: John Harrison
Programme of Study
: MA in International Development (part-time and online)
Year of Graduation
: Final Year Student
: England, UK.
My name is John Harrison, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my learning journey with the Department of International Development at Maynooth University.
I work for a homelessness charity called Emmaus North East based in South Shields (NE England), prior to this I was in Liberia with the organisation Marys Meals. My interest has always been in working with those who are excluded and trying to understand why so many face barriers to resources and life opportunities while other face limitless possibilities
I studied the MA part time (online), beginning in Liberia …finally finishing up back in the UK.
I learnt about the MA when in Malawi and finally got started when working in Liberia. My main motivation was to try and understand some of the theories in a post-development world and to gain a greater understanding and critical consciousness of the work I was undertaking
I loved studying with such a varied group of people who had such a rich source of knowledge. I often met people on my journeys who had studied at Maynooth who worked in the development field. Learning alongside Liberians, Kenyans, Tanzanians, and all the other nationalities was and is a privilege that I hope created a space to cross lines of difference.
I no longer work in International development directly but it has allowed me to think much more critically and allow me to question assumptions. Being able to question the ‘that’s just the way it is attitudes’ makes me a better leader and willing to challenge hegemony, authority and accepted wisdom…many thanks for the opportunity!
Programme of study
: MA in International Development (part-time & online)
Year of graduation
Work: Currently I am the Executive Director, Youth Alive Uganda, a national NGO that implements integrated children and youth development programs across the country focusing on health, livelihoods, human rights and skills development. Previously, I worked with the same organisation in the capacity of Director of Programs and Business Development.
What motivated me to study International Development at Maynooth University
A year before I enrolled at Maynooth University, I had been appointed Director of Programs and Business Development, which was a huge responsibility, to design and implement youth development programs. Therefore I was looking for an opportunity to widen my knowledge and understanding of development concepts, not just at local level but also at international level. I also had just completed a Masters in Human Rights from Makerere University here in Uganda and wanted a different learning experience and system. After doing a comprehensive search, I chose Maynooth University because it offered what I was looking for. Given that I occupied an important position that required my presence, definitely full-time class was not an option and I needed a flexible distance learning course that would allow me work but at the same time study and again Maynooth University was the best match for this.
What I liked about the program and why
I must confess, going into the program I was super worried on how things would go because I didn’t have prior experience of studying online. Secondly, I was worried about how I would balance study, work and family but as things unfolded, studying became interesting and fun and there was no time when I felt it would probably make any difference if I was doing full-time classroom study. First of all, the interactive virtual class and the weekly discussion boards made me feel the connection with my classmates. Secondly, the commitment of all the tutors who were always available and ready to respond to questions and inquiries as well as provide constructive feedback on assignments. All these made me feel connected, respected, cared for and supported. Almost all the modules made a lot of sense to me and enabled me to connect theory from class with practice back home in my organisation and this further made it more engaging because I felt I was getting practical information and skills from the program. All tutors were amazing and supportive, but specifically I would like to thank Tom Campbell who was my supervisor during my research for his mentorship and support.
How this MA has helped to advance my career
At work, this course has encouraged me to be more innovative in terms of utilising knowledge and skills acquired to design more innovative youth programs that are sustainable, gender sensitive and environmentally sensitive. Modules like gender and development, development theory and practice, as well as sustainable livelihoods and climate change were especially relevant. This course helped to nurture my leadership and management skills through the managing development organisations module that was part of my course, and supported my promotion in 2019 from the position of Director of Programs to Executive Director.
Academic wise, the MA and study experience at Maynooth inspired me into becoming a scholar and the desire to contribute to development research. The program gave me online learning experience and the culture of reading and in 2019 I finally enrolled for my PhD program, a decision I had been putting off for some time because I felt I was not ready for such a huge program. Currently, I am doing my PhD in Human Services from Walden University USA, which is also online. I am so grateful that I chose Maynooth University because it equipped me with the practical and relevant knowledge and skills that I needed to be better in the workplace and to advance my academic career.
