BA Geography - Henry Saunders
Years at UEA
2016-2019 (graduated 2019)
Henry Saunders began his Geography BA at UEA with an interest in the human side of Geography.
Now, he works as a Climate Change Officer at Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk.
We caught up with Henry to find out more about how his interests changed throughout his degree, his UEA internship that got him his current position, and his favourite aspects of working in a climate change role.
Can you give us a career overview?
I'm currently a climate change officer for the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk.
I started the role as an intern through the UEA Internship programme. That was initially for four months, then extended to 12 months. Following that, I was offered a full-time position.
Initially, it was to do some short-term work to help develop a carbon audit of the Council's carbon emissions. I had to do a lot of research, build that up from scratch and work out how it's done as this is not a requirement for local authorities or businesses to do on a national scale.
That was something I took the lead on in my role. I started developing this audit and giving the council a baseline from which they can develop their climate change policies and strategies going forwards. I was involved in developing the reports that resulted in the Council setting a 2050 net-zero target in line with the Climate Change Act 2008.
The Council then wanted a climate change strategy and action plan drafted so after my internship was extended, I helped and input into this climate change policy. Now, my main role is continuing to do this audit work.
Aside to that, I help manage and facilitate the Norfolk Climate Change Partnership, which was set up whilst I started working for the Council. My chief executive is the chair for that group, and I help run the meetings which includes setting the agenda and inviting speakers.
What’s your favourite aspect of your current role?
I enjoy how it has developed, and that every year I am in charge of certain projects and proposals.
I think this comes a lot from working in local government and working in a government setting. I've dealt with so many different people from the Council, different types of stakeholders from local politicians, local activist groups and members of the public.
I've had a really good opportunity to go to panels and go to our cabinet and Council meetings and do a lot of presenting.
What I've enjoyed about my role is its variety, and it's given me so many different experiences within a relatively contained role; and the role has expanded since I joined.
Straight away I was learning new things and addressing different concerns. I've been more involved now in recent months, working on specific decarbonisation projects, so its variety has been really good.
Can you see yourself staying in this role?
I think local government is a great step if you're looking to work for maybe the civil service.
It's a really good introduction to the world of work. Ultimately, I would like to stay in the environmental field, but if opportunities come my way it's just a good foot in the door. Being at a local authority gives you a really good starting point.
What was it that drew you to UEA?
My grandparents lived in Norfolk and my granny used to live in Norwich, so it's always been quite familiar to me when I was younger.
UEA was just a university I thought I'd always go to.
I really love the aesthetic of the campus. I like the fact that it wasn't centred in Norwich and there was a nice student area. So, a mixture of a bit of familiarity and also the campus.
I always wanted to do Geography. I lent more towards the BA Geography initially because I really enjoyed the human element, so I thought that would be a good avenue for me. I thought it was a good mix of everything.
The first year gave me really good base understanding of Geography and Environmental Sciences. There was lots of flexibility to specialize in specific areas as you went throughout your course, so that's what drew me to the degree.
Were there any particular skills that you learned while doing Geography that you still use every day?
My degree has been incredibly helpful in terms of giving me the skills to analyse information quickly and in ensuring that I can easily explain the main points in a clear way.
Report writing is a big part of my job and my degree helped me ensure that I can communicate key points clearly, which aids decision making.
Data analysis, to an extent, has been a useful skill in my current role. Having a base understanding has helped with my auditing and understanding large complex datasets.
Specifically from Geography, I think the modules themselves. The understanding of climate change has really helped in my role. One great thing with our dissertation in Geography is that as part of that you have to do CV writing, which was very useful.
Did you use any services to help you think about your career?
UEA CareerCentral is a goldmine of useful resources.
They were super helpful in terms of the events they put on. If I was to recommend things for prospective students, it would be to book some one-on-one sessions with the career advisors. They can really help tailor your CV and make you think a bit more about what you'd like to do. They were a great place to go to find internships or roles.
Do you have any favourite memories of UEA?
I would say my entire time at UEA was a great memory.
Pimp My Barrow was a great event. Derby Day as well. Days where you really feel like you're part of a community and family.
The community feel of UEA always comes back to me when I think back. I learned to play tennis. That was great, never really playing a sport before and being able to pick it up in first year.
Did you feel prepared when you left UEA?
I definitely felt that I left university very well rounded.
I've got a really good skillset and they always say that with Geography you have a lot of transferable skills. I do think that's very true.
Nothing can necessarily prepare you entirely for going into the world of work, but I felt confident – I felt like I had belief in my knowledge and my skills. That was due a lot to how well we were taught, and all of the advice and help that was given, especially by CareerCentral.
Any words of advice for Geography students?
Keep your options open.
There's going to be a lot of different modules you can do and a lot of opportunities within them, so don't stick to one path. Really consider because there's loads and loads of different options available from lots of different fields which may spark your interest in something.
I went into my degree not necessarily thinking much about climate change at all and looking more at human geography. I'm now a climate change officer and I've completely gone in a direction I didn't necessarily think I would go.
So, go into it with an open mind. There's lots of overlap with environmental science as well, so I think Geography is a great degree to start with. You can specialise further and further as you go along, which is really useful and allows you to get the most out of your degree.
And do the reading. No one listens to it, but always do the reading.