LLM Global Environmental Law and GovernanceKyle Fawkes, Canada

Tell us a bit about your background...
I grew up in a small fishing and logging town on the eastern shores of Vancouver Island, Canada. Much of my childhood was spent outdoors – running on secluded trails in dense evergreen forests, snowshoeing in white alpine meadows, or paddling the glimmering coastal waters around the Gulf Islands. These early adventures inspired me to pursue environmental science for my undergraduate degree at Quest University Canada. After spending several years abroad to pursue further educational and employment opportunities, I developed an additional curiosity in international development and global sustainability. While overseas, I was also fortunate to attend several environment and development conferences, where I met faculty and researchers from the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance. Their phenomenal expertise, positive encouragement, and openness to new ways of thinking at these conferences were eventually pivotal in my decision to pursue the LLM in Global Environmental Law and Governance at the University of Strathclyde.

How have you found your experience of Strathclyde, so far?
There is no doubt that the pandemic has wielded a rather unpleasant set of challenges for students looking to achieve their educational aspirations this year. However, the coordinators and lecturers of the LLM programme have been adept at acclimatizing to this dynamic reality. While courses have existed exclusively in virtual format, they have been supported by engaging videos, seminars, collaborative group activities, and virtual office hours.

The highlight of my time at Strathclyde has been partaking in interactive sessions with my classmates. The students in my programme hail from countries across four continents and each brings a unique academic or practical background to the class discussions. Many of the virtual activities have promoted intercultural exchanges and collaboration, which are invaluable opportunities in a programme that has a distinct focus on international relations. 

What would be your advice for people considering taking this course?
For those that may be considering whether to apply to the LLM in Global Environmental Law and Governance at the University of Strathclyde, I would strongly recommend it. The programme offers an incredibly engaging education at the intersection of international law, environmental protection, sustainable development and international relations. The programme lecturers are leading experts in their respective fields and have a genuine interest in preparing and inspiring students for their career goals. The course teachings, themes and discussions are extremely fascinating and support the development of specialized skills such as legal information collection, critical legal analysis and negotiation. Yet, the programme reaches deeper than professional legal training by fostering the development of transferrable skills such as interpersonal communication, presentation skills, public speaking capabilities, collaboration, information consolidation, argument development and academic writing.

What have been the main challenges studying at postgraduate level?
One of the main challenges of studying at the postgraduate level has been striking a balance between the in-depth academic work and personal life – such as recreation, exercise and social time. With such an intensive and demanding course, it can be easy to devote a disproportionate amount of time to class assignments and readings. At an extreme, such deep investment may not be particularly compatible with maintaining mental and physical health. However, by adopting a daily routine, planning weekly entertainment activities, and exercising regularly, I found it easier to manage the stress, anxiety and rigor associated with postgraduate studies.

How has your scholarship supported your studies?
The Dean's International Excellence Scholarship has substantially reduced the financial burden of tuition fees and student debt. This has allowed me to commit more time and focus to course studies, research opportunities and volunteer commitments, which has enriched my overall university experience. I am also able to more freely engage with classmates and the broader Strathclyde community, as well as being preparations and planning for life after the LLM programme.

What do you think of the support available (supervisors, professional services etc)?
The LLM programme provides exceptional support to students. The lecturers are extremely approachable and very understanding of the challenges associated with pursuing postgraduate studies. They also give great attention to students’ academic and career interests in a way that strongly supports the transition to professional life after the degree.

What are your ambitions for the future?
For me, the educational experience at Strathclyde galvanized a strong hunger to improve government leadership on global environmental issues. In turn, this impulse fuelled my current aspirations to pursue a career in government. I am particularly interested in how governments can promote more equitable and sustainable management of natural resources on the international stage.