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Case Study: Rebecca

Personal details
Degree:MA Sustainable Development (Corporate Social Responsibility Pathway) Profile picture
School(s): School of Geography and Geosciences
Year of Graduation:Jun-2010
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: University of St Andrews
Job title: Transition Project Officer
Occupational Sector: Environmental Work
What has been your route to getting your current position?
While I was at University, and particularly in 4th year, I became very involved with practical sustainability projects at the University. In 4th year I co-founded both St AndRe-Use and Transition, and helped to write the first bid to the Climate Challenge Fund for Transition. Although that bid was unsuccessful it formed the basis for the current bid, which was submitted around a year later, and under which I am now employed. In the year between graduation and being employed by Transition I was at Emory University in the USA on a Bobby Jones Scholarship. I spent that year studying and working on sustainability action on campus there, including being a key driver of the establishment of the university’s first Climate Action Plan, which I think helped my application to my current job. I was interviewed while in the USA and returned to the UK to start my job in June 2011.
What does your job involve ?
I have sole responsibility for three Transition projects – St AndRe-Use, SkillShare and Local Holidaying – and also lead the Carbon Conversations project. Each project engages with students and staff in a different way, but all act to make the University a less impactful and more resilient place. I organise events, facilitate meetings and discussions, write website content, prepare print media, engage with students and staff to discuss their concerns, and monitor the impacts of all my projects to report to our funders.
What are the best bits of your job ?
I enjoy engaging with students and staff during Carbon Conversations sessions and other events, and also really like making posters! This project is fantastic as the projects are such that you constantly see small successes be realised, which creates real motivation to keep working.
Why were you successful?
I think my involvement with Transition and similar groups while at both St Andrews and Emory University proved both my dedication to sustainability action and my knowledge in the area. However my work experience is also very varied – I have directed and produced musical theatre shows for children in a theatre company I am a Trustee of, worked in a nursery, interned for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ Sustainability Department, and been involved in academic research projects – and following my interview I was informed that it was this range of experiences that made me stand out as a candidate
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?

While some of the knowledge has been applicable it has been the skills gained from the degree which have been much more useful in the workplace. My dissertation taught me a great deal about research techniques which has been useful for monitoring the impact of my work activities, but generally the ‘softer skills’, such as time management, individual project planning, group work, communication and presentation, being able to talk to people from a range of backgrounds (academic and social), making educational displays and posters, and also just being able to appreciate the complexity of sustainability issues, have been the most useful things gained from the degree.

What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?

I found it really difficult to separate life and work when I first started the job (and to be honest I still do to a large extent) because what I used to do at University for a hobby had become my work. That meant I worked rather too much, and also found myself short of hobbies to do to switch off! If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a job which is something you would do ‘for fun’ I’d advise you to try not to get into the habit of working too much out of work hours and to find new hobbies as soon as possible!