Full Name: Thi Hoa Nguyen
Programme of study: MA in International Development
Nationality: Vietnamese, from Hanoi
What motivated you to study in Maynooth University and on this particular programme:
To be honest, development is not my background. I have gained my knowledge of development mainly through experience during a ten-year period of working with NGOs in Viet Nam. When I worked with senior officers or policy makers, I did not feel so confident because I still lacked in-depth knowledge of development. “It’s time to learn more” - I talked to myself. I needed to deepen my knowledge and develop my professional skills. I wanted to have a holistic understanding of development theory and practices.
I wanted to go abroad to take this course as I believed I could get more valuable experiences and enjoy a better learning environment in a developed country. Importantly, I wanted to learn about international experience in development work. I shared my thoughts with my friend and he encouraged me to apply for the course in Maynooth University. I started to search for information about the MA in International Development in Maynooth University and found that the modules being delivered in the course were completely interesting. They were totally related to my work as a development practitioner. I also know that the quality of this programme is much better in Maynooth University than any other Irish universities. Particularly, the course is taught by professional lecturers with tens of years working in the international development sector in Ireland.
Usual work/study in home country:
Having worked as the Ethnic Minorities Working Group (EMWG) Coordinator at the VUFO-NGO Resource Centre in Vietnam, I have coordinated EMWG events directly. Many individuals from the ethnic minority communities are empowered through having participated in our activities. They become capable to speak out in policy platforms, seminars, and dialogues at different levels.
I take pride in having contributed to increased partnerships between the EMWG, development partners and governmental agencies. In addition, I have done my best to build up close cooperation between the group and other civil society organisations (CSOs) and networks to promote gender equality and non-discrimination of vulnerable groups in Vietnam. They include, but are not limited to, preparation of the
CSO complementary report on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Vietnam in 2015 and the joint report to the Human Rights Council’s Third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Viet Nam in 2018.
Last but not least, I have made an effort to construct a database of organisations working in remote and mountainous areas of Vietnam, which was launched in 2014. It was the first database of its kind, which still serves as the main source of relevant information for the NGO community, development partners, governmental agencies, academia and individuals.
Area of interest and/or favourite module in the MA:
To be honest, all the delivered modules in this course are interconnected and equally valuable to me. As a development worker in the era of globalisation and integration, I myself believe that development is not development without people. Each module of the course seems to be a separate piece of a puzzle. In order to make a whole picture, each piece needs to be fitted or stays aside. While the modules of Development Theory and Practice and Political Economy of Development provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the history of development, practices of development over time, power dynamics in development contexts, and the focus and role of SDGs, the modules of Human Development, Adult Learning, Result-based Management, Gender and Development, Human Rights and Advocacy, Anthropology and Globalisation, and Sustainable Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation place a focus on people. From people to people, people are at the centre of development in all spheres and at all levels. Importantly, the module on Research Methods helps to instruct students how to conduct social research in practice, which is an essential skill of a development practitioner.
What do you think is unique about the programme?:
Value every single value - the programme and the lecturers fully respect the diversity of their students. Every student has an opportunity to freely express their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Words are counted and values are widely shared and fully recognised in this programme.
"My experience of undertaking the MA in International Development Studies at Maynooth University (online based) has benefited me in many ways including through the rich online exchanges of knowledge with peer students from all over the world, exposure to the practical exercise of field and desk-based research, expert tutorship on the various fields of international development, and the work pressure which naturally boosted my self-discipline and time management skills". Shylet Makoni
Name: Shylet Makoni
Year of graduation: 2019
Current location: Harare, Zimbabwe, Southern Africa
Work at present: Scientific & Industrial Research & Development Centre; Assistant to Executive Director - Technical Services
Area of interest/favourite module in the MA: Adult Learning for Development. The module exposed me to radically empowering methods of knowledge-transfer where education and development are intertwined, with everyone contributing towards their desired kind of social transformation and poor communities taking full ownership of their own development.