Joyce Msuya, Strathclyde alumna

AlumniJoyce Msuya

Course studied: BSc Biochemistry & Immunology, 1992

Current position: Assistant Secretary-General and Environment Programme Deputy Executive Director for the UN

Joyce Msuya is the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General and Environment Programme Deputy Executive Director. A qualified microbiologist and environmental scientist, she has more than 20 years’ experience in the field of international development.

Joyce was appointed to her post with the UN in August 2018. She previously worked for 20 years with the World Bank, where she led international economic and environmental strategies, particularly in Africa. She is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. We caught up with her to find out more.

Tell us about your background

I was born and raised in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, with my family roots in the Usangi highlands of Kilimanjaro.

I went to public schools in Tanzania between 1970s-1980s. After graduating from Weruweru High School in Moshi, I joined the University of Strathclyde in 1989.

A key driver of my decision to go to Strathclyde was curiosity around Scottish culture including language norms. An extra and personally fulfilling surprise was to be in Glasgow when the city was the designated ‘European City of Culture’. This provided enormous opportunities to learn and experience cultural activities from all over Europe.

After I graduated in 1992 – again out of curiosity – I chose to go to Ottawa University in Canada for a graduate programme.

After graduating from Ottawa University with an MSc in Microbiology and Immunology, I worked briefly at the University of British Columbia, doing research in Public Health Policy. In 1998 I joined the World Bank Group in Washington DC as a Health Specialist working mostly on the Africa region.

Do you have a highlight from your time at university?

The warmth of the people. As a foreign student in Glasgow, who came from a completely different culture, I felt a strong connection and embrace by the people I met, from classmates, roommates, to the taxi drivers and everyone in between.

I realised then that we as human beings have more in common than in difference. This experience enhanced my outlook of the world.

Top 3 Strathlife moments

  • Warm and diverse friendships
  • Solid career foundations
  • Global opportunities

How did your time at Strathclyde help prepare you for this role?

My time at Strathclyde shaped my views and values of the world, in particular appreciation of diversity, cultures and people."

Since Glasgow and Scotland were the first experiences for me away from my home in Tanzania, I learnt to work, live and appreciate people who are very different from me.

I learnt to listen to different perspectives and stories from other parts of the world including appreciating others’ perspectives and opinions. Additionally, some of my own biases were challenged and readjusted through the experiences that I had and/or friendships that I made.

All of these experiences prepared me well for the jobs that I have had in international organisations. Staff in these organisations come from all over the world and my jobs have allowed me to travel all over the world. At many levels, Strathclyde served as a propeller to my international career with a purpose.

Any final points, or words of wisdom?

Thank you Strathclyde for shaping my global career. To new students, explore and embrace Strathclyde.