Donald Mackenzie

Currently studying an MSc Managing Sustainable Rural Development through Lews Castle College UHI (distance learning). He recently undertook an internship with the CADISPA Trust and aims to graduate in 2013.

My past and my present

After graduating from Edinburgh University I was offered a PhD place there, but decided that I wanted to do an MSc at the University of the Highlands and Islands instead. My wife and I were planning to move to the Highlands and I was able to study from home in Edinburgh while we prepared for the move. The part time MSc allowed us the flexibility to make the move, allowing me to work while we sorted out selling our flat and buying a house. It also allowed my wife time to convince her employers that she could work from home within the Highlands just as well as at a desk in Edinburgh. I have not graduated from my MSc yet but I have been working with the CADISPA Trust on a paid internship.

I ended up in the role through applying for a position I saw advertised on the UHI internship vacancies page. The PG Dip I had already completed at UHI, as part of the MSc, gave me the qualifications and confidence to apply and do well at my interview.

My future

Studying at UHI has been central to my getting involved with sustainable rural development within Scotland. It has given me the confidence to seek out internships that have improved my ability to take on progressively more demanding roles. I have been able to fit my study around my move to the Highlands and was able to complete a large part of the work from Edinburgh originally. I have now moved to the Highlands and have extensive experience from work, internships and my degree that has left me in a really good position in looking for work as I finish the MSc.
In the future I would either like to take my studies further through a PhD, or start my own rural consultancy social enterprise. Either way I think I have developed the confidence to keep on learning through whatever I am doing.

My advice

The advice I would give would be to take advantage of any chance at work experience or internships that you are interested in as they really do make a difference to how employers view you. I would also say that getting to grips with thinking about your career is something that should be done from the start of your studies. It doesn’t take up as much time as you think and can provide a steadying focus that actually makes studying easier.