December Student Profile : Michael Southcott

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Michael Southcott found his way to the Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) program at Conrad Grebel University College after completing his undergraduate degree in Global Studies and Political Science at Wilfred Laurier University. In his final year at Laurier, Michael did an international exchange in the Netherlands at Radboud University, where he focused mainly on Political Science. During this time, he applied to various graduate schools and determined that the MPACS program was the best fit due to small class sizes and the possibility to do an internship.

Since joining the MPACS program, Michael has had many opportunities come his way. He was able to participate in a field study in Trinidad and Tobago, which focused on Water and Security issues. Michael also took full advantage of the MPCAS internship option. He was accepted as an intern for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), based in Geneva, Switzerland, for six-months. UNFPA primarily focuses on sexual and gender based violence, sexual and reproductive health.Michael Southcott at the UN in Geneva

Once the internship began, he was specifically working under the Humanitarian Fragile Context Branch of UNFPA, which covers many humanitarian disasters, including Nepal, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen. Michael was tasked with attended Member States Briefings, creating and editing reports, summarizing humanitarian disaster situation reports, assisting with UNFPA’s presence in many events and conferences within and outside of Geneva, and coordinating with UNHCR in order to develop a response plan for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe.

The most exciting element of the internship for Michael was the transition from an academic environment to the fast-paced professional context of the United Nations. Working and living in a new city paired with engaging and operating on a variety of different platforms within the United Nations was challenging, exciting, and rewarding. Engaging with the people of UNFPA – Geneva was particularly rewarding as the small office gave Michael the opportunity to work on many projects and contexts within the humanitarian system.

Do the best possible job you can. See as many people go to as many events that you can and get your name and resume out there. It goes by so quickly, so make the most of it.

The Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies program has given Michael the skills to stay grounded in the work that he loves while also being adaptable to a fast-paced environment like the United Nations. Moving forward in his final few months of his Masters, Michael plans on applying to the United Nations so that he can continue his work in the humanitarian field. This will allow him to combine his passion of ground-level work with top-level policies and legislation of the UN.

Internships are a significant part of the MPACS program at the University of Waterloo, and Michael’s UNFPA internship has played an important role in his MPACS experience. When moving forward with future internships, Michael would suggest to begin as soon as possible in your search.

It is important to grow your network and speak with as many people as possible in order to learn not only what opportunities are out there, but what you can do to better promote yourself and get in touch with those in the field in which you wish to work. Always asking for a review of your resume and updating your LinkedIn always helps and working closely with professors is a good place to start!