Keshav Bhattarai – STAR Fellow

Born and raised in a rural area of Balkot (Current Chhatradev Village Palika), Arghakhanachi district of Nepal, Dr. Keshav Bhattarai has contributed to bridging Nepali and US education system.

Bhattarai family comprised of four siblings (three brothers and one sister). The family lived on subsistence farming.  Bhattarai completed High School (10th grade) from Mahendra Vidya Bodh High School, Balkot, Arghakhanachi district of Nepal. He earned Intermediate of Science (I. Sc.), Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.), and Bachelor of Arts (BA) from Tribhuvan University. He also earned Associate of Indian Forest College (AIFC) post-graduate Diploma from Indian Forest College, Dehradun, India, and Masters of Science (M.Sc.) in Natural Resource Management from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K. 

He completed Ph. D. from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, the US in 2000 in Geography. He later joined Eastern Kentucky University as a faculty member, and in 2002, he moved to the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, Missouri. 

His career in academia began as an Associate Instructor at the Department of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana in 1996. He has since taught a variety of courses at Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Central Missouri. Dr. Bhattarai is a member of Nepal Foresters’ Association since 1983 and Association of American Geographers since 2002. A recipient of more than a dozen grants, Dr. Bhattarai has also taken the responsibility of journal article reviewer and book reviewer.

Dr. Bhattarai has been working as a Professor/ Geography at the School of Geoscience, Physics, and Safety Sciences at the University of Central Missouri since 2011. Dr. Bhattarai has also worked as a Short-term Consultant to the World Bank to assess Hydropower potential in Nepal. He has also worked as an Interim Chair, Department of Geography at the University of Central Missouri from 2009 to 2011.  

Dr. Bhattarai bridges between the University of Central Missouri (UCM) and various universities of Nepal.  Nepali universities and UCM have started 2+2 and 3+1 programs with UCM. The 2+2 refers to completing two years of undergraduate studies in Nepal and the remaining 2 years in the US to complete undergraduate studies and vice-versa. The 3+1 program refers to completing three years of education in Nepal and transferring to the US and vice-versa to complete an undergraduate degree.

The Bhattarai’s family also is working to establish Tilak-Jalpa Foundation (in memory to their Late Parents) to provide scholarships to low-income, but high achieving undergraduate students in Nepal. 

Before embarking for his higher studies in the USA, Dr. Bhattarai worked in various capacities under the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation in Nepal from 1983 to 1995. Dr. Bhattarai left the Government job in 1995 due to repeated political illogical impositions on him on the settlements of political cadres on forest areas without any norms and land use planning.

Dr. Bhattarai’s urbanization research reveals that Nepal’s urbanization is moving too quickly without needed planning and infrastructure for the urban dwellers. The unplanned political ad-hoc decision to annex many rural areas into urban definition from 15 percent in 2014 to 65 percent in 2017 has increased vulnerabilities among urban dwellers since Nepal is located in between frequently moving Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. Nepali urbanization has become ruralopolis (political decision to annex rural areas into municipalities). Such ad-hoc urbanization has increased the costs of lands and taxes on low-income people without giving any needed facilities to them. Dr. Bhattarai served as a Fulbright Specialist at the Central Department of Geography (CDG) at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu in the summer of 2018 to facilitate CDG to embark to active participation in urban planning through research.

Dr. Bhattarai is the recipient of Gorkhadakhsin Bahu, the award for civil servant decorated by the King Birendra for outstanding performance in forestry service and administration in 1993. He has also received Mahendra Vidyabhusan for his academic excellence in 2004. Moreover, he is also the recipient of All Round Forest Award by Indian Forest College, Dehradun, India in 1983, International Scholar Award by the University of Central Missouri in 2003 and Chairperson’s award for Outstanding Academic Performance by the Department of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington in 1999.  He has also bagged half a dozen faculty research award for his academic excellence from 2002 to 2017.

He has published a number of academic papers, authored two books, co-authored one book and contributed many book chapters, journal articles, and presented his research at a number of professional meetings.