Iyan Offor, PhD Researcher at the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG)
Every PhD journey is, by definition, a unique experience. It doesn’t really make sense to talk about a SCELG PhD as being somehow different from all others. And yet, that’s exactly how it feels.
A PhD at SCELG takes the most solitary of projects and injects it into a community environment that is so intensely supportive, challenging, and encouraging, that the isolation thought to be synonymous with the PhD experience is completely absent. In its place is a rich exchange of ideas, collaboration amongst peers, and the practice of skill sharing and inclusivity. And so, I find myself in regular supervision meetings sharing ideas and drafts (but also discussing collaboration on SCELG events, projects, and socials), in daily lunches with members of the SCELG PhD cohort discussing our research trials and tribulations (but also building warm, long-term friendships), and in SCELG meetings where every person is treated as an equal.
A SCELG PhD is distinctly different not just because of community but also because of the unique knowledge that exists here. Certainly, every good research centre has unique people with unique knowledge. However, the SCELG difference resides in its relentless application in practice and in its intensely and productively critical slant. Thus, I came into my PhD thinking primarily about animal law through a trade lens and, within 12 months, I have evolved into feminist critiques of animal ethics, explorations of wild law, and the complexities of metatheories of global law. All the while, I apply this knowledge through my formal partnership with Eurogroup for Animals, a relationship which has been supported and encouraged by SCELG.
I have a few examples that serve to highlight how SCELG has skyrocketed my personal development.
I spoke with my supervisors and the centre’s co-directors early in my PhD about my interest in teaching. I research animal law and I am conscious of the dearth of learning opportunities afforded to students in this area (having been one such deprived student not that long ago).
Straight away, I was offered the opportunity to teach a session on animal law to the environmental law honours cohort, resulting in a number of course essays on animal law. This provided me with the perfect training to go on to teach trade and animal welfare at a unique summer school on animal law at Aarhus University, Denmark. In my second year, I will undertake a number of teaching opportunities. I will teach the environmental law honours cohort once more, I will also take animal law to the SCELG LLMs and to students studying ocean law and environmental justice. SCELG has also supported me in efforts to bring animal law events to Strathclyde in my role as student representative for the UK Centre for Animal Law. Finally, I have had the opportunity to improve my research on legal theory by assisting with legal theory and environmental justice tutorial and seminar groups. These experiences are putting me in good stead to build the experience necessary to pursue an academic career.
Organising and presenting at SCELG events have also proven to be wonderful opportunities to gain experience sharing my research at an early stage. The broad range of experts attracted to Strathclyde for the IUCN’s 2018 Academy of Environmental Law conference afforded an opportunity to gain feedback on my work from leaders in the field. Organising the Postgraduate Colloquium on Environmental Law and Governance also provided a fantastic introduction to academic engagement. The collaborative environment at this event, as well as the general desire to share knowledge and to learn from one another within SCELG, has encouraged us to start a PhD discussion group. The genesis of this group is proof that there is space to get as much out of a PhD at SCELG as you are willing to put in. The experiences SCELG has provided me to present my research have encouraged me to present my research at the second annual University of Lincoln animal welfare and international law seminar and the first ASEAN animal law conference in Chiang Mai Thailand. I have also been invited to present at a London seminar on the Agriculture Bill hosted by Leigh Day solicitors and Wildlife and Countryside Link group.
Finally, the support and guidance of SCELG members has been instrumental in helping me to pursue publication of my research. I have received such a broad range of insightful comments on my work from SCELG members that is helping to push my research in new directions. I have an ambitious publication strategy to follow during my PhD and I am confident that with the peer review and guidance available at SCELG, I will be able to stick to it. Currently, this involves transforming my first completed chapter and my previous LLM research into a journal article. I am also working on a draft article as part of my collaboration with Eurogroup for Animals which will benefit immensely from the oversight available at SCELG.