In Their Own Words: Student Perspectives

  • “I value having the opportunity to learn from professors who have worked for other agencies or who directly participate in negotiation spaces. Their insights help me realistically understand the United Nations as an organization from the inside: what it can and cannot do, and how complex global, intercultural, and interdisciplinary dialogue is. Second, being friends with other students from Africa and Asia is constantly expanding my mind!”

    Lorena Gómez Ramírez (Colombia) — Student, MSc in Sustainability


    “The UNU-IAS PhD in Sustainability Science enriched my perspective profoundly, combining theoretical knowledge and practical applications to hone my problem-solving skills. The programme’s blend of rigorous coursework, hands-on research experience, and interactions with leading experts and students from diverse backgrounds allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of sustainability issues.”

    Mark M. Akrofi (Ghana) — Graduated in 2023, PhD in Sustainability Science


    “The lecturers are very open to us. Their feedback is very good and it makes your work very good! We have access to other universities: UNU has some relations with Sophia University, the University of Tokyo, and the International Christian University. It gives me the opportunity to meet like-minded people, to learn from other backgrounds. The environment is very conducive for learning and for researching: we have access to a lot of resources and I think the transdisciplinary nature of the programme is very good.”

    Isaac Nevis Fianoo (Ghana) — Student, MSc in Sustainability


    “I was looking for a programme that can provide an inter-disciplinary approach and knowledge, not only about environmental studies or policymaking, but where these issues overlap. This programme provides a very systematic approach to climate mitigation and adaptation science to build a comprehensive understanding of sustainability. For PhD study, the hardest part is not to find a solution or reach a conclusion, but to ask the right question — and this requires a comprehensive view of the knowledge in this field. I feel that the courses I am taking at UNU-IAS and in the joint diploma programme with the University of Tokyo help me ask the right research questions.”

    Wenjie Liu (China) — Student, PhD in Sustainability Science


    “The most striking point in the course is the relationship between the researchers and the students, because they are always there to support, and they always make their inputs. You send a draft to them and the kind of input that comes back, it opens your mind to several things you had never looked at. You have a support system that is always there for you throughout your educational journey. What is being taught here is actually very diverse, and more sustainable because it looks at various aspects. So, when an issue is presented to me, right now, I don’t think of just today, I think of “in the near future”, “in the near 50 years”, I try to project forwards.”

    Rafiatu Umarayi Alhassan (Ghana) — Student, MSc in Sustainability


    “I think the added value of the program is the diversity of perspectives it brings together, especially from students representing so many different countries. We’re all coming from different areas with different problem backgrounds and different kinds of focus to solve those problems and it bleeds over into how we all think, and what we all do. We’re always learning something from each other. It also offers a real operational understanding of the UN, how it functions and how we can play into it. Also, there are ties to the University of Tokyo, Sophia University and the International Christian University – that kind of overlap between other cohorts allows us to see how other universities approach similar problems, and we get this broader idea of what [the sustainability] landscape is like in Japan.”

    Miles Lambert-Peck (United States of America) — Student, PhD in Sustainability Science


    “Having studied agricultural/rural economics and rural development, I developed interests in a variety of subjects. Sustainability science was my choice in order to conduct trans-disciplinary research on what I wanted to know. UNU is the optimal place to follow my path because experts and students from diversified backgrounds work on global issues such as the SDGs.”

    Yukako Inamura (Japan) — Graduated in 2020, PhD in Sustainability Science


    “Even if you are not from a hard science background, the programme is accessible. My fear when I applied was that it would be mainly directed towards those who already had a background in environmental sciences or environmental politics. I had taken a few lectures that touched upon the subjects that we study here, but some of it was still very abstract to me. Through the intensive courses of the first month, I quickly developed a greater understanding of issues such as climate change and UN institutions. It was very intense, but I believe that that knowledge has provided a strong foundation on which to continue to build.”

    Alice Yamabe (France/Japan) — Graduated in 2020, MSc in Sustainability


    “We are constantly pushed out of our comfort zone and challenged to innovate and propose practical solutions, rather than reproduce knowledge. Lectures are thought-provoking and fast paced. The unique UN environment provides us with exposure and access beyond my expectations to world-class scholars, scientists, and personalities that are addressing the most pressing global concerns.”

    Julia Lopes Ferreira (Brazil) — Graduated in 2019, MSc in Sustainability


    “The courses, taught by highly distinguished professors, are designed to allow us to look at various subject matter from multiple perspectives. Class discussions and activities involve collaboration and exchange of knowledge from the various academic disciplines from which I and my classmates come. Through this transdisciplinary approach, UNU-IAS is providing us with not just essential skills but also the ‘heart’ to contribute to solving complex problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and desertification.”

    Elson Ian Nyl Ebreo Galang (Philippines) — Graduated in 2019, MSc in Sustainability


    “I come from one of the poorest regions in the world, which is in need of development. And not simply development: sustainable development which takes into account social needs and environmental issues, in addition to economic development. Most of the issues that I am studying here are relevant to the situation in my country–whether it is food security, gender, or education. I was a university lecturer back home, so my plan is to go back and resume my job after I finish my degree. I will have the opportunity to use the knowledge and skills that gained here. That is the best way that I can help my country.”

    Denabo Billo Juju (Ethiopia) — Graduated in 2019, PhD in Sustainability Science


    Student Interviews

    In the videos below produced in 2016 during a UNU-IAS science communications course, master’s students interview each other about their backgrounds as well as their future goals.