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Hear from our graduates

Name: James Hurley
Programme of study: MA Legislative Studies and Practice
Year of graduation: 2015
Current occupation: Senior Analyst, The Advisory Board Company

I chose the MA Legislative Studies and Practice programme because of the opportunity to gain tangible work experience alongside the more theoretical classroom experience. My decision was also made easier because of the support of the US Fulbright Commission in London as well as the Northern Ireland Assembly and the US State Department who contributed to my bursary/scholarship. The programme is intense and demanding, but ultimately incredibly rewarding for students coming right for undergrad or those, like myself, who had some work experience.

Though Washington, DC is now home, Belfast has a special place in my heart. It is such an incredible city with great people, great “craic,” awesome restaurants, and so many great places to enjoy a pint (Sunflower Bar is top of the list!). PISP faculty and staff were incredibly supportive throughout the year, and the engagement inside and outside the classroom was something I will treasure.

I have many fond memories of the programme itself, the most impressionable of which was a four day study trip to Brussels that occurred within the Issues in European Governance Module. The time we spent in Brussels provided us “on the ground” experience in understanding how Brussels works and what role Brussels has in Northern Ireland and indeed what role Northern Ireland has in Brussels—oh, and we learned what proper frites were! 


Barbara Renzi

Shayler Foundation

I volunteer for the Shayler Foundation, a recently established international centre for the protection of women’s human rights, with the central aim to deliver resources and support to women and families in troubled countries. I am a member of the Board of Trustees and, particularly, I take care of the public relations. Among various tasks, I regularly update our Facebook profile and look for news on women around the world. I am directing a documentary on women and mothers, which will also be used to raise awareness of the work of the foundation. It is extremely fulfilling and fantastic to work with people based in different counties, who share the same ideals and want to make a difference.


Dr Jessie Blackbourn

Lecturer, School of English Sociology Politics and Contemporary History, University of Salford

Having completed a BA (Hons) in Politics in 2002 and an MA in Irish Politics in 2004 I returned to the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy in 2006 to commence my PhD under the supervision of Professor Richard English and Dr Margaret O’Callaghan. My thesis, entitled The Northern Ireland Peace Process and the Post-9/11 Terrorism Crisis examined the contrasting approach that the British government took to international terrorism and terrorism related to the conflict in Northern Ireland in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the USA. I am currently working on converting my thesis into a monograph.

In 2010 I was appointed as Lecturer in Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Salford where I teach on the MA programme in Terrorism and Security. My time at Queen’s University Belfast, in particular the vibrant research community within the School’s Irish Politics Research Cluster, the teaching experience I gained and the excellent supervision which I received, contributed greatly in preparing me for an academic career.


Dr Guido Muentel

Research and Higher Education at the Foreign Office in Berlin

In 2003 I joined the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast as a doctoral student. Supported by a university full scholarship, I carried out my research on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and a possible Europeanisation of environmental governance in this region, i.e. the transformation and adaptation to a European model of environmental institutions, decision-making processes and policies. This I assumed to be a consequence of wide-ranging cooperation in this field between the Kaliningrad region and its European partners.

Having accepted a full-time position in Germany’s Federal Foreign Office in May 2006, it took me another four years to complete the thesis and to receive the doctoral degree from Queen’s. Currently I am desk officer for Research and Higher Education at the Foreign Office in Berlin, promoting German universities’ internationalisation and world-wide student exchange.

The time spent at Queen’s and the support offered there allowed me not only to work on my research project but to get to know and practice other tasks of the academic profession too, like undergraduate teaching, the attendance and organisation of conferences and scholarly networks, as well as the publishing of research results. That includes a co-edited conference volume on international cooperation and Europeanisation of the Kaliningrad region in different policy areas. My years in Belfast were therefore an all-embracing experience of lasting impact also on my later diplomatic career.


Dr Sara McQuaid

Assistant Adjunct Professor in British and Irish Politics, History and Society at the University of Århus, Denmark

I have recently been appointed as Assistant Adjunct Professor in British and Irish Politics, History and Society at the University of Århus, Denmark. My doctoral thesis, 'Ideas as Practicalities’ (Queen's University Belfast 2009), is a textual analysis which explores how the discourses of politics in Northern Ireland have been constructed and modified over the last thirty years. It combines an understanding of the layered meanings of political language with a historical contextualization, which permit an imaginative revision of the public rhetoric and official interpretation of the Northern Ireland problem. My current research is a comparative study of how and to what extent trans-national Councils like the British-Irish Council and the Nordic Council can act as conduits between the local, the national and the supranational - not only in creatively adapting the nation-state model to better accommodate the multilayered and composite identities of its citizens - but also in providing launch sites for more normative international activities for the member-states. By making it a comparative study, I aim to explore the specific interplay between the structural; political and cultural dimensions of these realms. Between graduating from the QUB School of Politics, Philosophy and International Studies in 1999 and concurrently while writing my PhD, I have reported on Northern Ireland current affairs for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. My years at Queen’s and especially the indefatigable support and excellent guidance from my supervisor, Richard English, have prepared me perfectly for the position I am now in.