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International Women’s Day 2017

The Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) programme is jointly run by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and the Global Studies Institute (GSI) of the University of Geneva. This eight-month Master of Advanced Studies in International and European Security programme based upon the internationally recognised training expertise of the GCSP’s Leadership in International Security Course (LISC), currently in its 31st year, and the long-standing academic expertise of the Global Studies Institute (GSI), University of Geneva, currently 95th in the QS World University Rankings.

In recognition of International Women’s Month and International Women’s Day on 8 March, the GCSP asked two of female participants in our Master of Advanced Studies Programme about their thoughts on professional development.

Environmental and human security is Nuschin Akbarzadeh’s business. For the past five years, Ms. Akbarzadeh has been working for Greenpeace Switzerland, most recently serving as an advisor on organisational strategy. She previously worked for Amnesty International. She holds a MA in Social Anthropology, Constitutional Law and Sociology from the University of Bern (Switzerland).

Thao Griffiths was most recently the Country Director of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation - an American NGO that co-founded and co-ordinated the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. She regularly works with the Vietnam and United States governments at high levels, including on war legacy matters. She has been an Endeavour Fellow (Australia), a Fulbright scholar (US), the first Vietnamese Rotary Peace Fellow (2011), and an inaugural Eisenhower Fellow from Vietnam.

GCSP/GSI: Why did you choose the Master of Advanced Studies programme?

NA: Learning and continuing education is of high importance to Greenpeace and after years in practice, I wanted to go back to "theory" and again plunge into a new field of interest in the highly innovative academic surrounding of GSI & GCSP. I value the in-depth academic debates of our GSI lectures as well as the practical approach at GCSP. After having participated in two courses at GCSP in 2015 on Foresight and Strategic Planning and Crisis Decision Making, I was very much persuaded to attend a longer course, because of the multicultural and intersectoral approach, which is very unique.

TG: For me, I am from a militarily-sensitive border area in Vietnam that has experienced war. I have 17 years of work experience in development and humanitarian assistance in post-conflict situations. I am at a stage in my career that I wish to take my experience to another level, to contribute to broader issues within security policy such as peacekeeping operations, and human security. Plus, I wanted to contribute my experience from Vietnam in addressing war legacy issues, in this international exchange forum. This programme provides me with an excellent opportunity to learn from top-notch experts, and from more than 20 other experienced professionals in the military, foreign affairs, and civil society.

Of special value is the opportunity it provides the participants to pursue a Master of Advanced Studies in International and European Security a the University of Geneva. A combination of both the GCSP and University elements gives me the best of both worlds - academic and professional development - at the highest quality level in the state of the art learning. It’s the GCSP way, where knowledge meets experience!

GCSP/GSI: As a GSI/GCSP participant, how have you found the location of International Geneva in terms of networking and community building?

NA: The environment of the GCSP at the Maison de la paix, Université de Genève and International Geneva in general offer abundant networking possibilities. Even for a person not being at ease with networking, I received support through the GCSP-Centre of Creative Leadership (CCL) Alliance about what must be borne in mind when networking. I personally enjoyed our visit at the WTO and INTERPOL very much. It was very inspiring and we had the possibility to get in touch with high-level representatives. Of course, the daily exchange of ideas and sharing of insights on different topics with fellow participants is invaluable.

TG: I think Geneva is a remarkable confluence of people - a bit like Constantinople was in the old world. I’ve been to about 40 countries but I would say that Geneva is the most international city for me in terms of professional exchange. I am not only learning new knowledge every day but also experiencing new culture through people I meet in Geneva. It gives a wonderfully satisfying feeling.

GCSP/GSI: Leadership for International Women’s Day. While much progress has been made, women are still under represented in senior leadership positions. One of the objectives of this programme is to train participants to be better leaders and decision makers.  What do you think has been particularly useful in developing your leadership capacity?

NA: I have had so many opportunities to lead groups in the intercultural context of GCSP, and the GCSP-CCL Allliance offered moreover the possibility to use different tools to identify leadership profiles, which raised my self-awareness. A special emphasis was put on giving feedback, again working in intercultural groups, was very valuable and I am looking forward to put all the lessons learned into practice.

TG: There are 23 of us in the Leadership in International Security Course, and 16 are taking the Master of Advanced Studies 2016-2017. I was pleasantly surprised that the ratio of women-men in the program is almost 50-50, given the focus of the programme being security. That really shows the institutional commitment to promoting women's participation in this male-dominant sector, and also giving women opportunities to get to higher positions in the future through this professional development opportunity.

It is an intensive leadership training programme. We are together almost every weekday for 8 hours, learning, debating, and challenging each other’s opinions. Good communication skill becomes a necessity. We are trained to communicate succinctly, respectfully and effectively, not only by great lecturers, but also through peer learning.  That is the most useful leadership training that I have been practising as often as possible during this programme.

Recruitment for the 2017/18 edition of the MAS now open. Further information available here.