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MSc in Water Security and International Development

Meet our Alumni

Listen to previous MSc students in Water Security and International Development as they discuss their experiences on the course, life in Norwich and the impetus it provided to pursue interests in water, professionals goals and current employment. Then browse through fascinating personalised accounts from our alumni. 

To talk with our WSRC Alumni about their experiences or work, please contact Alumni Coordinator Rebecca Farnum at

  • Nancy Smith
  • Joanna Wallace
  • Matthew Kirkegaard
  • Stephanie Hawkins
  • Tyler Farrow
  • Ben Roberts-Pierel
  • Rebecca Farnum
  • Charlie Thompson
  • Jenny Fraser
  • Sam Grainger
  • Verena Ommer

Nancy Smith 2016-17

After completing a BA(Hons) in Human Rights with Journalism and focusing on environmental rights in Latin America I went to volunteer in Nicaragua with Raleigh International through the UK Government. Seeing the political, social, and cultural elements surrounding water resources both fascinated and concerned me and I needed to understand more.  When I got home I searched the internet for "water related masters degrees" and UEA jumped out at me for the strength of research, extra curricular opportunities, and attention to detail on policy, management, and social science.

The additional option of doing a development work placement as part of the course saw me working in Cambodia for World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for six months on their Mekong Flooded Forest project. Having the opportunity to practically apply the skills, theories, and lessons I had learnt on the MSc programme was incredible and personally made me a stronger water professional as a result.

Looking forward, I'm putting my passport away for now and looking to strengthen my technical skills and industry experience by applying to the many prestigious graduate programmes UK water utility companies and environmental organisations offer - with a future view to progress onto a management level.

Joanna Wallace 2016-17

After I completed my bachelor’s degree in Geography and Environmental Management, I started working at a water, wetlands and engineering environmental consulting firm. Although it was a time of fantastic experience learning about environmental compliancy, I soon realized that what I was really interested in was how people interacted with their environment. I then joined a start-up project that was working with an INGO in my home province, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We were raising funds and awareness for sustainable rural livelihoods and racing around the world only on human-power (paddling, cycling et cetera), while the project founder did the racing, I did food security research with the support my undergrad university. But as the project evolved, the food security research could not continue, so I left the project looking for new horizons that combined my passion for people and the environment.

I moved to England and started exploring options for post-graduate environmental degrees. After reading up about UEA’s very respected school of International development, the Water Security and International Development degree intrigued me. I got in touch with the course convenor, Mark Zeitoun, who recommended that I attend the Water Security Research Group’s HH8 Workshop in London, to get a feel for the program. After that my mind was made up - the MSc was just what I was looking for.

Throughout the degree my expectations were exceeded. The lecture content was stimulating and challenging, making me constantly develop and adjust my way of thinking. I had so many opportunities to interact with working professionals from ground-breaking NGOs and development agencies like, WaterAid and the UN, really deepening my understanding of the sector. I also found incredible value in our class time discussions, with my peers offering a plethora of insight and experience.

In January 2018, I moved back to South Africa and started an internship at a human rights organization in Johannesburg. I will be contributing to their research, analysis and case-building until I find a suitable job, related to the social justice side of water security.   


Matt Kirkegaard 2015-16

Matt Kirkegaard graduated from the Water Security & International Development program in 2016. He came to UEA as a Fulbright Scholar, generously sponsored by the US-UK Fulbright Commission, seeking to study with leaders in the field of water security and politics. In his undergraduate years at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Matt concentrated his studies at the intersection of power, society, and the environment. He gradually found a specific interest in water, studying hydrosocial relationships in Brazil, Costa Rica, India, and the US. His undergraduate research focused on transboundary water conflict and Mercosur regional integration in the La Plata basin. In this early foray into the study of transboundary water, he drew heavily from the theories of the London Water Research Group, including hydro-hegemony and the Transboundary Water Interaction Nexus (TWINS). Coming to the UK to study with Dr. Mark Zeitoun and Dr. Bruce Lankford was a natural next step that both built on his previous experience and expanded his analytical skills as a critical water scholar.


At UEA, Matt's research comparing and analyzing divergent approaches for hydrosocial justice in postcolonial societies was awarded the School of International Development's Blaikie Prize for best dissertation relating to the politics of the environment. He has since returned to the US and is planning to pursue a PhD in Geography in the coming years.

