Education in energy and nature
Theresa Schwarz is originally from Germany but has come to the north-east to study her postgraduate degree. JobsinScotland.com finds out about her work in sustainability communications
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN TERMS OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDIES?
I decided to study the undergraduate course BSc energy economics and management at the Wilhelm Buechner University of Applied Science Darmstadt in my home country Germany as an online degree due to my work commitments. It was also the only suitable German distance learning course I discovered at that time which somehow linked to environmental topics. In my country, we also have the opportunity to participate in a professional apprenticeship model: I am a certified Agent in Marketing Communications.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STUDY MSc ENVIRONMENTAL PARTNERSHIP MANAGEMENT?
I was looking for a more practical course that captures current and future needs in the sustainability sector and relates broadly to environmental communications. The environmental partnership management course sounded suitable because partnerships are increasingly crucial. More sectors are interlinked and topics complex, plus resources like funding decreases. Particularly interesting for me was the option to realise a practical project instead of a purely academic dissertation. Projects connect students with real organisations – a great way to learn about real-life situations, directly contribute to an environmental project and get in contact with professionals.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STUDY IT HERE IN ABERDEEN?
I used to work as climate change manager for the carbon footprint awareness initiative “RGU go green” in Aberdeen when I started my postgraduate studies. Therefore, University of Aberdeen was highly convenient as I could cycle from work to my lectures.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB ROLE?
I am assigned to the United Nations development programme (UNDP), specifically as UNV communications specialist for the UN Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (or UN-REDD Programme) in Vietnam.
WHAT DOES THE ROLE INVOLVE?
The UN-REDD programme basically aims to protect forests. Forests store a large amount of carbon and if we protect forests, this carbon stays in the forests instead of being released into our atmosphere – one way of fighting climate change.
However, the programme is highly complex and technical. Communicating technical content in a way that audiences understand it is essential. Therefore, they needed a communications specialist, particularly for the international audience. Here my duties begin: I work closely with the technical staff to explain the programme and tell stories, for example about locals and their experience, challenges and successes.
WHAT INTERESTED YOU ABOUT THE ROLE?
I have always been fascinated by nature, and I grew up right next to a forest in Germany. Therefore, I specialised in sustainability communications, working for bodies like the environmental peace non-governmental organisation EcoPeace in the Middle East. During my time in the region, I also volunteered as co-manager for the Jordanian Al Numeira environmental association and realised how exciting it is to collaborate with others from different cultures to raise awareness about the significance of nature. Particularly because an increasing number of people do not seem to see. Nature is all around us, not just a nice addition to a short Sunday park visit.
Storms and floods, which also the United Kingdom experiences more often – they are all part of nature’s power. The good news – I am convinced everybody can help protecting the environment. Small steps make the difference – like reusing clothes and recycling electronic devices, and buying goods from a local organic farmer instead of an international supermarket.
DID THE DEGREE PROGRAMME HELP YOU IN SECURING THIS ROLE?
The degree programme definitely contributed to it as the sustainable development goals, a UN initiative, mention environmental topics and partnerships. Most likely my degree’s partnership project with the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) added to it because the UN closely works with governments. During my studying time, I also volunteered to start an environmental partnership between the UK and the Asia Pacific region.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO DO WITH YOUR LONG-TERM CAREER?
I would still like to communicate sustainability issues, using my knowledge and network for my ongoing volunteering roles for bodies such as the Commission on Education and Communication of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).