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MA Environment Society and Development

MA in Environment, Society and Development: Civic Engagement Research and Pedagogy Impacts

Since its inception in 2009, a core element of the MA in Environment, Society and Development programme involves working on the ground in the challenging international development context of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), where students intersect with the work of UN agencies, and a range of NGOs. In a module entitled ‘Field-Based Learning', which takes place annually in BiH, students partner with development practitioners, including especially the United Nations Development Programme, and gain vital experience of civic engagement and synthesizing both theoretical and practical concerns in bringing critical thinking to international development challenges. Each year, students involve a wide variety of community partners in their fieldwork, which they then present at an organised student symposium in Sarajevo, at which all the major development practitioners from the international community are present. This fulfils a vital element of research impact in scaling upwards participatory local knowledges. The programme teaching team has received a number of funding supports and accolades for teaching and learning excellence, including: a Learning and Teaching Innovation Award (2011) to extend the civic engagement element of the MA from NUI Galway's Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching; the NUI Galway President's Award for Teaching Excellence (2011); and the National Academy for Integration in Research, Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL) Award for Excellence in Teaching (2012).

A current exemplar of ongoing commitments to civic engagement research and pedagogy on the MA programme involving local communities participation here in Ireland is the YOLO Project: YOung Peoples' Life Opportunities. Working with community partners (Galway Rural Development) and incorporating a Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) research methodology, the project aims to identify barriers to employment among young people living in County Galway. In listening to the experiences of 18-24 year olds, the aim is to identify informational gaps and the life aspirations of this group. Ultimately, the YOLO pilot project aims to develop an employment opportunities toolkit for use by community development workers in Galway. There are a number of anticipated impacts associated with the project, including:

In terms of sustainability for the project, a central output of the PLA workshops will be the establishment of an ‘employment opportunities toolkit' for future use by community development workers who we hope will be able to build upon the potential operation of the YOLO team's recommendations.

MA Environment, Society and Development

Course Outline

The programme involves engagement with a number of core areas in critical human geography, including issues of geopolitics, development, governance and political ecology. Running through the MA is an overarching aim to impart understanding of how different philosophical and ideological approaches to environment-society relations influence policy formulation and implementation. A core practical element of the programme involves working on the ground in the challenging international development context of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where students intersect with the work of UN agencies, and a range of NGOs. In connecting with the work of UN agencies like the United Nations Development Programme, a key challenge for students involves thinking through the scalar nature of all forms of development, in which initiatives on the ground are framed by broader geopolitical, economic and institutional structures that both enable and hinder development in complex ways.

Career Prospects

The programme will prepare students for a range of workplaces including government departments, non-governmental organizations, planning and environmental management agencies and specialist research and policy institutes. The transferable and problem-solving skills gained from the field-based learning practices embedded in all modules are a particular strength for graduates. Each year, students gain vital experience working on the ground in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a variety of international development practitioners and local community leaders. Since its inception, the programme has had ICOS and other international students from a range of countries, including Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Malawi, Norway, Russia, Sri Lanka, UAE, UK, USA and Vietnam. Many have gone on to work in NGOs and UN agencies and, in addition, to pursue PhD research in leading Geography Departments across the world.

Field-Based Learning Recognised with Prestigious Teaching Awards

A core element of the MA in Environment, Society and Development programme involves students working on the ground in the challenging international development context of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through partnering with a range of NGOs, including especially the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP - see images below), students gain vital experience of civic engagement and of synthesizing both theoretical and practical concerns in bringing critical thinking to international development challenges. The programme director and teaching team have received a number of accolades for teaching and learning excellence, including: a Learning and Teaching Innovation Award to extend the civic engagement element of the MA from NUI Galway's Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching; the NUI Galway President's Award for Teaching Excellence; and the National Academy for Integration in Research, Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL) Award for Excellence in Teaching.