Stephanie Hawkins, 2013-14

After completing her undergraduate degree in Law at UEA, Stephanie stayed on to study the MSc in Water Security and International Development. Stephanie had studied environmental and water law in national and international legal systems, but the MSc really delivered a deeper understanding of the social and political context in which these fields operated. It was an easy decision to continue her studies in the small and charming city of Norwich, and with a cohort of inspiring classmates who became close friends, she did not regret my decision to stay.

After completing the MSc last September (in 2014), Stephanie spent three months in Palestine interning as a legal researcher in a humanitarian and human rights law NGO. During this internship she spent some time investigating the legal implications of inequitable access to water in the West Bank.

Stephanie is now undertaking a PhD in transboundary aquifer law and policy at the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance at the University of Strathclyde. Much of her current PhD research has an interdisciplinary focus which uses the analytical tools gained through the MSc. The WSID MSc programme puts significant emphasis on thinking critically, as well as using and developing concepts and theories that can help understanding and analysis of water security issues in practice. This has been invaluable to all her research since.

The real benefit of the course, according to Stephanie, was the amount of opportunities the students had to develop professional networks and contacts in the field. Her advice to anyone interested in a career in water would be to just put yourself out there, meet people and pick their brains. It will help grades and could even get you a job.

Tyler Farrow, 2013-2014

Tyler Farrow currently works as International Programme Officer with Water Witness International, an Edinburgh-based charity undertaking research and advocacy to ensure a fair and sustainable water future. During his undergraduate years, Tyler explored aquatic resources through an interdisciplinary degree at St. Francis Xavier University. He was first exposed to international development through an internship in St. Vincent and the Grenadines with the Coady International Institute. “It wasn’t until I went to the Grenadines that I understood what it truly means to be water insecure”, says Tyler. “Growing up in Canada, I’ve always been spoiled when it comes to water. In the Grenadines, I witnessed how water scarcity and climate change really had an impact on people’s lives”. Tyler’s time in the Grenadines and subsequent experience working in the Philippines left him eager to build on the links between water and development. The Water Security and International Development Master’s program at the University of East Anglia was a natural next step. At UEA, Tyler was exposed to the connections between water and many development challenges and equipped with the skills and knowledge to understand and investigate them critically. “Water is so much more what we drink, it’s a lens to view the world with”, says Tyler. “Food, energy, health, climate change, power and politics – they’re all connected to water”. Tyler’s experience at UEA has proven invaluable in his role with Water Witness International, where he works with vulnerable communities, governments, and the private sector to support equitable and effective water resource management in Zambia and Tanzania.

Ben Roberts-Pierel, 2013-2014

After spending a semester studying in Nepal while working on a BA at Bowdoin College, Ben began to realize that his real passion and interest was in water resources. He had been avidly pursuing whitewater kayaking and spending time on rivers throughout his time at Bowdoin and it was only during his senior year that he realized he could expand his passion for water to academic and professional pursuits as well. Upon graduation Ben took the opportunity to venture through the western United States and became engaged in various outdoor pursuits. He found time away from academia incredibly valuable for development of general life skills and credits it with a strong ability to adapt to many new situations in which he seems to continually find myself. When he was ready to go back to school, Ben heard through a series of others in the water resources field about Mark and the program he had started. 

When Ben applied to the MSc in Water Security and International Development at the University of East Anglia, he included in his application the idea that water may one day be the source of armed conflict around the world, ‘water wars’ of sorts. Through a long series of discussions, lectures and readings Ben surmised that he had been naïve in that assessment, but that a healthy curiosity and an open mind could make up for that lack of understanding. This became a theme which ran throughout his experience at UEA. Many of his previous understandings and conceptions were dispelled or augmented during time working with Mark, Bruce and the other lecturers, and his view and understanding of the world of water resources and development grew exponentially. Ben says it was a truly life changing year for him, that he felt like for every one thing he learned there were ten more he wanted to understand. Ben left feeling well versed in the topic and simultaneously a complete neophyte. Mark’s encouragement to understand but never stop learning or considering perspectives other than your own had a profound impact on his research and study and continues to influence Ben’s work years beyond the program.

