Name: Kevin McParland Course: MA in Development Studies College: Kimmage Development Studies Centre (KDSC)
I chose to undertake my postgraduate studies at KDSC due to its reputation for fostering rounded personal and professional development. This was achieved through the approaches to learning which relied greatly on tapping into the experiences of the participants in the programme. For me, such an approach to learning was crucial to achieving a critical understanding of complex and challenging development issues. Discussion and debate, reflective practice and active learning methodologies were just some of the key elements used to create an engaging and innovative learning environment.
I now work as Field Director for a small development NGO in Sri Lanka called Shining Life Children’s Trust, which works in partnership with local community-based organisations to improve the lives of children disadvantaged by war and poverty. By making best use of the skills and knowledge I developed in Kimmage, I have been equipped to instigate projects and initiatives that hopefully will impact positively in the communities in Sri Lanka where SLCT is working. This is possible by drawing upon the expertise in development planning that was delivered by KDSC, including managing development organisations, project cycle management, leadership and group facilitation, and monitoring and evaluation.
I see a key purpose of my work as being to facilitate a process where programme participants have the opportunities, knowledge, confidence and skills to undertake action orientated projects at a local level to meet their own needs. The KDSC approach of exploring and examining development issues in a participative way, and realising just and equitable outcomes, has been crucial to helping me to be effective in my own practice.
The diverse range of professional skills that I acquired through the MA programme at KDSC, such as problem-based learning, critical reflection and participatory research, have been vital in my career development. As Field Director of SLCT in Sri Lanka, the need to be an independent decision maker, to work in partnership with local NGOs, facilitating training and coaching, and ensuring that projects are managed effectively and efficiently, are all skills I acquired or refined during my time at Kimmage.
There is quite a difference in the experiences of being an undergraduate and postgraduate student. I was glad to have gained some work experience in the youth work sector in the period after graduating and before commencing the postgraduate course. However, the MA programme at KDSC has allowed me to become a more adaptable, capable learner by placing much more emphasis on independent thought, critical analysis and an inquisitive mind. These assets have proved critical in my subsequent career and have contributed immensely to my ability to fulfil my responsibilities and to creatively and confidently develop as a professional.
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