MSc Environment and Development graduate Anita Owiti discusses her 8 week internship mapping community engagement at the University.
Working with the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) at the University of Edinburgh was a sine qua non for me especially after finishing my Masters in Environment and Development. Owing to my desire for the need to understand our social environment better, the internship opportunity backed it up extremely well with my role as a Community Engagement Assistant at the department. I worked on the mapping exercise on Community Engagement initiatives as part of meeting the goals of the SRS Strategy, that was meant to determine projects the University is involved with/in that directly impacts on the larger Edinburgh community. A move that was very important such that as the University celebrates its impact globally, it is also felt locally.
The experience was exhilarating to say the least. Having the opportunity to work with a well-known Department as SRS was mind boggling. It was particularly interesting getting to understand the other aspects of it including Active Travel and Fair Trade. I was awed by the fact that sustainability in itself has so many connotations to it that we often ignore but look at it from the face value.
My role required me to keep in constant communication with various staff within the University. I tried to get the various community engagement projects that they had undertaken or were ongoing at whatever level. This included during their personal time, and what this meant to them. It was a worthwhile project to undertake as firstly, I got to understand the functioning of some of the departments in the university. Secondly, I made some networks along the way and lastly, I received immense data needed for my project because I realised that people were doing very many things off the record that are really impressive and worth mentioning. This with their help, became a great success. The map that resulted was a good representation of what the University has done so far in giving back to the local community, the gaps that need to be filled hence where more effort needs to be put in as well as what they can do differently so that the whole community feels like they are a part of the university and are equally benefiting from its existence in the city of Edinburgh.
Consequently, the experience has helped me improve on my communication skills- both spoken and written. Being in the space of diverse professions executing different functions was by far intriguing in a way that I developed my interpersonal skills further. The numerous community events gave perspective to my internship which enabled me to apply my theoretical knowledge in practise. I am now certain that my quest to understand the social sector and the environment is more rewarding than I expected. Going forward, my internship period groomed and gave me the real world work experience, instilling in me the confidence to undertake social responsibility and sustainability projects in the near future while creating an impact in the lives of many at present and in the generations to come.