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Alumni stories: Going the distance with Shauna Bent

How Shauna Bent bolstered a major career change through UCL – without setting foot on campus.

Shauna Bent headshot

20 August 2020

As a child, Shauna Bent was captivated by nature. Growing up in Jamaica, her father taught her that our natural resources are precious – and should be protected. Shauna says: “Unlike many of my friends and family, who wanted to be doctors and nurses and save people, I was more interested in saving the planet.” She went on to study Zoology and Botany at The University of the West Indies. 

In the following years, Shauna’s life took a sharp turn, leading her to Toronto, Canada and a job in the police force. To enhance her potential in this new field, she turned to UCL and our distance learning programme.

Changes in direction 

The move to Toronto was prompted by Shauna’s parents and after finishing her degree, she joined her family in Canada. She says: “My mother and cousin had administrative positions at the Toronto Police Service by the time I moved permanently, and they encouraged me to join when the service was hiring temporary workers.” 

At the time, Shauna was looking for work in environmental protection, but found her research and analytical skills were surprisingly useful for law enforcement work. When a permanent researcher position at the Intelligence Division came up, Shauna got the job. She says: “I would work primarily with analysts and detectives supporting research, assessment, and analysis of information that was of a confidential and sensitive nature, preparing reports, and helping to make recommendations on assigned projects. It was rewarding work that prepared me for competing and advancing to the position of crime analyst.”

Excelling from afar 

Shauna truly caught the bug for crime analysis, and decided to build on her experience with a postgraduate degree in the field. After exploring Canadian universities and with no desire to take the SATs/GRE needed to get into a university in the US, Shauna found herself looking at distance learning graduate programmes in the UK.

“I chose UCL because at the time it was the only school that offered the kind of programme I was looking for. I was still working full time and wouldn’t have been able to take time off from work for 18 months to do the full-time programme while still keeping my job. UCL’s global university experience means it has excellent distance learning options available for part-time study – which was ideal for my situation.”

Now 1,768 miles away from her home country, Shauna found herself in a position where she had access to UCL’s skilled academics, 3,547 miles away in London. Taking a postgraduate degree from the other side of the world might sound like a challenge, but Shauna found the whole experience with UCL to be “amazingly smooth and well supported”. Her field of study also meant that she joined the prestigious UCL Jill Dando Institute – the first institute in the world devoted to crime science. 

“I particularly enjoyed how involved and supportive the team were of the students, even with the distance learners like myself whom they’ve never met,” she says. “During Term 2, I lost a family member to cancer and one of my professors would actually check up on me to make sure I was doing okay with the workload. I appreciated his thoughtfulness.”

Global connections     

Since graduating in 2019 with a postgraduate certificate in Crime Science, Shauna has found the merits of her UCL experience extend well beyond her degree. 

When asked for her top tip for new alumni, Shauna recommends getting digital and keeping track of your favourite professors or researchers on LinkedIn. She says: “If they’re active, they’ll post articles, job calls, conferences, call for papers and all these are excellent avenues to identifying opportunities for furthering your career, particularly if their specific subject matter is what you’re interested in as well!” 

Shauna is also part of the growing UCL alumni community in Toronto and has attended the brilliant in-person and digital events hosted this year. Shauna says: “The most valuable part of being in the UCL alumni network is exactly that, the network! I’ve already met a handful of people whose business cards I’ve kept in case the opportunity to collaborate arises.

“That’s the most valuable thing, the potential to work collaboratively on future projects.”

Join your local alumni community and make valuable connections across the globe at uclalumnicommunity.org