Blog: Life after graduation written by Sustainable Resources MSc alumnus Andrew Brown
29 July 2020
Hello everyone! Thank you for taking the time to read my “life after graduation” blog post. I hope you’ll find it interesting and that you come away with one or two new ideas!
What is your background?
My name is Andrew Brown. I am from the Washington, D.C. regional area of the United States (U.S.). I grew up visiting protected areas like Shenandoah National Park and Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge where I hiked with family and friends. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Policy from the College of William and Mary located in Virginia, U.S. At university I pursued my passion of studying how individuals and groups make important decisions. I also took several economics courses, including natural resource and environmental economics, which helped me to focus my passion for the public policy process on protecting and sustainably using natural resources.
After University, I started a career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, my country’s conservation agency responsible for managing 567 wildlife refuges, international trade in wildlife and wildlife products, and protecting and rehabilitating populations of endangered species. For most of my career with the agency I was part of a team that communicated budgetary needs to external partners, including the legislative branch—the U.S. Congress. While I loved my career at the Agency, I chose to continue my education to pursue a role as a policy analyst.
What have you been doing since graduating from Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions?
After completing and submitting my dissertation, I returned to the U.S. and my career in Federal government. For several months I acted as the supervisor of my Division’s branch while the permanent officer was on maternity leave. Returning to my old position confirmed for me that I wanted to look for a new position in a policy role.
In May 2020, I started as a junior environmental policy analyst with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international organization that facilitates better policymaking of its member states. Specifically, I work with the Waste and Resource Productivity workstream within the Environment Directorate.
The lessons I learned were to be courageous in your choice of applications and to believe in your ability to help conservation regardless of delays to your goals. Exciting opportunities will be available to you in your career, but you need to take steps to make these opportunities occur. For me, this was applying to a position after the announcement was sent by email to my cohort, despite initial reservations my application might not be considered competitive in what was likely a highly talented candidate pool. Wayne Gretzky, perhaps the all-time greatest hockey player, famously surmised, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. However, it’s also important to know that you will not be successful many times in your life. What I have found to be helpful is to remind myself my worth and to look forward to the next possible opportunity. It’s not necessarily the failure that will harm you, but instead lingering on the failure or doubting yourself that can do lasting damage. I chose to return home believing I could find the type of role I had wanted in my former career field, but I did not succeed. What’s important is that, after some lingering, I must admit, with help from friends and family, I reminded myself of my worth and continued to pursue a policy role where I believe I can do the most good for resource protection and sustainability.
How has your MSc helped you with your new career?
The MSc SREPT program provided me with numerous impactful frameworks through which to better understand the world, including resource economics, trade theory, behavioural economics, systems thinking, and life-cycle assessment. While I may not remember every detail or the author of each journal from required reading, I have kept these ways of thinking. In terms of my new career, yes, the MSc has been quite impactful. I regularly am reminded of readings, lessons, and papers from the MSc that are applicable to my daily work. While the recognition may not occur while you are in school, it should become clear that the program was well-designed and, if you have given the requisite effort to your academic work, you will have a strong foundation for a career in sustainability. Further, UCL and the alumni network is well-regarded in Europe. For example, several of my co-workers have advance degrees from UCL. Additionally, work by the Institute for Sustainable Resources is well regarded by my colleagues.
Do you have any advice for future SREPT MSc students?
In my experience, the SREPT MSc program was greatly enriching for students that fully applied themselves in the classroom, their research, and extra-curricular opportunities available from ISR, UCL, and London itself. First, I would preface that the program is challenging. As an American, it was also different from my previous experience in academia. I found that independent study and research was required to be successful. However, the program provided the roadmap for what was needed to be accomplished and gave you access to the resources you would need. It did not however monitor your progress throughout each step. Students that used these resources and took time for independent study grew as intellectuals and as people through the experience. Outside of the coursework, opportunities were available to visit landmarks of sustainability in London and the U.K. I suggest you participate in every chance you have. It’s one thing to read about sustainability and circularity and something else to see it in action and to speak with the practitioners.
After completing your degree, I suggest you take time to reflect on the experience and then continue your education. One way I was able to do this was through reading literature beyond the material provided in coursework. I found Charles Mann’s book “The Wizard and the Prophet” to be highly impactful because it provided me with a philosophical framework to consider two major groups of ideas in sustainability: the limits to growth expounded by “prophets” and the alternative belief that innovation will save us declared by “wizards”. While this book may not be the one for you, the point is to continue learning in the field. This will give you the chance to stay sharp and to continue to think about the big issues we face as a society.
If you made it this far, thank you again for reading this blog! I wish you all the best in your journey, be it as a prospective or current student.