St Cross Alumna Becomes Assistant Professor at George Mason University

St Cross alumna Dr Laura Aileen Sauls has become an Assistant Professor in Global Affairs at George Mason University in Virginia, USA.  

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Dr Sauls’ research focuses on examining how resource-governing institutions transform in the context of global climate change as well as political and economic shifts. She works with Indigenous and forest-based community organizations in Central America and Mexico to understand what just and sustainable resource governance might look like from the grassroots perspective. She also teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels on international development, environmental justice, and climate change policy. 

Dr Sauls attended St Cross College from 2007 to 2009, while completing an MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Oxford.  

She recalls her time at the College as greatly beneficial in her academic career, largely because it was when she first met people actively pursuing their doctoral degrees. Although she had met many professors during her undergraduate experience, she didn’t know anyone her own age undertaking a doctorate – until arriving at St Cross, where many of the people around her were starting their DPhil journeys. 

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“Watching these friends go through the process provided me with important insights for thinking about the type of commitment and clarity it would take to undertake a doctoral programme as well as the steps I would need to take to complete the degree,” Dr Sauls said. 

“While I worked for several years between my MPhil and PhD, having these friends who had already advanced through their doctoral programmes and could provide guidance and support was both inspiring and reassuring as I decided to go back to graduate school.”  

In addition to appreciating the summer research support from the College, which enabled her to complete her MPhil work, Dr Sauls fondly recalls the time she spent – and people she spent it with – at St Cross. Dr Sauls, who returned to the College this summer for the first time in nearly a decade to visit the “very impressive” library that has been built since she left, is grateful for how that two-year period helped her personal development.  

So many of my best memories from St Cross come from hanging out in the bar – not necessarily because we were drinking! But because that was where we gathered for everything, from following the historic 2008 U.S. election results, to watching Eurovision, to observing a range of international holidays with potluck dinners, to celebrating boat club successes.

This space – along with the library, where I was the Library Assistant for a year and wrote most of my MPhil dissertation – were truly comfortable places where I made great friends and grew into myself. 

“In many ways, St Cross was the ideal place for me,” Dr Sauls said. “The graduate-only student community, single common room, and inclusive nature of the College allowed me to make friendships that I’ve maintained to this day, find peer mentors, and grow intellectually and personally as a young adult.”