A day in the life of an Master’s in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment student

Last updated: 12th March 2024

Neiad Adams-Austin is a Traffic Engineer with the London Borough of Waltham Forest and a student on the Master of Studies in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE) at The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). Neiad has shared his experience of the programme and has detailed what an average day looks like for him during one of the residential workshops in Cambridge, UK.

My day begins… at 7 am sharp with my alarm bell ringing in Wolfson’s accommodation. The accommodation provided is smart and charming, and acts as a good base for all activities occurring as part of my residential week on the IDBE course. After a quick shower and read of the news, I typically make my way to the cafeteria to get a full English breakfast and catch up with my peers and other students from around Wolfson College. Once breakfast is completed these conversations are moved outside as we take a leisurely walk from Wolfson College to the Department of Engineering where most of our lectures and studios are based for the day.

The workshop starts with… us finding seats in the lecture theatre. We are encouraged to change seats each day which ensures we interact with different colleagues and always makes for unique and interesting conversations. Our programme for the day is outlined, which typically involves a mix between lectures and workshops.

Lectures for the day can include an array of speakers from various disciplines. This has included world-leading experts in hydropower (Craig Scott), tunnelling (Lord Robert Mair) and sustainable property development (Guy Grainger). Outside of lectures we also have studio projects. These projects involve us working in groups of 5 to 8, to resolve a common issue through sharing our collective expertise. Studio projects provide us with further opportunities to test our newly learnt ideas from the IDBE course and further opportunities to collaborate and innovate new ways of thinking.

The programme for the day is typically split between two short breaks, a lunch period and a dinner period. However, it makes for an eventful and active day!

Between sessions I… spend a lot of time networking and bonding with peers. A group of us typically walk to the local café to grab some coffee and discuss what we have learnt, discuss questions raised in the sessions and talk about common problems we face in our fields. Its also not all about work! Our breaks gives us a great opportunity to learn more about each other on a personal level talk often turns to careers, hobbies or even the result of their football team. These interactions always make for interesting conversations and have helped us to bond as a cohort.

After lunch… our sessions are typically studio projects. Whilst in the morning the learning format is focused on listening to experts, projects involve more active engagement with peers. Key to the success of the project is stepping outside of our silo and trying to bridge our areas of expertise and understandings with a variety of other fields to move towards a common understanding and goal.

In addition to the studio project we also have a horizon lecture. This lecture is more casual in its setting and provides us with an opportunity to see what work is being done around Cambridge outside of fields directly relating to the built environment. I find these lectures useful as they provide an opportunity to see how our work in the built environment may impact other fields. However, they also provide an opportunity to learn completely new insights away from my existing knowledge base.

After sessions finish… there is time to take part in leisure activities. Through our Cohort’s WhatsApp group, we often organise gatherings for the night. This can involve going for dinner or formal events right down to attending local pubs and bars. These social events have allowed me to form a really good bond with my classmates on a personal level and has led to us meeting up outside of residential workshops.

After a day of learning… I would be lying if I didn’t say that there is a lot to take in on an average day! However, that’s what makes it fun. I feel like I am learning many new ideas and insights which I can reapply in my field of work. However, more importantly, I always walk away from a typical day feeling more inspired to create change for a more sustainable world. Creating change is not easy, but what this course has shown me is that, through great leadership and collaboration, change is not only possible but in the hands of many.

Working within the public sector I am too often aware of the image that the public sector is lagging behind its private sector counterparts in enabling a more sustainable built environment. However, this course has inspired me to tackle such views by taking a more active and leading role in enabling change. As I progress from this course and look to take the next step in my career, I readily look forward to using many of the principles and teachings to address the many challenges and opportunities that can be found in the built environment.

CISL’s Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate part-time courses focused on Sustainability Leadership in the Built Environment are delivered via a blend of remote online learning and residential workshops in Cambridge. The two-year Master’s includes six week-long residential workshops in Cambridge and the nine-month Postgraduate Certificate has two week-long residential workshops. Find out more, download the brochure and apply here.

N.B. The information contained in this entry is provided by the above supplier, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher

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