A Yapese who recently graduated with her MA in Environmental Studies was one of the top academic students who represented Sophia University’s Graduate School of Environmental Studies at the recent main graduation ceremonies in Tokyo. Darla Yatilman, whose family is Yapese but was raised on Pohnpei, also had the second highest grade point average of all 2022 graduates of the Graduate School of Environmental Studies.
Yatilman is one of three students from the Micronesia region who are studying at Sophia’s Graduate School of Environmental Studies. They are recipients of scholarships funded by Sophia University, the Association for the Promotion of International Cooperation (APIC), a private foundation based in Tokyo; and, the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), with additional support from MCT’s Bill Raynor Micronesia Challenge Scholarship Fund. Seven Micronesians have been recipients of this competitive scholarship.
“It has been quite the journey,” noted Prof. Anne MacDonald, a senior Sophia University faculty member who worked closely with Yatilman and other Micronesians on the graduate school scholarship program. “I am so impressed with your commitment to higher learning, tenacity amidst all kinds of adversity – COVID-19, not being able to get to Japan, among other challenges – and your constant smile and positive spirit.”
Yatilman’s research centered on Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Pohnpei. Together with her host institution, the Conservation Society of Pohnpei, she collected data on fishing, agriculture, and agroforestry activities to understand current practices and how a Ridge to Reef Approach might enhance the planning and management of these MPAs in the future.
Darla is the daughter of Andrew Yatilman, FSM Secretary of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Emergency Management, and Gerethy Yatilman, originally from Yap and now living in Pohnpei. She graduated from Xavier High School in Chuuk, FSM, and earned an undergraduate degree from Wheeling Jesuit University in the United States.
Darla has returned to Pohnpei and will be working as a fellow with the Conservation Society of Pohnpei, for at least a year. The fellowship program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Interior, is an initiative by MCT and its partners to help bring back young conservation graduates/champions to Micronesia. These fellowships are offered to allow the host institution time to find ways to permanently fund the graduate students when they complete their studies. It is MCT’s hope that Darla, with her gained knowledge and expertise, will help the Conservation Society of Pohnpei with its work to improve Pohnpei’s protected areas network.