After Ben finished he spent some time at his home in Maine before joining a large water quality monitoring project at Utah State University in Logan, Utah USA. In this role Ben led teams on sampling trips to remote locations throughout the western US to collect various scientific data. The study aims to establish a baseline for water quality on US Bureau of Land Management lands across the western US and Alaska and the report is due next year. After the end of the field season Ben accepted a post with the NASA Develop program at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia USA. In this exciting project data they utilize data from NASA’s Earth Observation System to investigate wetlands in northern North Carolina.

Although his most recent work has not been directly in the focus of the MSc program, Ben strongly believes that it is incredibly important that our policy makers understand the scientific underpinnings for the decisions that they make. He continues to work in the sciences with the ultimate goal of re-engaging with the political and governance process. He is a strong believer in Mark and the work that he does at UEA, his time at the University was unforgettable, not least because he met his now fiancée in the school of International Development.

Rebecca Farnum, 2012-13

Becca Farnum graduated with an MSc in Water Security and International Development from UEA's Water Security Research Centre and School of International Development in 2013. She came to Norwich from Michigan State University, where she focused in her undergraduate years on the political anthropology of food in the Middle East and North Africa. Following her thesis research on “Virtual Water, Equivocal Law, Actual Hegemony: Expanding the Framework of Hydro-Hegemony to Inform Virtual Water Trade and International Law” as supervised by Dr Mark Zeitoun, Becca took a year to further consider the relationship between law and socioenvironmental justice at the University of Edinburgh, where she completed an LLM in International Law. Her legal thesis, supervised by Professor Alan Boyle, explored sovereignty, self-determination, legal negotiations, and the environment (“‘Sign Here for Statehood’: The Role of International Environmental Agreements in Building Legal Recognition for Taiwan and Palestine).

Becca is now a PhD Researcher at King's College London, where she works with Drs Naho Mirumachi and Alex Loftus to explore environmental peacebuilding in the Middle East and North Africa. Becca first considered King's for doctoral work when Alex came to deliver a WSRC Seminar at UEA, and she met Naho at the Sixth International Workshop on Hydro-Hegemony, sponsored by the WSRC and organised by Dr Mark Zeitoun.

Today, Becca is a Visiting Fellow at the University of East Anglia, working as the Water Security Research Centre's Alumni Coordinator and regularly visiting Norwich for lectures and seminars. She is working to convene the Eighth International Workshop on Hydro-Hegemony in October, which will focus on law, hegemony, and activism. She is also coordinating a project on the social aspects of the hydro cycle, developing a participatory tool for water resources modeling (the hydro spiral) with fellow WSRC alums Ruth Macdougall and Charlie Thompson.

Charlie Thompson, 2012-13

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management and working for a few years conducting water chemistry analyses, Charlie became interested in the differences in perceptions on global water issues between natural scientists and social scientists. Charlie recognized his own shortcomings in the social sciences when it came to thinking critically about global water issues and knew that he would need further experience or education to truly make an impact. After some searching, Charlie found the MSc Water Security and International Development program at UEA. The program’s specific focus on water and international development is what drew him and after conversations with Dr. Zeitoun, Charlie knew this program was exactly what he was looking for.

One year after the discovery of the program, and Charlie found himself walking the cobblestoned streets of Norwich, admiring the city’s charm and beauty and enjoying a pint with new friends. The times taken while developing tremendous friendships remain his favorite memories of Norwich and UEA.

In addition to the wonderful experience of UEA, the master’s degree is directly responsible for his new position working for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Monaco conducting water quality research. The water security coursework and subsequent degree taught him to think critically and broadly about possible solutions to all types of water-related issues. It helped to enhance his writing abilities and to develop confidence in his communication skills, as well as to vastly expand his knowledge of global water resources. The faculty of the Water Security course also took great care to assist in developing professional relationships and contacts within the field. These contacts and connections have proven invaluable and have increased Charlie's interest in water resources past what he had ever expected.

For anyone looking to start a career in water or to advance their knowledge of water resources, Charlie's advice is to dive in (no pun intended!) Immerse yourself in this program and promises that you will not be disappointed. The faculty, staff and students are all top-notch and the memories and friendships that you leave with will last a lifetime.

Jenny Fraser, 2012-13

Jenny Fraser completed her MSc in Water Security and International Development from the University of East Anglia in September 2013. She first heard about the program through the IISD climate-l listserv, and then stumbled across it again when searching online for graduate options in the UK.  Jenny also knows two people who has previously attended UEA, one with a Ph.D. from the School of Development, and both spoke highly of their experiences.

