From Climate Change and Bees to Studying Policy
From researching climate change and bees to studying policy, the latest UTS Institute for Public Policy and Governance Postgraduate Scholarship recipient makes a great example of the diverse pathways that can lead to a career in policy. Scholarship recipient Alexandra Brown has just commenced her studies in the Master of Applied Policy after having made the switch from a research career in ecology.
Can you tell me about your career?
I used to be a research scientist, I started out studying ecology and statistics at UNSW and then I moved on to doing a masters at Harvard in ecology. I got part-way through my PhD and found that I was a little frustrated by the fact that I was doing a lot of research that wasn’t necessarily going to be applied anywhere. I was working specifically to things relating to climate change and bees for a little while but I realised that I was doing all of this work and the only people who would benefit from it was other scientists. So, I decided that I wanted to try something a little more practical. I finished up at Harvard, came back to Australia and started working for a non-profit which is where I got really interested in policy.
How and why did you become interested in studying policy at postgraduate level?
I worked at an NGO where I became to the de facto policy expert at work. From that I thought that I would really like to formalise my knowledge and so that’s why I moved from doing hard science to switching to policy.
Why did you choose to study UTS?
I love the fact that UTS is so flexible. There was no way that I was going to be able to work at the same time, I just don’t think anyone could afford to take that much time off for masters so I chose UTS because the University had a new program that looked more tailored to what I wanted to do. It looked really fresh, I really liked the lecturers, and the fact that it was a really flexible program. I’ve been really enjoying it, the block mode has been absolutely fantastic. It’s much easier to fit into a working life because I take three days off and I get half of an entire course done.
What do you hope to accomplish while completing your degree?
Once I’ve finished my degree I would really like to work either in housing or in health and in any work related to the queer community because I am a queer person. Housing and mental health are big issues for queer people, options can be very limited when it comes to finding a health care provider or even finding somewhere to live, depending on what your gender or sexual identity are. So, for me that may mean that I end up working for an NGO in the end or for a consultancy firm.
How do you plan on using your studies to achieve your future career plans?
Having a qualification opens up graduate positions with government which I otherwise wouldn’t have access to. It’s also a way of knowing that you are committed to the field and that you have an understanding of the basic theories and processes that underly the way policies take place. The degree has been really good for that thus far in just looking at the differences between the varying approaches people have to policy, thinking critically about how you’re applying policy and some of the pitfalls that can arise when policy is applied badly. It’s a really good way to get more involved in the field if you’re coming at it from an external background that’s not strictly law or government.
What does it mean to be the Postgraduate Scholarship recipient?
Receiving the scholarship was a huge validation of my choice to study here. I came from an external background so it was really reassuring to see the goals that I had and what I wanted to do were valid approaches in the field. I’ve loved policy since I discovered it, and have wanted to study more since, but I was a bit worried that coming from the background that I came from meant I wouldn’t be able to do it. The scholarship will also be very helpful financially.
The $5,000 Institute for Public Policy and Governance Postgraduate Scholarship was established in 2017 to support policy and local government professionals seeking to broaden their knowledge and skills through postgraduate study, and to recognise the often diverse pathways leading to these careers.