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Women’s History Month Feature: María Fernanda Enríquez Szentkirályi

Continuing the celebration of Women’s History Month with María Fernanda Enríquez Szentkirályi! Enríquez Szentkirályi joined IBS in February 2023 as a senior program manager for the Environment and Society Program. Prior to IBS, she worked in the environmental sector with international organizations in the U.S. and Ecuador. Enríquez Szentkirályi has a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Connecticut and has focused on environmental social movements and indigenous peoples research.


What do you like most about your position at IBS?

Enríquez Szentkirályi: Overall, being part of an institution with a clear mission that produces research with tangible benefits for society is what I appreciate most about IBS. Specifically, from the different aspects of research administration, the pre-award work is one of the most enjoyable. It’s both inspiring and challenging to support research that is being built from the start. For instance, last month we submitted a proposal that will investigate the role of women in wildlife conservation practices in Africa and South Asia (Tanzania, Namibia, and India). This proposal had many aspects to be considered, from the permits to do research in the area, to the on-site consultants who will support the research and translation. Building a budget for this project with the PI (Mara Goldman) was like building a puzzle with many small pieces that need to fit together to have a final product.

What has been the most impactful IBS research you’ve learned about?

Enríquez Szentkirályi: It’s difficult to identify a single specific research topic that is impactful. IBS consistently helps to produce meaningful research, with tangible benefits to society. For instance, the Environment and Society Program researchers focus on issues of artificial intelligence for the management of disasters that directly impact communities in Colorado and beyond. Other researchers investigate ways to help communities adapt to the threats of wildfires–investigating the risks in particular communities and exploring educational tools to adapt to the risks.  Some E&S researchers also focus on the international landscape. This is the case of the GCF Task Force, which works with local governments of 43 states across various countries in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Europe to protect forested areas. Still others investigate inequality using archeological data. While this is only a sample of current E&S research, the IBS Speaker Series has demonstrated the diversity and richness of the different research projects across other programs and centers.

What’s one thing you hope never changes about IBS?

Enríquez Szentkirályi: Definitely the colleagues at IBS: the IBS group–both researchers and administrators–are very committed to producing high-quality work.  There is also a lot of support and collaboration. It might not be visible to everyone, but administrators share their knowledge in Teams channels and consistently support each other.  And that helps immensely when you need to figure out creative solutions for research administration problems.

What are you up to outside of IBS?

Enríquez Szentkirályi: I am always walking with my dog and family in the Louisville trails, or I am reading books. I just finished The Maniac by Benjamin Labatut. It is about history, fiction, physics, computers, and artificial intelligence.