Jenny came to Norwich from Canada, after more than a decade as a climate change adaptation specialist in British Columbia's Ministry of Environment. Thanks in part to the MSc, she now has a new position as a senior policy advisor in the Water Protection and Sustainability Branch of the Ministry.  The branch leads development and implementation of British Columbia’s new Water Sustainability Act (WSA) and related regulations. The WSA received Royal Assent in Fall 2014 and will come into effect early in 2016. It introduces some innovations – including protection for environmental flows, consideration of water in land use decisions, stricter regulation in regions of the province that face multiple pressures, and scope for a range of governance approaches. Jenny is part of the team leading engagement with provincial water stakeholders and First Nations on the development of supporting regulations and policies related to the above innovations.

Of her time at UEA, Jenny says "UEA gave me an opportunity to gain and/or improve upon my academic skills – taking notes, studying for exams, and evaluating academic articles. I also became competent with Excel and learned how to use theory as a framework through which to evaluate a real-world initiative.  My biggest takeaway was the realization that the academic literature has much to offer practitioners and decision-makers, that most practitioners have little or no access to academic/empirical knowledge, and that we need to address this gap before we can even begin to solve the problems of the world. I also credit the broad knowledge of contemporary water issues I gained from the WS program with helping me obtain my current job.

I greatly appreciated the willingness of Mark, Bruce, and the rest of the water security group to include students in social events, and to integrate business and pleasure.  I loved the Norfolk countryside, the historic buildings, the hedgerows, and the 60-mile Peddlers’ Way hike I did with three other WS students.  I enjoyed everything about living in the city centre, in particular the market, the mix of historic and contemporary buildings, the river walk, and being able to walk everywhere. On campus I appreciated being able to look out over the field and broad while working in the library. Also the knowledgeable and patient people at the computer help desk!"

To those starting a masters programme with the Water Security Research Centre, Jenny says "I used my year at UEA to read broadly on many issues related to water security, and through this reading gained insight into the ‘big picture’ on global sustainability, including competing beliefs about potential solutions.  I’m now more able to understand current events – for example the recent acquisition of a controlling share in the Canadian Wheat Board by the Saudi government – in a broader context.  However, this broad scope made it challenging to focus on a dissertation topic.  If I were starting my year at UEA again, I would advise myself to focus, in my papers and other assignments during the taught portion of the program, on the same general topic, in order to become more familiar with a specific literature and the gaps in that literature. My experience in government is that to build a career it’s important to supplement academic learning with a specific skill, or to become an expert on something."

Sam Grainger, 2011-12

Sam Grainger heard about the MSc in Water Security and International Development at UEA through specialised websites like prospects and findamasters, searching specifically for water programmes. He was in the first cohort of Water Security students, graduating with his degree in 2012. Right after he completed his MSc, Sam spent 10 months in China based at the World Agroforestry Centre/Chinese Academy of Science in Yunnan Province, coordinating a water governance project in the Himalayas funded by IDRC. He is now undertaking doctoral research at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London. For Sam, the WSID MSc helped bridge the gaps between biophysical science, theory and implementable policy. He enjoyed being able to select modules from various disciplines ranging from climate science uncertainty and catchment water resources to the more theoretical classes.

Sam’s favourite memory from Norwich is walking round the Lanes in Norwich, frequenting the occasional drinking hole and escaping to the coast when the sun came out. He suggests that young people interested in water-related careers should “Follow your interests, and don't get too preoccupied with where the course will take you. It's an emerging field and job market, so your future job probably doesn’t exist yet!”

Verena Ommer, 2011-12

According to Verena, the Water Security modules made an excellent learning experience. Both the theory and practise module complement very well and encourage multi-dimensional thinking in a subject that is highly complex and touches upon a wide range of contexts (water law, water economics, human, national, trans-boundary water security and conflict to name but a few). The innovative teaching methods included a policy role play, policy briefs and the River Basin Game as a problem solving approach. There couldn't be a more memorable way of learning than practising methods right in the classroom.

The learning experience was especially rewarding thanks to the lecturers' high dedication to hands-on teaching, i.e. students calculated the water needs of a hydrological system of their choice after a briefing on using excel. This makes a remarkable difference to studying 'as usual' in academic environments and to applying critical thinking in professional life.