Research Student, Vivian Nsiah.

Vivian Nsiah

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background. 

I hold a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees in Integrated Community Development and Development Management respectively. These degrees were earned at the University for Development Studies, Ghana. The above degrees heightened my interest in local participation and bottom-up development approaches.  

After my undergraduate studies, I served as a Teaching Assistant at the University for Development Studies. The teaching experience exposed me to theories, students perspectives, and praxis of development discourse.  

During my masters studies, the modules and courses dived deeper into the politics of survival, conflicts, management, elite capture and other socio-ecological factors associated with natural resources; a basic means of survival in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa. The urge to know more about the politics of natural resources management led my MPhil thesis which dwelled on 'the dynamics of natural resource use conflicts and multi-stakeholder collaboration in Ghana', using the case of an adjacent community Larabanga of Mole National Park, a UNESCO Heritage Site in northern Ghana.  

What motivated you to undertake a PhD and why did you choose the University of Leeds? 

I was motivated to undertake a PhD in the University of Leeds due to the excellent professional and academic experience of the project team associated with my PhD project. I could mirror my future in their professional and academic experiences in natural resource (water) issues and decolonial feminist politics.  

In addition, the University of Leeds is a Russell Group university. As an international student with no first-hand experience in the UK, my focus was on the quality of the university I was attending. Consequently, University of Leeds being a Russell Group university and being among the top 100 universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2022) were important supplements. Beyond this, the quality of staff in the School of Politics motivated my interested.  

Whilst all these were significant in my choice of University of Leeds, the sponsored project by the Fraxinus Charitable Trust Scholarship affirmed my decision to join the University of Leeds. 

Please tell us about your research topic and what makes you passionate about this area of study. 

The results from my MPhil thesis showed that aside the masculinities in resource poaching and associated conflicts, there were gender underpinnings to resource use conflicts. Particularly, access to water in the Mole National Park was a source of conflict between the park and the women from Larabanga and other fringed communities of the park. The above thread guides my general interest in gender and natural resources.  

To pursue this research interest, my PhD research connects my personal interest and identity as a young African feminist and my past research experience in northern Ghana, to explore the intersections that matter in the politics of water governance in northern Ghana.  

I engage views on African Feminisms, Decolonisation theories, Women and Water Governance in sub-Saharan as well as an ethnography in Bamboi (a rural community in northern Ghana) to understand issues that matter in participating in decision making governing water resources. 

How would you describe the research environment and community in the school and in the university generally?  

The general research environment is great. Of course, the UK boasts of world class universities, the University of Leeds is not an exception.  

The University has strategically positioned and dispersed libraries and resource centres that support learning. Aside the physical libraries, the University has a lot of online resources and subscriptions that make access to research materials almost unlimited to a physical space. Being a PhD candidate, I am allocated a seat at the School of Politics and International Studies PhD Suite. This space offers me the opportunity for collaborations, reflections and social support needed for academic research. 

What would you say about the learning, training and research facilities in the School and at the University? 

University of Leeds has world class scholars. Interestingly, these scholars use platforms such as online and in-person seminars, workshops and information sessions to engage students and staff on their knowledge. In addition, the University uses contemporary platforms such as LinkedIn Learning to recommend top-notch and evolving training and research areas for its students.  

Minerva provides a wide range of personal engaging and training tools that are important in undertaking research. For instance, Minerva has a cluster of courses such as data management, information governance, NVivo and several others relevant for personal and professional development. 

What are your plans once you have completed your PhD? 

My plan is to build a career in academia. I will further pursue my research interest in natural resource governance, gender politics and decolonial knowledge production. As well, I will be engaging in consultations for the United Nations and continental unions such as the African Union and European Union on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, particularly on participation and governance. 

What do you think of Leeds as a city? 

Leeds is a social city. The city has strategic transport systems that links the University to several areas in the city. Beyond this, there are a lot of shops, eateries and malls that satisfy shopping and viewing interests. Leeds is a city that accommodates studentship and moderate living. 

What would you say to someone considering a research degree in the School? 

I have already recommended University of Leeds to a lot of people. The community is friendly and warm to visitors and non-British. A student at the University of Leeds will be tutored by world class lecturers. Being a Russell Group institution, the University attracts excellent international students and global policy makers. These make a prospective student a part of a network of excellent students, learn from diverse experiences from colleagues and build a vibrant future career. 

Are there any other highlights of your PhD experience so far that you would like to tell us about? 

My major highlight so far was being recommended as a discussant in an African Leadership Centre (Kings College London) in a water governance seminar.