Kathryn McKenzie, LLM Student in Global Environment Law (2017-2018)

Tell us a bit about yourself...
My name is Kate and I am a first year PhD student in the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG). I am a somewhat non-traditional student in that I was a practicing attorney for nearly 2 decades before I decided to do a mid-career change of direction and come to Strathclyde for further studies. I grew up in Europe but spent the entirety of my educational career and adult life living in the USA. Coming to Scotland to study was a big step but I am happy every day that I took it!

Why did you choose Strathclyde for your postgraduate research study?
I recently completed my LLM at Strathclyde and found the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance (SCELG) to be a place of tremendous expertise and support. The faculty and staff are working on a broad variety of research areas and consultancies of interest to me and of significance in the global environmental law arena.

Prior to my LLM, I chose Strathclyde because my sister attended Strathclyde for her MBA and had a very positive experience.

Tell us about the nature of your research?
My research is focused on non-Western conflict resolution mechanism, specifically in indigenous communities in low- and middle-income countries in Africa and the South Pacific, and how they might contribute to sustainable, inclusive and equitable ocean governance in light of the harmful effects of climate change.

What do you like about your research area?
My research area combines several of my interests. Having been a professional mediator for nearly a decade, this research allows me to build on my existing professional background and expertise to approach another topic of great interest to me (climate change effects on vulnerable populations) from a perspective that seems to be missing from the global conversation on how to approach ocean governance.

What’s the Strathclyde research community like?
I have found the research community at Strathclyde to be very engaged. Anytime I feel the need to discuss a topic or ask for assistance on anything, I know there is someone I can turn to.

There are numerous opportunities to engage in discussion groups both on specific topics and also on the PhD journey in general.

What are the Strathclyde facilities like?
In general, the Strathclyde facilities are very nice. Many are new or recently updated. In some of the older buildings, you have the normal wear and tear and minor technical issues but overall, the facilities are wonderful. The library is extensive in its collections, big, bright, and open in its layout with numerous study options (quiet floors and group meeting rooms).

Tell us about the support from your supervisor and the wider Strathclyde team?
Supervision is very individual in that it is up to me to schedule meetings with my supervisors. I feel very comfortable with the level of support and the fact that I can reach out to either of my supervisors at any time with questions or concerns and can expect a quick response.

Overall, I have been extremely impressed with the responsiveness and helpful attitude of every department I have engaged with, be it finance, student life, international student affairs, admissions, etc.

What's the best thing about Strathclyde?
For me, the best thing about Strathclyde is SCELG. It is a centre of excellence in research and the mix of expertise, networks, and research is truly inspirational.

What would you like to do after your PhD?
I’m not sure yet as I am just in my first year. I hope to possibly work in academia but eventually I would like to work in a broader context such as an intergovernmental organization or policy-making body.

What are the main differences between studying in the USA and in the UK?
The biggest difference between studying in the USA and the UK is the grading system. It took me a while to adjust to it.

What was it like moving to Scotland?
Moving to Scotland was exciting. I initially moved into a private student accommodation, which made the transition very easy. It meant I did not have to figure out all the complexities of renting a flat before arriving, including organizing Wi-Fi, heating, etc. or location of flats and pricing. Once I lived here for a year, it was far easier to choose a location for a flat and to know how to go about setting up the various services, etc.

What is it like being a student in Glasgow?
Being a student in Glasgow is fun! There are so many things to do and most places have student discounts, including restaurants and venues so it is possible to have a nice time without breaking your budget.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to go for walks in the many parks in Glasgow. I also enjoy cooking with friends and having game nights, going to the cinema or the theatre, play crazy golf or go bowling. There are also live music and comedy events daily and museums operated by the city are always free to enter.

What do you like most about the city?
I’m not sure where to begin. I love Glasgow. The history, the architecture, the many parks and green spaces. The people! I have rarely lived in a city with friendlier people. The options for recreational activities, access to public transportation (and the rest of Scotland when you want to explore this beautiful country) and restaurant options are excellent.

What’s your favourite Scottish word/phrase, and why?
All of them! It took a little while to adjust my ear, especially to Glaswegian. I am still learning new words and phrases and I’ve been here for nearly 2 years and every new word brings new joy.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
If you are considering a PhD (or any other degree for that matter!), I highly recommend Strathclyde (especially SCELG) as an educational institution and Glasgow as a city. If you come here, take the time to get to know the lay of the city (take a tour bus, do a walking tour on your own, anything). It will give you a good introduction to the flavour of the city and will help you understand the history a little better. Making that initial connection to your new city and university will make your time here that much more special.

Also, get involved! If there is something you are interested in, chances are there are others who are interested in the same thing. There are numerous student groups, discussion groups, guest lectures, speakers and other events to participate in.