Andrew Bird, Victoria University of Wellington

Graduate

Andrew Bird, Wellington, New Zealand 

Qualification

Masters of Development Studies, Victoria University of Wellington (VUW)

Learnings

Undertaking a Masters of Development Studies at VUW allowed me to complement what had been a practical background (farming and development) with key academic skills such as critical thinking, research, writing, and communication, as well as improving my understanding of different ways of thinking and understanding the world. My studies and discussions with fellow student and lectures helped me develop my cultural awareness and recognition of my own positionalities. Some of the most impactful experiences and learnings over the course of my Masters came not from the lectures or academic articles but from the discussions and experiences with fellow students who came from all walks of life and countries across the development spectrum.       

Current role

Development Officer, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

At MFAT the role of a development officer is to help support the implementation and realisation of New Zealand’s aid programme. In my current role I work across Fiji and Vanuatu with a focus on primary sector, tourism, and humanitarian activities. In a day to day sense this entails some less exciting tasks (processing payments, reading reports, contracting, and financial forecasting) but can also include visits to in-country activities, instigation of new activities, engaging with stakeholders and Government officials, contributing to the strategic direction of country programmes, accompanying foreign dignitaries, and being across some of the wicked hard political and geopolitical issues of our day. MFAT also encourages staff to move around the Ministry so in the future I could be working in our regional team on security issues, a specialist team like infrastructure or our humanitarian team. 

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Sulaiman Sarwary, The University of Canterbury

Graduate

BA in Political Science with a focus on Humanitarian Interventions and a Master of Law – integrating Human Rights Based Approaches in development (University of Canterbury). BA in Political Science with a focus on Humanitarian Interventions and a Master of Law – integrating Human Rights Based Approaches in development (University of Canterbury).
Sulaiman Sarwary photo

Learnings

My university years helped me acquire knowledge and practical skills, including analytical skills to challenge the status quo and help me come up with a better alternative. These university years have equipped me with skills to deal with real life context; providing crucial emergency and development assistance to programme participants on the ground. As development practitioners, our focus is always to ensure there is equitable and sustainable assistance so that marginalized and vulnerable populations can have durable access to basic rights. On the ground, it is more challenging and that is where the knowledge and skills we acquire during our university years become so relevant to make a positive change in the lives of these marginalized population. My studies continue to provide me with the vision, framework and passion to help marginalized communities have access to basic services, services which are often taken for granted elsewhere.

Current role

Given my past work experience and the new qualifications, my first job after graduation was with a World Bank funded community driven development programme in Afghanistan as the Head of Facilitating Partners Management Department (FPMD). I led a team to manage 33 NGOs delivering basic services to communities across the country. Later, I worked with Afghanaid, a London based charity, as Deputy Director of Programmes and later as Director of Programme Development and Resource Mobilization to help deliver assistance to the most marginalized communities. Currently, I am working as Director of Programs with Mercy Corps Indonesia after having worked with Mercy Corps Afghanistan in a similar role for over two years. It is indisputably stressful work but surely rewarding. Opportunities do matter and I grabbed mine when I did my UC degree (LLM by research) with the support of my amazing supervisors: Dr Natalie Baird (Law) and Dr. Jeremy Moses (Political Science).

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Denise Arnold, Massey University

Graduate

Denise Arnold, New Zealand

Qualification

Master of International Development, Massey University

Learnings

The programme was inspiring and at the same time cautionary. We need to be mindful of the impact of our actions and decisions, and we also need to challenge our assumptions. It is easy to think we are doing something good when in fact we are causing harm unintentionally. With much of the Development Studies programme being able to be undertaken as a distance student it was perfect for me and my work, and for the times when I was travelling in Cambodia. Many of my assignments were completed while working in remote areas of Cambodia. I really enjoyed the block courses too. Meeting other students and hearing about their experiences was a real bonus, as was getting to know the lecturers. I thoroughly recommend the course.

Current role

I work full time as a lawyer but my passion is working in Cambodia as a volunteer for a charity that I have established called the Cambodia Charitable Trust. The Trust seeks to break the poverty cycle and in doing so transform lives in Cambodia, primarily via education and health programmes. Having set this Trust up in 2008 I was concerned that I was making decisions in a development context without understanding the broader economic and political issues. That is why I studied Massey – to enhance my understanding of international development. Completing my research paper was a really good way of engaging in broader research and understanding the influences on the work that I was doing in Cambodia. The assistance of my supervisor and the broader team at Massey was hugely valuable, and I have been able to continue to reflect on the results as I develop programmes in Cambodia.

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Vilayvanh Phonepraseuth, Massey University

Graduate

Vilayvanh Phonepraseuth, Lao PDR

Qualification

Master of International Development, Massey University

Learnings

Studying in New Zealand was an amazing experience. The staff were really friendly and approachable, and I studied with a great cohort of students from all over the world. My interactions with everyone broadened my understanding about development and the differences between the issues in Asia and other countries. My study gave me the opportunity to follow what I am passionate about and apply my learning and research to Laos, my home country. During my second year I travelled back home to collect data on resettlement and livelihoods restoration programs for a hydropower development project. I wanted to know how people felt about the project and how it affected their lives.

Current role

I am back in Laos working with the World Bank Vientiane Office. My role is to help coordinate work with our government counterparts and monitor the progress of projects. While there is no, “one size fits all,” best practice approach to development studies, my degree has opened my eyes to what development studies really is. I used to have a very limited and narrow idea of development, and now I’ve learned to think bigger. I’ve read more and experienced more, I’ve gained the knowledge and understanding that in order to succeed you need to be open – open to new ideas, open to what’s happening in the world around and open to flexibility.

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Jared Berends, Lincoln University

Graduate

Jared Berends, New Zealand

Qualification

Masters in Applied Science (International Rural Development) at Lincoln University

Learnings

My development career started in rural Mongolia, where I spent three years living in small, rural towns teaching English, working alongside local NGOs and Faith-Based Organizations, and implementing small-scale community development initiatives. This caused reflection on my own life, the privileges and blessings of a growing up in New Zealand, and a sense of calling to help those most vulnerable. However, motivation did not provide the skills needed to work in the development sector.  I wanted to build on my Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and grass-roots experience in Mongolia with technical qualifications.  After searching for study options in New Zealand, I pursued a Master’s degree in International Rural Development at Lincoln University. This laid the foundation for my career, providing theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Interactions with fellow students from Asia and the Pacific, both in and outside the classroom, fostered discussions layered with personal experiences and industry knowledge.

Current role

Before graduating from Lincoln University, I secured work as a Programme Officer with TEAR Fund NZ where I put my project design, management, monitoring and evaluation skills into practice. After two years, I was posted to the Solomon Islands as Operations Manager. This was a real stretch in my career, moving from managing a team of three in New Zealand to a team of more than one hundred field staff, spread across multiple islands in the Pacific. We moved to Myanmar in December 2013 where I worked for World Vision as the Programme Quality and Development Director. There, my role was to lead teams to design, monitor and evaluate an annual portfolio amounting to almost US$28million.  I now work for World Vision Bangladesh as the Senior Director of Operations, overseeing the implementation of our programmes and grant-funded projects. Again, I am stretched and challenged, refining my leadership and management skills in a large organisation.

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