In 2009, Shalanda Baker, a newly appointed Northeastern University professor with expertise in the interplay between global energy transition, climate change, and indigenous rights left her job as a project finance lawyer at a big global law firm and booked a one-way ticket to Latin America. Baker recalls, “Witnessing the massive bailout of the financial sector had not only left me disillusioned about the stability of our global economic system but also intrigued about the ways that law can be used to create sustainable outcomes for the planet.”
She hoped to work for a human rights organisation but ended up encountering indigenous farmers who were fighting against the proliferation of wind energy development in Oaxaca, Mexico. As she explained, “I was immediately drawn into this surprising conflict that pitted clean energy development against human rights.” The experience shaped her career path. She holds joint appointments in the School of Law and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and plans to work closely with Northeastern Global Resilience Institute and the law school’s new Center for Law, Innovation, and Creativity.
Baker quoted, “When I got the call to throw my hat in the ring, I was excited by the direction Northeastern was heading. The Global Resilience Institute was a big draw for me and my work lines up with what the institute is trying to accomplish.” Baker’s most recent work is a case in point. As the founding director of Hawaii’s Energy Justice Program, she worked with community stakeholders to design democratic approaches to energy development, law, and policy in anticipation of the state’s transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. In 2016, she moved to Mexico on a Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholarship to explore the complexity of the nation’s fast-moving energy reform and how the country’s indigenous people factored into the plan.
Noting that she cannot wait to return to the classroom, Baker praised Northeastern students for their curiosity and work ethic. She claims that “They’re incredibly engaged. They’re curious about my work and want to make an impact on the world.”