MSc International Development: Environment and Development
Dr Stacy-ann Robinson is a Manchester alumna who completed a Masters degree in International Development: Environment and Development in the Institute for Development and Policy Management (now GDI) in 2010. She was a 2009 Chevening Scholar from Jamaica. Her Masters thesis, which was supervised by Dr Admos Chimhowu, compared and contrasted the ex ante infrastructure project appraisal practices of the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme. Since Manchester, Stacy-ann has gone on to work in protected areas management and environmental consulting in the Caribbean. She recently completed a PhD in Global Environmental Change at The Australian National University and in 2016, was awarded the prestigious Fox-Zucker Fellowship at Yale University in the United States, which allowed her to research climate resilience and transformation in the Caribbean. Stacy-ann is currently a Voss Postdoctoral Research Associate in Environment and Society at Brown University, also in the United States. At Brown, her research continues to focus on climate change adaptation in small island developing states. She has published in journals such as Environmental Science and Policy, Regional Environmental Change, and Climate and Development, and presents at conferences all across the world, including most recently at the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
Stacy reflected on her experiences as a Masters student and how they have helped her realise her achievements to date.
Why did you choose to study at The University of Manchester?
I remember having a hard time choosing the university at which I would study. As a Chevening Scholar, I had the privilege of choosing from among the universities into which I had gotten accepted.. I preferred the scope of the degree that Manchester offered – it was broad enough to allow me to explore my interests across the discipline while allowing me to specalise in a field that I am absolutely passionate about. It also helped that Manchester has a sterling reputation in the Caribbean. Aside from housing one of the world’s highest-ranked Development institutes, it is where one of the region’s most influential economists – Sir Arthur Lewis – developed some of his most important work. In the end, however, the deciding factor for me was the level of post-offer support I received from the administrators in the School of Environment and Development. They responded to each and every enquiry promptly. I saw my interactions with them as an early indication of how I would be treated as a student and I wanted to go where students are supported.
How has your master’s qualification helped you in your career?
My Manchester qualification has been an incredible career booster. The fact that it was earned in-person at one of the world’s top universities has opened many doors for me to pursue a rewarding career. Just a few weeks after returning home to Jamaica, I was offered a full-time position with an industry-leading, regional environmental consulting firm. I was immediately able to apply the knowledge I had gained in my Manchester courses. ‘Planning and Managing Development’ and ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ are two courses that easily come to mind. Since then, I have gone on to work in protected areas management, policy development and management, and now in academia, for which my Manchester degree has equipped me with the depth of knowledge and skills I need in order to be successful.
What is your best memory from your time at Manchester?
While at Manchester, I remember feeling overwhelmed at a few points because the program was intellectually and academically demanding. In a meeting with the Professor who later became my thesis adviser, while sympathising, he said, “It’s not about whether or not you get knocked down. It’s not so much about whether you get up, though you must. It’s about how you get up and how quickly you do it”. The Professor’s words, which have stuck with me, helped shaped the way I view setbacks – as setups for comebacks. This conversation is one of the best memories from my time at Manchester because it solidified the very reason I chose Manchester – the holistic way in which students are supported.
What did you enjoy most about studying at Manchester?
At Manchester, I felt as though I had personalised academic support. The Professors were approachable and willing to meet outside of class hours to ensure that the material was understood in the way that it should. Now, I take the same student-centred approach to mentoring my own students. Outside of my studies, I enjoyed participating in the many extracurricular activities. For example, cultural evenings at the International Society, grabbing coffee with classmates, near the Old Quadrangle, and the best plain homemade flapjacks in all of Manchester! I also made lifelong friends at Manchester. Although we’re usually continents apart, we make the time to email or Skype regularly in order to check in to see how each other is doing. These relationships have been invaluable to me.
Do you have any tips or advice for current or prospective students?
In reflecting on my time at Manchester, for me it was equally about the process (reading for a Master’s degree; living in Manchester, forming lifelong friendships etc.) as it was about the outcome (successfully earning the degree). I can say with all certainty that Manchester tested my mettle and my experience helped to prepare me to take on any challenge that academia or life brings. Being self-motivated, independent, organised, and having a positive attitude are just some of the qualities and skills that I sharpened while at Manchester. So my advice to current students would be, “Roll with the punches. It will pay off tenfold in the end”. And to prospective students, “If you want a better version of yourself, whether professionally and/or personally, choose Manchester!”