Read about the experiences of alumni who've studied at the Graduate Institute of International Development, Agriculture and Economics.
"Studying a master's at Reading gave me the skills that I needed to operate in the real world. The course provided a wealth of useful knowledge and improved my confidence, which in turn enabled me to take on more challenging assignments."
Kasonde Christopher Kasonde, MSc Food Security and Development
Shari-Ann Palmer – 2018 graduate
Now working as the Director of Public Relations and Communication for the Ministry of Justice in her home nation, Jamaica, MSc Applied International Development graduate, Shari-Ann Palmer, believes that the University of Reading’s Master’s programme gave her the framework that she needed to succeed.
“My time at Reading really helped me to broaden my knowledge and understanding about international development, challenging me to critically assess schools of thought on development issues and to assess how these might be applied to the Jamaican context.”
An interest in communications
Shari-Ann had a passion to work in the media from a young age, inspired by the power that communication has to influence people and their perceptions of the world, and how information shared empowers people.
Prior to joining Reading, she worked for the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), the Government’s media agency, for five years. Two years of these were spent working as a Television Production Assistant, before eventually going on to work in public relations (PR).
“After spending almost two years in the TV department, I wanted more of a challenge, and a role that would allow me to work across all areas of media. As a PR Officer who represented government clients, I had input in radio productions, newspaper and television advertisements and various features; the role was diverse.”
“It also provided the opportunity to move from behind the scenes and instead have direct interface with clients which meant I was able to influence the direction of public activities.”
While working for JIS, she also spent a month covering an annual event called the Caribbean Week of Agriculture in the Cayman Islands.
This activity not only sparked her interest in the development sector, but would also shape her future career, as she used intense online marketing campaigns to increase awareness of Agriculture in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.
“I met and interacted with development practitioners in agriculture and food security throughout the event. I was so impressed and motivated by their work to promote sustainable agriculture processes across the Caribbean, that I too wanted to make my own contribution to my country’s development. This is what led me to travel over 4,500 miles to join Reading.”
Reading – the pathway to success
As a result of the wide-ranging modules on offer at Reading, Shari-Anna was able to focus on the areas she required to fuel her success.
“The modules that I was able to study were varied yet appropriate for my career.”
“Modules including Principles for Communication Design for Development; Agricultural Project Planning and Management in Developing Countries; and Human Resource Management, gave me the necessary skills to effectively perform in the roles I have had since graduating!
“In particular, as a manager, the Human Resource Management module has been useful in helping me to assess my team’s strengths and harnessing those to execute our publicity programmes, while identifying areas for improvement and getting the necessary training.
“Moreover, the Participatory Communication module I undertook focuses on empowering people through sharing information. In my current role, our aim is geared towards helping Jamaicans to access justice services by way of legal aid, free counselling to victims of crimes, restorative justice, diversion for children in conflict with the law and the opportunity to talk to experts.”
Reading offers a global education experience, attracting a wide range and diversity of students from more than 40 countries and it is this multiplicity that Shari-Ann believes has helped her.
“Working in several groups with people from varied backgrounds enabled me to develop my people management skills – skills that are crucial in my role today.”
In addition to her studies, Shari-Ann was involved in a number of extracurricular activities such as volunteering and working with the School for University-wide events.
“Keen to gain experience, I volunteered to provide online communication support for the Reading Refugee Group, where I was able to put into practice theories of communication methods and how to communicate to mixed audiences, as my role saw me developing online content for donors and the residents of Reading in general.
“I also spent some time as a fundraising volunteer with the Oxfam bookshop. This was my first experience with an international Non-Governmental Organisation and allowed me to appreciate just how much effort and organisation goes into funding and sustaining development programmes.”
Fight against poverty
Following graduation from Reading in 2018, Shari-Ann joined the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an international institution at the forefront of the fight against poverty and sustainable food security in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.
Appointed as Communication Consultant, Shari-Ann used the power of marketing to promote developmental change for the institution.
A couple of years later, having refined her skills further still, it is no surprise that she was recruited by Jamaica’s Ministry of Justice, and appointed as the Director of Public Relations and Communication, providing strategic leadership, and direction for the Ministry’s communication programme.
“In this role, I develop and maintain a Corporate Communications Programme that is consistent with the strategic direction of the Ministry of Justice, oversee the planning and direction of special events, informing the public of justice issues and programmes, and also, advise the Minister and executive management team of public relations opportunities.”
Shari-Ann used her master’s degree as a stepping stone to achieve her aspirations and is keen to encourage others to understand that it’s never too late to study a master’s and revitalise your career.
“I came to Reading at a time when I was looking for direction in my professional life. Further studies at Reading helped me to put everything into perspective , and provided invaluable experiences learning from development practitioners, as we all as other students from across the world.
“I encourage others to make the bold step to advance in their professional lives. In a world of grey, be red!”
Reflecting on her career, Shari-Ann shares some advice:
“My number one tip to success after graduating is to spread the word.
“You need to reintegrate yourself into the professional circles that you may have been absent from. They need to know that you are back on the market and available for new opportunities.”