Being a Doctoral Practitioner in Sustainability: Abeer Abdalla’s Story

Abeer Abdalla has recently begun the Doctoral Practitioner in Sustainability program in CES. Here she reflects on her experience so far:

Hello Everyone! Thank you for venturing on to read my post. As a brief introduction, I have a civil engineering background, and before joining this PDS programme I have taken up many roles in the construction field; as a structural, material and finally office engineer in a major infrastructure project in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. Across my studies and professional career I have not come head-to-head with sustainable development; though granted environmental considerations were there but not the overarching concept of sustainability. That being said, in recent years the United Arab Emirates has seen an increase in sustainability ‘consciousness’ in the forms of Estidama – which aims to regulate sustainable construction, Masdar City – “the world’s most sustainable eco-neighbourhood” and many other initiatives. This shift has ignited my interest in exploring the future and possibilities offered by sustainable development, and so et voilà– here I am!

I am very glad to be among the first students joining the Doctorate Practitioner Programme at the Centre for Environmental Strategy. Though being the first to go through it might sound daunting to some it was a very engaging few weeks I had before leaving for my placement at Rolls-Royce Plc, Derby.

Sustainability has become an important aspect in recent years. I have noticed the movement and had what I now perceive, as a shallow idea of the happenings. I do not believe I am very much mistaken in saying that most people associate sustainability with climate change; and now I know and can firmly say it is much more encompassing than that.

The modes of teaching on the PDS course were very variable; they included lectures, recorded lectures from staff and guest speakers, and documentaries. The documentaries were a first for me; as a civil engineer it is not one I can expect, but in this programme they were, in my opinion, a perfect fit and eye opening. Indeed, the ‘Foundations of Sustainable Development’ module offered us a breadth of content that was in the very least challenging and thought provoking. We were so engaged that my colleagues and I were able to take our discussions to lunch and coffee breaks.

The programme does not aim to simply instruct; it is designed to make us informed, to think, analyse and compose a tailored approach suiting the different paths my colleagues and I will have to take. That is another charm possessed by this programme; for those of us who face the dilemma of choosing between the knowledge and challenge proposed by a post-graduate degree and the experience and ‘industry-suave’ proposed by a stable job the Doctorate Practitioner Programme is for you. In addition to the education I was receiving, the industrial placement offered made my decision to join CES a ‘no-brainer’.

If you are an engineer and apprehensive of joining CES then please do go ahead and check the profiles of both staff and students; you are not alone. I have not been exposed to sustainable development in the context of my previous job experiences but having Paschalena, a fellow engineer, and Erica and Patrick, of previous exposure to sustainable development, around made it easy to blend in, and all the discussions we had together have made the study very rewarding.

What to expect should you join the Doctorate Practitioner programme at CES? Supportive staff you can talk to in every corner and office, and colleagues from various backgrounds. We believe that every member in our circles has something to bring to the table, that is what is expected of you and that is what you can expect of those around you.

We take it upon ourselves to prove that this programme is and will be structured to forge ties between academia and industry. Industry is set to gain from the advances of research and academia, and academia is set to benefit from bringing to the fore the discoveries and contributions of their staff and students through industry.

If after you read this blog I inspire to join the programme then I would be ecstatic! I would feel equally so if I manage to at least make you think. For Sustainable development is not the responsibility of environmentalists or ecologists; it is OUR shared responsibility towards OUR environment, OUR society, OUR economies. It is OUR responsibility towards fellow mankind, our forefathers, children and generations to come. It is OUR responsibility as people of this critical era.