For the third of our interviews we’ve tracked down Benedict Dempsey who, since graduating from the postgraduate course, has published a report on the East Africa food crisis for Save the Children. In May he will commence employment as Senior Humanitarian Affairs Adviser for Save the Children. We asked him to share his experiences on studying for the MA Science, Society and Development. (The other two interviews are here: interview #1 / interview #2.)
Q: What was your professional background before coming on the course?
A: I worked in humanitarian policy for Save the Children, which is where I’ve returned after my MA. Before that, I worked in Save the Children’s media team, and prior to that I worked in television for seven years, making science documentaries for the BBC.
Q: What prompted you to apply for the course?
A: I had always wanted to do an MA and having moved out of media into policy it was the right time to do it. The MA in Science, Society and Development provided the perfect mix of my interests – combining my undergraduate degree in anthropology, my experience of science media and my NGO policy work.
Q: What do you feel you got out of the MA?
A: The course has built on my existing knowledge with a lot of material that is directly relevant to humanitarian policy. It has provided an academic underpinning for some of the practical knowledge I had already. It’s also opened up a range of other areas where I hope I will work in future, for example the relationship between development and conservation, and natural resource management. Overall, it was also simply an extremely enjoyable and fulfilling year.
There was high quality and varied teaching from people at the top of their field, and I was able to choose to specialise in the areas that interested me most.
I’m most proud of my dissertation, which was about the relationship between tobacco farming and chimpanzee conservation in Budongo Forest, Uganda, and for which I conducted three weeks’ field research.
The course has helped me to gain my new employment as Senior Humanitarian Affairs Adviser.
Q: What were the other students like?
A: A very diverse and fascinating group of people, most of whom had considerable experience of working in development. The fact that the vast majority of students are not from the UK is a big advantage.
Q: What are you up to now that you wouldn’t be without the course?
A: I’m back as Humanitarian Advocacy Adviser at Save the Children. I hope that in future I’ll work in areas related to conservation, which wouldn’t have been an option without the course.
Q: Do you think you’ll go on to further study now that you have an MA?
A: I would very much like to go on to do a PhD/DPhil at IDS.