MPP alumnus Rodolpho Zannin Feijó joined the first online edition of the Maastricht University Alumni Week last month as a guest speaker from his home city of Curitiba in Brazil. During a lively conversation with current and prospective students, he shared his experience as head of the city’s International Affairs Office and looked back on his Master’s studies in Maastricht.
Here are six highlights from the conversation.
- A double-degree from United Nations University and Maastricht University has great value in Brazil
Senior leaders in Brazil greatly value the academic experience that I acquired in Maastricht. In Brazil, Maastricht University and United Nations University have a really good reputation and a lot of people are interested in knowing what I studied and learned in Maastricht.
After graduation in August 2016, I immediately started a job at the United Nations Cities programme of the Global Compact in Curitiba. About a year later, I had a meeting with the newly elected mayor who was a famous politician in the country as a former Minister of Tourism, Congressman, and Secretary of State. We had the opportunity to talk about international development in the global arena and he asked me about my study at UNU-MERIT. I feel that this conversation really made an impact on him because about 10 days later, he invited me to join the new cabinet that he was forming as Head of the International Affairs Office. I accepted the offer, not only because it was a good opportunity for me to put into action what I had learned at UNU, but also an opportunity to serve my city.
- Follow your passions and ambitions, even if things are not clear yet
When I arrived at UNU-MERIT, I was not entirely sure of what I wanted. This might be the case for some of you right now. I only knew that I wanted to work in the field of sustainable development and international development. And I believed that the Master’s programme at UNU was the right programme for me. In hindsight, I can say that it was really a good choice.
- Continue to develop your skills and be ready to adapt along the way
I learned at UNU that you have to adapt along with your career. The capacity to adapt and to improvise is one of the most important skills that you learn to develop at UNU. Sometimes you have to change your initial plans but, if you are ready to adapt, you somehow will end up on the right path again.
In my case, when I chose the Master’s specialisation track in regional integration and multi-level governance, my original idea was to direct my career towards a job in Mercosur, a similar organisation to the European Union in South America. Due to changes in the international landscape, things didn’t happen that way, but I am still able to use the knowledge and skills that I acquired in the specialisation track, albeit in a different way. Now I use them for my city.
Curitiba’s urban development is very focused on global development. The city has been a reference in urban development for the past 30 to 40 years in South America and in the rest of the world. My studies enabled me to structure a plan to integrate the city’s urban policies with the global agenda for sustainable development.
- Diversity is an asset
Many of my former fellow students in the MPP came from different backgrounds. That’s something that is also valued in the job market where more and more people representing different visions and different views of society are being called in to solve different problems.
Back in Maastricht, I would have a coffee with Veronika from Bulgaria, who used to work in the field of bio-engineering, and then I would sit with Tim who used to work in the aid sector. There were so many different backgrounds in the programme and that’s what makes the MPP a special force.
I also valued the opportunity to learn from our professors and from everyone in the programme at UNU and UM. I really felt that we were like a family. Everyone had their door open.
- Cherish the options
One of the most important things that I took from my Master’s programme is that it gave me a lot of options to develop my career. I could choose to work in the private sector, or in the public sector, or with NGOs, or I could perhaps follow the academic path. The programme gives you tools and possibilities to work with any of these sectors.
I chose the specialisation in regional integration and multi-level governance, which prepares you to work with the public sector, or with NGOs that collaborate in bigger projects with the public sector. You could also work for the private sector, for example, building bridges between the different sectors within specific projects.
- In public policy, having a wider vision matters
I was very interested in the Sustainable Development Goalss during my time in Maastricht and especially in SDG17 which focuses on partnerships and institutional frameworks. Now in my work for the public sector, I observe more and more collaboration between different sectors and actors and I see more and more multi-dimensional projects.
We’re currently working on a project to reduce the impact of climate change in Curitiba. When you’re really looking into making an impact in society through public policies, you have to work together with the private sector, which is paramount, and you have to work together with NGOs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has really shown us the importance of working together. Before the pandemic, people were just living inside their own boxes but now this pandemic has shown us that we have to think in integrated ways. The Master’s in Public Policy and Human Development teaches you how to work with integrated sectors of society.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
UNU / S. Brodin