Student spotlight details
Edith found that completing the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development ignited a desire for further research and truly demonstrated that ‘the more you come to know, the more you want to know’.
'I co-own and operate a family business involved in the manufacture and retail of food, operating in Canada, the UK and Jamaica. Our company has its headquarters where it started in a secondary Jamaican town, that has its fair share of the challenges most developing societies face, including issues of housing availability and affordability, employment and an upsurge in crime.
'With an educational background in the behavioural and social sciences, I have worked over the years to include in what we do as a company, community initiatives aimed at behaviour change and building human and social capital. These include programmes that encourage youth leadership, volunteerism and entrepreneurship, promote peace in schools, and offer support to the elderly and infirmed as well educational and sporting activities.
'One initiative that helped to push me towards enrolling in the MSc Sustainable Urban Development is our efforts to assist employees to own a home. This included helping to identify affordable land, helping with designs and purchasing and making available building forms to improve efficiency in the construction process. But these efforts highlighted some of the challenges that the current model for housing provision in this and similar areas presents. With the greatest demand in the lowest income segment, dormitory housing schemes in areas where land is most affordable, often meant longer daily commutes and the associated costs of time and money and increased vulnerability to crime.
'I wanted a deeper understanding, to contribute to solutions that respond closely to local needs. I wanted solutions that draw on the capacity of the built environment to help shape behaviour, giving comparable consideration to the need for affordable shelter, opportunities for income generation and asset building, a sense community and behaviour change.
'Embarking on this course, any reservations I initially held that came from not having a background in a planning, design or development related field, were easily overcome by the multidisciplinary nature of the content, and the strong emphasis placed on the theoretical underpinnings as a basis of understanding. The structure of the course allowed us the flexibility to pursue this as we continued with our other commitments. The weeks in Oxford were intense and equally enriching. Not only did we learn from the distinguished academic community, but we benefited from guest presenters who were leaders in their respective fields, as well as from the wealth of experience our diverse cohort brought. I found great value in presentations from a company in retail that is a global leader in incorporating sustainability practices in their operations, allowing a deeper understanding of how our core business could also be more sustainable.
'I thoroughly enjoyed the dissertation process, where I explored the issues of livelihood along the themes of gender, housing and employment, by looking at cases of women operating home-based economic activities in housing schemes. I was very pleased with the guidance given in this regard, that led me along paths of discovery I never initially thought of taking.
'Having completed the course, I continue to work in our family business with an enriched perspective, incorporating ways to be more sustainable in our core business and community. I have shared the findings of my dissertation with planners at both the national and local level, and am working to rally support to collaborate with planners, builders and community to adjust what is offered. This process has also ignited a desire for further research and has truly demonstrated that the more you come to know, the more you want to know.
'To anyone contemplating taking this course, I would say the rigour involved requires serious commitment, but it is certainly worth the investment of time and resources. The benefits for me surpassed what I originally hoped to accomplish.'