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Shari-Ann Palmer studied MSc Applied International Development at the University of Reading. She now works as the Director of Public Relations and Communication for the Ministry of Justice in her home nation, Jamaica.

Shari-Ann believes that the master’s programme at Reading gave her the framework 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 communicaton

Shari-Ann had aspired to a media career from a young age, inspired by the power of communication to empower people and influence their perceptions of the world.

Prior to joining Reading, she worked for five years at the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), the government’s media agency.

While working for JIS, Shari-Ann spent a month in the Cayman Islands covering an annual event called the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, where she raised awareness of agriculture in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.

This event sparked Shari-Ann’s interest in the development sector, inspiring her to enrol at the University of Reading and shaping her future career.

“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 that would fuel her future success.

“The modules that I was able to study were varied yet appropriate for my career. Modules such as Agricultural Project Planning and Management in Developing Countries, and Principles for Communication Design for Development, gave me the skills to effectively perform in the roles I’ve had since graduating.”

Shari-Ann found that the modules she studied at Reading had direct applications in the world of work:

“The Participatory Communication module I undertook focuses on empowering people through sharing information. In my current role, our aim is geared towards helping Jamaicans 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.

“As a manager, the Human Resource Management module has been particularly useful in helping me to assess my team’s strengths and harness them to execute our publicity programmes, while identifying areas for improvement and getting the necessary training.”

International community

The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at Reading offers a global education experience, attracting a wide and diverse range of students from more than 40 countries. Shari-Ann believes that this learning environment has been hugely beneficial to her career.

“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.”

Opportunities outside the curriculum

In addition to her studies, Shari-Ann was involved in a number of extracurricular activities such as volunteering and working with the School on 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.

“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

After graduating from Reading in 2018, Shari-Ann joined the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an international institution that strives for sustainable food security in the African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

Appointed as a 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, she was recruited by Jamaica’s Ministry of Justice and appointed Director of Public Relations and Communication. In this role, she provides strategic leadership and direction for the Ministry’s communication programme.

“In my 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, inform the public of justice issues and programmes, and advise the Minister and executive management team of public relations opportunities.”

Achieving aspirations

Shari-Ann used her master’s degree as a stepping stone to achieve her aspirations and is keen to convey 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 well as other students from across the world.

“I encourage others to make the bold step to advance in their professional lives.”

Read about our postgraduate programmes in international development

Find out more about the Graduate Institute of International Development, Agricultural and Economics (GIIDAE)