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A part-time practicum working with The Pleasure Project

Gavin Sunderland, student of the MSc International Development discusses her practicum experience working with The Pleasure Project.

Originally from Florida, USA, Gavin is currently studying for her Master’s in International Development. Following the completion of her undergraduate degree in Social Policy from the University of Bristol, Gavin decided she wanted to stay in the UK to further her studies. Having always been interested in humanitarianism and charity work, she begun to explore courses that would give her the knowledge and work experience to gain a role within these fields.

‘I chose this course because of the practicum opportunity, though I have work experience, I didn’t feel I had anything relevant to the field I ultimately want to work in. The practicum opportunity on the course has been a great way to gain that. — Gavin Sunderland, MSc International Development'

Course Highlights

According to Gavin, there have been many highlights to studying the course; one of which has been learning from the experience of lecturers. In particular, Gavin highlights the support of Director of Studies Dr. Oliver Walton and Senior Lecturer in development studies Dr. Jason Hart, both of whom have some really interesting personal experience to share, as well as being instrumental in supporting Gavin with her future career options.

She also notes the diversity of her 2019/20 cohort as being really valuable in terms of understanding concepts from a global perspective. This year about 50% of the students on the course came from countries outside of the UK and Europe providing different insights and viewpoints of the topics covered.

Choosing the practicum route

Students studying the MSc International Development have the option to complete a dissertation or undertake a practicum. Having recently completed a dissertation as part of her undergraduate degree, and to gain some relevant work experience, Gavin chose to undertake a part-time practicum with The Pleasure Project. Anne Philpott, Founder of the organisation, had previously recruited a University of Bath placement student, and worked with the practicum team to promote the new opportunity to the International Development students. Gavin felt the organisation was linked to research she had completed as part of her undergraduate degree and so she applied – with success!

Working at home during challenging times

To complete the practicum, students are required to work a set number of hours; however this can be broken up in any way to best suit organisations and students. This particular practicum is part-time and ‘location neutral’, so Gavin is able to complete her hours from home, with the occasional meet-up with Anne for bigger meetings. Practicums of this type not only work well for organisations and students, but this year, with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gavin has been able to continue her work from home. A huge benefit for her own experience and development as well as The Pleasure Project.

Roles and responsibilities

On joining The Pleasure Project, a big part of Gavin’s role focused on online platforms including the website and social media. Over time, her responsibilities have grown to include hosting online events, attending virtual conferences and participating in meetings with external stakeholders. Gavin notes the latter has given her some really exciting experiences that she never would have had access to if it was not for The Pleasure Project – for example attending a Skype meeting with a senior member of the World Health Organisation!

‘Working in a small company that is globally recognised means there are lots of opportunities to get involved in a variety of tasks. — Gavin Sunderland'

Learning and assessment

Gavin talks about the skills she has gained from undertaking this practicum including; becoming used to working to tight deadlines, developing presentation skills and interpersonal skills in a new context, understanding how a small organisation is run from the ground up and the importance of building relationships with senior figures in large organisations.

The assessment for the practicum provides students with the opportunity to critically reflect on a specific area of professional practice in international development or humanitarianism having had first-hand experience of it, drawing upon ideas and skills developed through the taught units. This creates a rounded, applied experience for the MSc students.

Plans for the future

Once she has graduated, Gavin hopes to use the skills she has gained from undertaking this master’s course with practicum experience to gain employment working for a local charity in the areas of Gender, Food, Poverty or Sustainability.

A word from The Pleasure Project

At the University of Bath, we strive to ensure practicums are mutually beneficial for our students’ development and the organisation. Providers are supported from the outset, and are required to complete a practicum agreement, carry out a risk assessment, provide clear objectives for the student and offer supervision throughout. Here’s what Anne, Founder of The Pleasure Project had to say:

'Having an intern is great for us at The Pleasure Project, we have had two now and as a small underfunded activist, advocacy and research organisation - a think-tank on pleasure - we really appreciate the additional support. Bath was open in approaching us, has enabled us to have more experienced MSc students who can really help with a variety of tasks. So far interns have authored peer reviewed papers, developed our communications strategies, run social media and presented with us. We are small and have a collective approach - so we hope to offer a stretching and supportive environment. We are also 'location neutral' as a global organisation, which has made life much easier in 'lock down'. We also learn from our interns and enjoy hearing about their experiences of sex education to refine our work'

Find out more about the MSc International Development.

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