in the distance.
Photo provided.
When the weather improves, Chris can be found riding to bike-friendly breweries in Seattle.

Coming from Chicago, I figured winters in Seattle would be a breeze. I was wrong. The temperature might be warmer, but I was unprepared for the sun to fully disappear for 6 months. Get a SAD lamp! When the sun’s out, though, the city comes alive unlike any other. Against advice from my local peers, you can find me riding my fixed gear bike along one of Seattle’s numerous bike trails (probably on my way to Peddler Brewing in Ballard).

If you could design your ultimate job after graduating, what would it be and why?

I want to work for a local government, if not in Seattle, somewhere else coastal (even landlocked states like Illinois have a Coastal Management Plan!). I think there is more room for creativity in local political spheres than at the federal level. Also, I’m a big fan of a bubble-up process where local leaders tell higher-ups what’s important to them instead of vice versa. 

What is your favorite form of marine life, and why?

I like horseshoe crabs a lot. They look like bugs from Mars.