Edad Mercier, MSc Urbanisation and Development
As I currently pursue my PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Urban Studies & Planning (DUSP), where I am researching methods for building resilient communities and the role of gender in planning, my work at LSE/U&D remains undoubtedly essential.
Studying at LSE/U&D with globally minded faculty and students encouraged me to think critically and act creatively. For example, out of my coursework in Professor Sylvia Chant's Gender and Development: Geographical Perspectives (GY421), I designed a presentation on gender, housing, and urban services in Jamaica, which served as a catalyst for my eventual dissertation on gender-based planning in Haiti. Other courses such as Economic Appraisal and Valuation (GY455) were helpful in providing me with alternative approaches to analyzing some of the most pressing debates in urbanization.
I credit my time in U&D with helping me refine my research goals, while furthering my understanding of the critical processes that inform urbanization across different settings in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Faculty and student-led activities and the collaborative work culture of U&D all made it an intellectually exciting and nurturing department!
Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, MSc Urbanisation and Development; PhD Department of Geography and Environment (Development/Urban Cluster)
I was attracted to the MSc U&D programme because it combined my two interests for urban studies and development. The core courses in development and urban policy, as well as the optional courses on Gender and Development and Cities, People and Poverty in the South, had the perfect balance of history, theory and practice. The MSc U&D was a brilliant programme and laid the foundation for my PhD giving me new skills, theoretical knowledge and confidence.
My PhD is looking at gender and sexuality in paid domestic work in Nigeria. I am working in the Urban and Development Cluster with Professor Sylvia Chant (principal supervisor) and Professor Diane Perrons (co-supervisor). With my PhD I hope to add to my knowledge and skills to balance an academic and consulting career in gender, employment and development.
Studying at the LSE, in the Geography and Environment Department, provides a great arena to learn from world-renowned professors with great passion and experience in the field, and peers who provide an immense amount of support, stimulating conversation and friendship. Not to forget the variety of outside speakers! This places me in an opportune position for which to pursue my career goals.
Alice Evans, MSc Development Studies; PhD Department of Geography and Environment (Development/Urban Cluster)
My PhD research focuses on ‘gender hierarchies’ in Zambia and the key factors in their changing nature over time such as women’s and men’s differential access to resources, social support structures and gender-sensitisation campaigns. My methodology comprises triangulating a gendered history of Zambia with qualitative and quantitative research in the field, for which I am currently learning Bemba, one of Zambia’s major languages.
The Development/Urban cluster in Geography provides an ideal academic home, with two of its faculty -- Professor Sylvia Chant (an expert on gender and development) and Dr Claire Mercer (an expert on civil society) –- acting as my principal supervisor and review supervisor respectively. I realised I wanted to pursue a PhD during my MSc in Development Studies, in which I took the UD option ‘Gy431: Cities, People and Poverty in the South’. The more I learnt about urbanisation and development the more eager I became to pursue further empirical and analytical study in this area. Staff in the Development/Urban cluster have been extremely supportive throughout, including helping me to obtain ESRC MPhil/PhD funding.
Alice's PhD, entitled: ‘"Women Can Do What Men Can Do”: The Causes and Consequences of Growing Flexibility in Gender Divisions of Labour in Kitwe, Zambia’ was passed in November 2013, and she is currently working as a Teaching Fellow for LSE 100, and in the Department of Geography and Environment
Faye Antonia Hays, MSc Urbanisation & Development; Doctor of Design, Harvard
My time at LSE's Urbanisation and Development programme was an invaluable instigator for my current course of doctoral study. Coming from an architecture and urban design background, I was eager to balance idealistic visions with practical knowledge of the developing world's urban centres and the intricacies within them.
The expanse of coverage and simultaneous interconnectedness of the courses I took at the LSE provided me an understanding of various cities' distinct sets of inner social and political forces, as well as the crucial qualitative scale of household study, but also a city's wider connection to a global network of poverty. These courses consisted of Sylvia Chant's Cities, People and Poverty in the South, Gareth Jones and Hyun Shin's Urban Policy and Practice in the South, Sharad Chari's Race and Space, and Stuart Corbridge and Kate Meagher's Development Theory, History and Policy. For my dissertation I conducted field research in Guanacaste, Costa Rica investigating the gendered aesthetics of informal housing through household interviews and photography.
This multi-scale mode of study provided me with an invaluable foundation of academic rigor as well as a toolset for practical application, skills that have been crucial in my current pursuit as a Doctor of Design student at Harvard University, where I am studying the role of film in affecting perceptions of urban space and in the construction of a multiplicity of memories that forge links between formal and informal urbanism, focusing on the film Sans Soleil (1983) by Chris Marker.
Kerwin Datu, MSc Urbanisation & Development 2008/9; PhD Department of Geography and Environment (Economic Geography/Development Cluster), started 2010
I studied and worked as an architect in Sydney, Paris and London before taking the MSc in Urbanisation and Development in 2008. I chose to take the course on the simple realisation that with the number of slum settlers growing from 1 in 6 people in the world to 1 in 3 during my lifetime, designing one building at a time was a fairly short-sighted way to contribute to the well-being of our cities.
I am thankful to my year at LSE for giving me a handle on the big debates in urban and international development, and for allowing me to feel that I can intervene in these debates intellectually as a scholar and practically as an agent in the field. I advise current students to think about their dissertations early, find a subject they can enjoy studying, and go out into the field for their research. It will make the issues come alive, gives them human faces, and gives one confidence to talk about them with authority. I went to Manila, Philippines, and spent time with squatters relocated from the rail line to outlying housing settlements (see photo).
The MSc inspired me to create The Global Urbanist, a news website analysing urban policy around the world, which I continue to edit with the support of my LSE lecturers. I am also fortunate to be able to continue my LSE story with a PhD in the Geography department, supervised by Doctors Simona Iammarino and Claire Mercer, and funded by the ESRC. Pulling together the disprate discourses studied in the MSc, I will examine the role of intercity networks in international development, conducting field research in West African cities.