An education in the social sciences will impart a broad range of skills that easily translate into a multitude of careers.
Specific career examples from alumni of the Human Geography programme:
An education in the social sciences will impart a broad range of skills that easily translate into a multitude of careers. Below you can read about the career paths of an alumna in the MSc Human Geography.
My name is Gina Lovett and I am from Dublin. After a meandering journey, I realised that environment was where I wanted, needed, to put my energy. During this time, my desire to learn more about environmental issues became harder to dismiss, and after 17 years in London, I moved to Amsterdam to start Environmental Geography at UvA.
Before moving to London, I lived in Dublin until I was 19. My background is quite diverse, I did a BA in Cultural Studies at the London College of Fashion, part of University of the Arts London. After that I trained as a journalist, subsequently working for design, fashion, marketing and new media magazines. It was during this time that I inadvertently became interested in sustainability. I was increasingly encountering start-up businesses and leftfield thinkers creating initiatives and services through co-design, social innovation and social entrepreneurship. This was a catalyst for me thinking more critically about the consumption-production paradigm that so many magazines – and their associated industries – are tied to.
After a meandering journey, I realised that the environment, rather than fashion or new media journalism, was where I wanted, needed, to put my energy. I began work at the Royal College of Art in London, in a tiny department set up to tutor design students, providing a non-formal but vital aspect to their education around social and environmental issues. A lot of people find it difficult to make the connection but design is a huge part of the consumption-production paradigm driving environmental change. It’s important designers, architects and makers are aware of the consequences and possibilities of their work. During this time, my desire to learn more about environmental issues became harder to dismiss, and after 17 years in London, I moved to Amsterdam to start Environmental Geography at UvA.
As I was in my mid-thirties, I was on the more mature end of the age scale of this Master's programme – the average age tends to be around 25. Students come from all over the world and there is a diversity of backgrounds, which enriches the learning process. You learn from each other. It was the Environmental Geography Master programme’s unique focus that caught my attention when looking for programmes. Most environmental geography courses sit within earth science, while environmental governance tends to sit within political science. A social science context, however, is crucial to understanding the largely ignored role of paradigms, framing, values and norms in shaping environmental issues.
The content of the Environmental Geography programme is particularly fresh and relevant. For example, the UN COP21 was taking place in Paris as we did the environmental governance module. We could see the application of all our learning about the global climate regime in the major political debates and academic discourses surrounding the negotiations. The vibrant and relevant content is, of course, down to the programme’s world-class academic staff. You will not learn from anyone more dynamic, knowledgeable or dedicated than Professor Joyeeta Gupta and Dr Eric Chu. Their combination of real-life professional insight and pioneering environmental research expertise makes for a very intellectually stimulating experience. Their expectation of students is particularly high, and this manifests in both unwaivering support – and critical honesty. Geography, as a discipline, often has a reputation for being too broad and general. Most people have difficulty in describing what a geographer actually does. I would argue that geography is perhaps one of the best approaches to studying the complexity of environmental issues and their governance possibilities. With emphasis on interaction, interconnectivity, scale, place and spatial relationships, geography is well placed to explore modes of governance – adaptive, interactive, hybrid – or to assess local-to-global, “glocal”, challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and land-use change.
What makes Environmental Geography unique is that it also demands understanding of the interactions between geography sub-disciplines such as economics, politics and urban studies. It’s not enough to know ecosystem related challenges. Economic and political theories – collective action, common pool resources, free riders, institutions and path-dependency, for example – are synthesised to understand the relationship between development and environment, or the role of policy and institutions in determining access to natural resources.The programme has a strong academic focus and prepares students in everything from learning how to identify gaps in knowledge to applying knowledge and theory. For me, it has so far been hugely valuable in developing my critical thinking. I am more confident in my ability to critically analyse problem-framing and policy options, as well as the discourses and goals of environmental governance from sustainable development and green economy to ecological modernisation and inclusive development.
My tip for future students would be to aim to really bring your studies to life. When you look around, you can see the everyday application of what you learn. Be prepared to work hard. The best learning experience is not comfortable, nor easy. This is a programme that demands students be ultra-organised and dedicated. It’s extremely demanding and intensive but this is what makes it so rewarding.
Gina Lovett is currently working as Head of Advocacy and Communications at Wetlands International, the only global not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands.
To support you in your career goals, the University offers a variety of resources:
Twice a year the GSSS hosts a Career Event, where you can meet organisation representatives and alumni, and receive helpful tips and feedback about searching for a job as a graduate.
The career advisers at the UvA Student Careers Centre can help students with information, workshops and individual vocational counselling to find out what you want, get insight into your capabilities and competencies, make choices and improve your application skills in order to achieve your goals.
With an increasing number of international students each year, the UvA is truly an international university. UvA graduates from all over the world find their way to interesting careers, whether in the Netherlands or abroad. The Student Careers Centre is specialised in advising international (non-Dutch) UvA graduates about job seeking in the international labour market.