Professor Joshua Thoms’ recent publication was selected for this year’s Kenneth W. Mildenberger honorable mention by the Modern Language Association (MLA).
CHaSS Doctoral Student Spotlight: Mufti Nadimul Quamar Ahmed
USU graduate student Mufti Nadimul Quamar Ahmed.
By Andrea DeHaan
Mufti Nadimul Quamar Ahmed is a graduate student in his second year, pursuing a doctorate in sociology at USU.
Originally from Bangladesh, Ahmed began working on fertility issues during his master’s degree. He then brought this interest to the United States and, more specifically, to the graduate program at Utah State.
As part of his work with Associate Professor Jennifer Givens, Ahmed proposed including an additional survey question about fertility choices in the Utah People and Environment Poll (UPEP). Givens said that while she and Ahmed were both interested in migration as an adaptation, it was Ahmed who sparked her interest in how climate change affects fertility decisions.
Recent data indicates that Utahns do make family planning decisions based on environmental considerations. Namely, close to half of those surveyed (49%) indicated that environmental conditions “affect Utahns’ thinking about having children,” and 16% indicated that the environment factors “a lot” into the decision to have more children or simply to have children in the first place.
Environmental considerations were included alongside other factors like financial circumstances and personal preference. Ahmed says the research may help Utahns and their legislators have a better understanding of how present environmental concerns are beginning to impact family planning decisions and may help predict population trends moving forward.
“The UPEP has been invaluable in providing opportunities for graduate students to gain experience collecting and analyzing high-quality data,” said Givens. She hopes that UPEP-related projects will continue to inform “both scholarly research and local decision-making.”
Upon finishing his master’s in Bangladesh, Ahmed wanted to continue studying environmental sociology — the relationship between humans and the environment. While researching graduate programs, he was impressed to read about the work undertaken by Givens, whom he now considers among his greatest mentors.
“A good mentor is like a candle who can light the way for others,” said Ahmed, who has been fortunate to have research role models both at home — he specifically noted his appreciation for Professor Shah Md. Atiqul Haq at the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology — and in Utah.
“Professor Givens is so supportive…so understanding and inspiring,” he said. In fact, Ahmed credits sociology faculty like Givens, Jessica Schad, and Erin Hofmann with making it easy to continue his studies at USU.
Ahmed’s dissertation area is focused on how fertility and migration are potentially impacted by climate adaptation, so USU’s UPEP project has been a good fit for his research interests.
In some parts of the world, Ahmed said, impending climate crises actually seem to result in larger families, especially in cultures where having more children is seen as advantageous — more children mean more family members available to help relocate when the time comes. In Utah, however, concerns over air quality and the degradation of the Great Salt Lake may result in people choosing to have fewer children or not having children at all.
“We know that culture and religion are very important in Utah,” Ahmed said. “But it was very interesting [to] find that almost 49% [of those surveyed] are thinking about environmental conditions when they decide to have children.”
Ahmed is working on related projects that will look at the correlation between the environment and vulnerabilities in the face of natural disasters and hopes that this kind of research will help lawmakers and citizens determine what to prioritize for the well-being of Utahns. He says UPEP is just the beginning of his journey to better understand how fertility and the environment broadly matter to Utahns and beyond.
In addition to this latest research brief, Ahmed is partnering with sociology faculty on several projects. These include a research paper focused on the nexus between climate change and migration in South Asian countries as well as a book chapter about climate adaptation among African farmers. His work continues to receive attention from local and statewide entities.
“Working with graduate students is my favorite part,” said Givens. “I'm grateful to now have the opportunity to give back to the next generation of scholars working on important issues like climate change and adaptation.”