Anne Marie Sowder

Student spotlight details

Anne Marie Sowder found the missing piece needed to change the course of her career with the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development.

'Working as a construction manager on commercial projects in New York City was challenging, even exhilarating, but something was missing. At a project interview in 2008 a client asked me to speak on the topic of sustainability and I realized that he and I were the only two people in the room who cared about the subject. My efforts to engage sustainability and urbanism at that time were sporadic and unfocused.

'I originally learned about the MSc through INTBAU, the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture & Urbanism, an organization connected to the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community. Earning another degree was not on my mind at the time, but the University of Oxford’s MSc was exactly what I didn’t yet know that I needed: a degree for professionals, conveniently scheduled, covering topics that allowed me to significantly alter the course of my career. I now teach full-time as an Assistant Professor at the City University of New York, New York City College of Technology.

'In this capacity, I continue research what I began in my dissertation. My interest in institutional drivers for sustainable development led me to study the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which led more generally to an interest in sustainability and sacred sites. Thankfully, this topic is not likely to be exhausted during my professional lifetime!

'I was very grateful for the opportunity to study at Oxford with a talented pool of directors, lecturers, and fellow students. The format allowed for periods of intensive seminars and debates, followed by private reflection on the material, and a critical engagement through writing. This cycle kept us feeling very engaged in the university and college life while we were also working full time.

'Returning to study among other mid-career professionals was a surprising bonus of the MSc. Their knowledge, curiosity, and frustrations made a big impact on me. Each member of our cohort seemed to be seeking a justification or refutation of something from their professional practice. Watching the group evolve over two years of study was a profound experience that changed the way I felt about the importance of community in urbanism.

'I credit the MSc with changing the course of my career for the better and the creation of a new international community of friends and colleagues linked through a common passion - and rather severe jetlag.

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