Gemma Sandie's two Edinburgh degrees represent her passions for both governance and climate, and she's putting that to good use as a Scottish government researcher for Scotland's Climate Assembly.
International Relations (2018)
Environmental Sustainability (2020)
|Year of graduation||2018, 2020|
Your time at the University
Before enrolling I didn’t think I could possibly go to university, nobody in my immediate family had been before, but I was extremely fortunate to be able to take advantage of the free tuition offered to Scottish students, and with a little help from the LEAPs programme I successfully enrolled to the UoE to study International Relations.
What I learned was revolutionary and gave me a whole new take on what was possible in my life. I delved deep into the modern history of the Middle East, the foreign policy of the United States and explored our political world through the lens of intersectionality. My mind was open.
My fourth-year dissertation allowed me to delve even deeper into an interest I had since I was a bairn – climate change.
Your experiences since leaving the University
After graduation, I learned a lot about myself and decided to return to the UoE to study my postgraduate degree MSc Environmental Sustainability. I spent the next year learning about our planetary boundaries, asking tough questions about justice, and reimagining the world we could live in. Looking back on my experience at the UoE, two things stand out: the people and the place. I have met some of the most remarkable and fascinating people at the UoE (both teachers and peers). It’s a place for pushing boundaries, creativity and inspiration.
I’m now working as a Research Officer for the Scottish Government, researching Scotland’s Climate Assembly. I’m really excited to be researching a form of deliberative politics which brings citizens across Scotland to the table to discuss how Scotland should tackle the climate emergency.
What is Scotland's Climate Assembly?
Grounded in Scotland’s Climate Change Act (2019), the Assembly brought together over 100 ordinary citizens from across Scotland to deliberate about the climate emergency. They were tasked with answering the question:
"HOW SHOULD SCOTLAND CHANGE TO TACKLE THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY IN AN EFFECTIVE AND FAIR WAY?"
The Assembly Members met over seven weekends from November 2020 to March 2021. In order to best answer the question above, they were split into three 'work-streams' to consider:
- Diet, Land Use and Lifestyle
- Homes and Communities
- Work and Travel
The Assembly Members came from across Scotland - from the Isle of Bute to Dundee, and from Langholm to Orkney. They ranged in age from 16 to 72, and had different careers, experiences, education and views on climate change. They also heard evidence from Members of the Children's Parliament, the first time children's voices have been included in a citizen's assembly.
Also, the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has taught me the importance of human connection for well-being, but also reaffirms the importance of our connection with nature. It’s taught me what we can achieve when we come together. It’s also solidified my choice to dedicate my life to pursing environmental sustainability, to work towards increasing the well-being of both people and planet.
My advice would be ‘trust the process’. When I first graduated and didn’t land that dream job straight away, I felt like I had failed. However, it set me on a path that I didn’t think was possible for me. Looking back I realise that all experiences are valuable. It forced me to really tune into what I want out of life, and it took me right back to the UoE!! Be kind to yourself and trust in the process – things will work out.
COP26 and the University of Edinburgh
Scotland's Climate Assembly (external)