UCL Global


Making the most of the Yale UCL Collaborative

PhD student Patrizia Duda found unparalleled opportunities on a student exchange scheme to Yale University

Yale University campus

4 March 2020

In the last year of her PhD studies in UCL’s Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), Patrizia Duda had the unique opportunity to complete part of her research at Yale University. Through the Yale UCL Collaborative, an exchange programme for doctoral students that recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, Patrizia spent four months at Yale, from September to December 2019.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” said Patrizia, “Because I went at the end of my PhD, I went with an open mind and got so much more out of it than just research.”

Researching Informal Disaster Governance

Patrizia’s research in the IRDR focuses on “informal disaster governance,” investigating what people do and how they behave when formal disaster-related help does not arrive, is not sufficient, or even is harmful. Part of her research explores how informal actors that emerge in crises and their initiatives are often pushed aside by formal aid organisations and governmental institutions. Over time some actors terminate their efforts but others eventually establish their own NGOs, which Patrizia witnessed firsthand when she worked as a disaster responder in Greece in 2016; the informal actors responding to the refugee crisis there were the inspiration for her research.

To shed light on the complexities of how informal actors navigate this NGO formalisation process and explore it from an entrepreneurial perspective, Patrizia initially planned to undertake research in Yale’s School of Management. However, when she arrived on campus and started to build connections with people across different parts of Yale, she ended up spending more time in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (F&ES) where she was able to learn more about disaster science in the American context versus the European context.

At F&ES I was fortunate to exchange with established leaders in my field on their respective foci and some truly state-of-the art research,” said Patrizia. “I had endless discussions with Gordon Geballe about prospective collaborations, events and really just the world. Another was Ben Cashore whose research is very close to my own and thus really informed my PhD.”

The Yale Candy Store

In addition to extending her professional network and taking and auditing a range of classes that contributed to her PhD, Patrizia discovered a wealth of opportunities at Yale. Her highlights include taking advantage of the extensive career services, mentoring undergraduates through the Women in Science at Yale community and leading a five-person team on a consulting project for Ashoka through the Yale Graduate Consulting Club. She is now in the process of establishing her own boutique consultancy, which marries business consultancy with disaster risk reduction and sustainability.

“Students call the campus the ‘Yale Candy Store’ because there is so much going on in terms of seminars, events, career fairs and things to get involved in,” said Patrizia. “If you make an active effort to seek out opportunities and participate, you will find many.”

Patrizia encourages UCL students preparing to participate in the Collaborative to sign up to a variety of Yale mailing lists, both those that are relevant to their area of research and those that are not; she credits these for keeping her up to date about opportunities for both personal and professional development. She also welcomes any UCL students wanting to learn more about the Collaborative to reach out to her (patrizia.duda.15@ucl.ac.uk) for advice on making the most of their time at Yale.

“I really appreciate my time there and hope that others at UCL will be able to tap into the connections that I have made,” said Patrizia.

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