By Grace Kamanga
Current PhD student
The World PhD Students Sustainability Summit 2022 was organised by the European School of Sustainability Science and Research, the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme, and the European Alliance for Sustainability Research Rationale. The summit targeted PhD students currently working on matters of sustainable development, at both an early stage, and at an advanced stage of their doctoral research. Students briefly presented their work, progress to date, and how their research will advance in the future. The aims of the summit were:
- to provide PhD students from around the world with an opportunity to display and present their works as they relate to sustainable development.
- to foster the exchange of information, ideas and experiences acquired in the execution of PhD research projects.
- to provide a networking space for participants and a platform to explore possibilities for cooperation.
The event took place online on 8th March 2022. 47 PhD students from across the globe participated, including students from Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Iran, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Germany. Research topics presented ranged from environmental and social sustainability, climate change, tourism, corporate social sustainability, sustainable business practices, virtual reality technologies, energy efficiency and financial performance, among others.
The event was split into seven breakout rooms with at least six presenters in each group, and one moderator, categorised based on the area of research, and in part, the PhD stage. The moderators were academic staff from various universities in the UK, Portugal and Brazil, among others. In addition to PhD colleagues, the moderators provided constructive comments on each presenter's work. Participants were given the freedom to switch between breakout rooms at any point in time. At the end of the breakout sessions, participants returned to the general room for closing remarks in plenary, where moderators commented on how the discussions went in their respective breakout rooms.
Women empowerment and ecotourism
My presentation focused on the nexus between women empowerment and ecotourism. The proposed research attempts to answer the question of whether ecotourism empowers or disempowers women and to what extent, with a further assessment on the implications of the same on development outcomes of ecotourism in Malawi. Borrowing from the social exchange theory, people tend to support developments or initiatives they receive benefits from and oppose those they do not benefit from. In this specific case, the assumption is that if women are empowered, they are more likely to support ecotourism development, and the opposite is true.
Above: The title slide of Grace's presentation
Reflections on the summit
The following key tips proved useful for my preparation:
- Thorough familiarisation with the main points of my presentation which involved reading and re-reading the slides which I prepared.
- Practice before the actual presentation: I was privileged to attend a workshop organised by Warwick’s Doctoral College a few days before the summit, titled, 'PhD in a second language focus group: presentation practice,’ which provided me with the opportunity to practice my presentation to my PhD colleagues at Warwick who attended the workshop. I received useful comments on how I could improve my presentation. In addition, the practice built up my confidence to present at the summit. Practice also helped me to understand my presentation in terms of the flow of ideas, to manage my allocated time, and to envisage the questions from the audience.
- I sent my slides to my supervisor who also provided useful comments on how I could improve my presentation.
Being my first experience, I benefited from the opportunity to present and discuss my work with international PhD students and experts from outside the University of Warwick; the exchange of PhD experiences and ideas with my peers; useful comments and constructive feedback on my work; a learning space especially from the ones whose research work was closely related to mine; and an opportunity to network.
The way forward
Through the summit I joined the World PhD Students Sustainability Network which is an initiative organised by the European School of Sustainability Science and Research in cooperation with various organisations. I look forward to participating in other similar conferences and opportunities, and to share my research with wide and interdisciplinary audiences.
Current PhD student
Grace is a postgraduate research student in the GSD Department. Grace's current research focuses on women empowerment and ecotourism in the developing world context, specifically Malawi. She is supervised by staff from the GSD Department: Dr Marta Guerriero, Professor Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla, and Dr Jess Savage.