Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Meet our graduates: Lynn Houmdi

Twenty years after her first degree, Lynn completed an award-winning MSc in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and now drives forward skills and training for social businesses tackling global challenges.

Photo of Lynn standing outside in a cobbled lane looking at the camera
Lynn Houmdi, IMES graduate. Photograph © Jack Allan.

Originally graduating in European Studies and Modern Languages, Lynn Houmdi lived and worked in three continents before taking a masters degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES).

When she enrolled on the programme in 2016, she had been out of higher education for almost 20 years. Many of these she spent working in government and diplomacy, and as a consultant to for-purpose and not-for-profit organisations.

After the birth of her son, Lynn found it difficult to re-enter structured and purposeful work, leading her to realise a long-held ambition of undertaking postgraduate study in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

Having completed our MSc programme on a part-time basis, she won the 2018 Yasir Suleiman Prize for her dissertation on the Moroccan unemployed graduate protest movement during the so-called Arab Spring.

Enterprising solutions to global challenges

Lynn is Senior Manager, People and Performance, at the Challenges Group - an Edinburgh and Africa-based group of social businesses seeking to find enterprising solutions to global challenges.

In this role, she oversees all the Group's Scotland-based skills and training initiatives, often in collaboration with the Chartered Management Institute.

With Challenges, she has developed Making Work Work, an award-winning suite of programmes supporting women to enter and progress in meaningful work which fits around their other commitments and enjoyment of life.

Independently, she is also the Founder of Flexible Working Scotland, an online community of over 6,500 people across Scotland seeking to work flexibly, recruit flexibly and / or advocate for greater flexible working.

Breaking down structural and systemic barriers

Reflecting on the ways in which the skills she developed during her masters are useful to her in her career, Lynn notes that it was through her MSc dissertation that she first came into contact with the Challenges Group.

It was also while studying, Lynn says, that she “began to observe and to research the structural and systemic barriers which women in the UK face when seeking to re-enter the workplace after a career break.”

She was able to bring the two areas of expertise together in Making Work Work, which was piloted in January 2021, just as the pandemic was demonstrating how work could be done differently. The project has since supported over 170 women across Scotland and has received funding from the Scottish and UK Governments.

Coming back “full circle to the subject of my dissertation”, Lynn tells us, she has recently undertaken a piece of research as part of the EU’s Investment Climate Reform Facility; a paper outlining the Business Environment Reforms required to support greater youth employment in African, Caribbean and Pacific Island states, to be published later in 2023.

In all of my work with The Challenges Group, the understanding of employability questions and economic exclusion which I gained while researching my dissertation have been fundamental. I still use the sociological and anthropological methods I learned during that time to collect and interpret qualitative data from the women we help in order to continuously improve our programmes and present our social impact to partners and funders.

Lynn Houmdi, MSc in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, 2018

Are you interested in our MSc in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies?

Our masters programme combines a course in critical readings, training in research skills and methods, option courses spanning a wide range of specialisms, and optional language learning. It will help you gain an advanced, interdisciplinary understanding of the history, modern politics and culture of the Islamic Middle East, as well as the paradigms behind the various disciplines within the field.

Find out more and apply for our IMES MSc on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder

Related links

Prizes in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies