Whitney Banyai-Becker

Whitney, an international student from the USA, completed her master’s degree in International Development: Development Management in 2018. She started her PhD in GDI in 2019.

On choosing my master's degree

Whitney Banyai-Becker

Before the MSc, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda. I was teaching English at a rural secondary school and partaking in different community development projects as well. So this past year has been full of transitions.

Compared to all the courses I looked at, this seemed like the best fit for my goals and had the balance of theoretical and practical skills I was looking for. I also found the university to be more student-support oriented than others and that was definitely important to me as an international student.

On my course

So far, my highlight has been a series of lectures given by two guest-lecturers that visited us from Kenya, from the organisation Shack/Slum Dwellers International. It was incredibly rewarding for our learning to be supplemented by their lectures.

It was much more exciting and engaging to be able to learn from face-to-face conversations with them, as opposed to reading about their experiences in articles.

On supporting GDI’s research programme

Between my Masters course and starting my PhD, I supported GDI’s research program in a couple of different ways. I was a research assistant for two different projects: one on the UK Development NGO Sector, led by Nicola Banks and Dan Brockington, and another project studying political settlements in about 45 different countries, led by Tim Kelsall and Nicolai Schulz housed in ESID (Effective States and Inclusive Development).  My work with ESID expanded and I worked for them from March to August leading into the start of my PhD program.

On my PhD

For my PhD program, I am studying the interaction of urban social movements and gender. I’m interested in learning about how women’s participation in urban social movements might impact or change the movement itself. Further, I want to explore how this process impacts gender relations, if at all, and to what extent more inclusive processes result in more inclusive development outcomes.  

On my awards

I was awarded the School of Environment, Education and Development Postgraduate Research Scholarship, as well as the President’s Doctoral Scholar Award. Very thankfully, these cover my international student fees and also provide a living allowance. It is an amazing, humbling opportunity to be able to further my studies in this way, without worrying about the cost or potential financial insecurity. Let’s hope I can live up to the expectations!

On Manchester and moving abroad

It’s very international! The city of Manchester and my program are so diverse. It has been amazing to get to know people from so many different places around the world.

I’ve really enjoyed living in a city with all the perks of great restaurants, bars and shops to explore, but still feeling like it is small enough to navigate and not too overwhelming.

For future students, I’d say to take advantage of all the support offered by the University. However, daunting the visa process, moving process, etc. I have always found their guidance to be informative and helpful. Similarly, people have always been more than happy to answer my random questions!