LBJ School PhD candidate is leveraging sustainable energy policy for global development

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May 7, 2024
PhD candidate Vivek Shastry posing in front of the LBJ sign.

The Movers & Change-Makers series highlights some of the upcoming graduates of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs who are set to make an impact in both their policy areas and communities. These leaders exemplify The University of Texas at Austin's core values of learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity and responsibility, gaining the Know-how to change the world through their studies at the LBJ School.   

A profile photo of PhD candidate Vivek Shastry

Vivek Shastry is a PhD candidate whose journey is marked by a profound commitment to leveraging energy policy for international development. Hailing from Bangalore, India, Shastry’s path to the forefront of sustainable energy advocacy is characterized by a blend of academic excellence, grassroots engagement, and a relentless drive to affect positive change in marginalized communities.  

Shastry returned to India after completing his dual master’s degree at the UT Austin School of Architecture in Sustainable Design and Community and Regional Planning. He began working with SELCO Foundation, a Bangalore-based clean energy non-profit, for three years at the intersection of energy and development. This firsthand understanding of the challenges and opportunities at the local level inspired Shastry to bridge the gap between academic discourse and practical solutions through a Ph.D. program at the LBJ School.  

Vivek Shastry and LBJ School Dean JR DeShazo mark the start of the school year at the school’s annual Welcome Back Party on the Plaza.
Vivek Shastry and LBJ School Dean JR DeShazo mark the start of the school year at the school’s annual Welcome Back Party on the Plaza.

Shastry’s passion for public affairs is rooted in his personal experiences and observations of the transformative power of sustainable energy.  

“I am passionate about facilitating development and well-being through sustainable energy. As I travel around rural regions in many countries, the most basic community needs, such as access to primary healthcare, quality education and stable employment, all get affected by a lack of access to reliable electricity,” Shastry said. “By enabling these services through clean energy, there is an opportunity to rapidly facilitate a better quality of life for these communities while achieving the much-desired carbon emission reductions as an added benefit.” 

In addition to his academic pursuits, Shastry is actively engaged in public service and community activism. As a core member of the PhD Advisory Board and student representative on the internal review committee at the LBJ School, he works tirelessly to amplify the voices of his peers and enhance the academic experience for incoming students.  

Vivek Shastry presents at the LBJ School’s inaugural PhD Policy Research workshop.
Vivek Shastry presents at the LBJ School’s inaugural PhD Policy Research workshop.

Looking ahead, Shastry’s aspirations extend beyond academia. He envisions a career dedicated to transformative initiatives that uplift historically disadvantaged communities. He currently serves as a Senior Research Associate at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and leads initiatives such as the North x South Series, a platform for knowledge exchange on energy topics among countries in the global north and global south. He also leads a project mapping productive uses of renewable energy in refugee camps in northern Kenya. “I aspire to develop and lead transformative initiatives that bring about tangible, sustainable development to historically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities globally.” 

Shastry’s academic achievements have been recognized through prestigious fellowships such as the J.J. Pickle Doctoral Fellowship and the University Graduate Continuing Fellowship. These accolades and his unwavering dedication to making a difference position him as a driving force in energy policy and international development. As Shastry prepares to graduate, he is poised to leave an indelible mark on the world stage, embodying the ethos of leadership and responsibility instilled by his alma mater. 

For more information on the Ph.D. in Public Policy, visit our degree programs page.


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