Zoe Cuthbert

After graduating from the School...

In 2014 I graduated and knew that I wanted to have an impact in the world. I always had an interest in law and realised that studying a Master's which combined my environmental background with international governance was a useful starting point. I enrolled in a two-year LLM Master’s degree in International Law and Sustainable Development at the University of Strathclyde. This course attracted me due to the various modules on offer, including Global Water Policy, International Trading Systems and the opportunity to undertake a field dissertation. I spent three months in Sri Lanka researching the implementation of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, which culminated in my legal thesis and a published journal paper in Water International.

Following my graduation in 2016 from my LLM, I interned at WaterAid and then began working for the social enterprise Social Bite in Edinburgh. In December 2016 my team organised the first CEO Sleepout to drive awareness of Scotland’s homeless crisis and raised funds that were used to build The Social Bite Village. During my time at Social Bite, I also helped organise the Scottish Business Awards, welcoming Leonardo DiCaprio to deliver a keynote speech about climate change and the impending environmental crisis. I then worked for their sister social enterprise called Brewgooder, bringing clean water to communities in Malawi. After two years in Edinburgh, I moved to London to further their corporate social responsibility agenda.

I then moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to join the Expo 2020 Global Best Practice Programme. This programme focuses on spotlighting projects that are providing real solutions to the world’s most difficult challenges, in line with the globally-sourced Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a view to expanding them elsewhere. I’m currently responsible for researching best practices on a global and local scale, working closely with the United Nations, World Bank and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The World Expo will take place from October 2020 until April 2021, where I will manage and bring to life the best examples of sustainable development initiatives around the world. 

What did you value about the degree?

I learned lots of really useful skills from my geography degree. In particular, teamwork, critical thinking and a well-rounded way of learning (from fieldwork to GIS to essay writing). During my degree I took a range of human, environmental and physical geography modules which have all benefitted me in some way. For example, in my current role, I developed an evaluation rubric for Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Best Practice Programme. This task was similar to research projects I did during my degree and required me to think holistically about assessing proposals across social, economic and environmental dimensions.

Do you have any advice for prospective students?

My advice would be to start thinking about what you want to do at the beginning of your fourth year. This will help you select modules that will be of most use for your career path. I would also recommend to start looking at what jobs are actually available and the requirements associated with them. Writing personal goals helped me stay focused and achieve what I wanted to… so far!

Finally, it’s really important to enjoy the university experience in its entirety; make friends, develop different networks, join a society and use the academic resources and people available.