Gavin WrenFood Policy
Gavin Wren is studying Food Policy MSc at City. This course is helping him find his voice, stand up and be heard.
Your motivations, drivers and challenges
What was your main motivation to undertake postgraduate study?
The Food Policy MSc course sounded utterly fascinating and appealed to my desire to become highly knowledgeable in my field.
What were the factors that influenced your decision making when considering postgraduate study?
Food Policy MSc is unique to City, so there are no directly comparable alternatives. However, the reputation of the course and those who run it is outstanding so there was no doubt about my decision.
What were, if any, the main challenges that affected your decision about postgraduate study? How did you overcome them?
My primary consideration was supporting myself financially during the two years and managing my freelance work, which is unpredictable, around course commitments. I took a graduate loan to help support myself and find the course requirements are quite flexible, easily adaptable to my time availability.
Why did you choose City? What made you decide City was the right university for you?
City is respected for many of its courses and the reputation of the lecturers teaching me ensure I was very confident. In this case I receive exclusive time with teaching staff who journalists often say are hard to get hold of, a unique privilege and insight into this subject.
Your student experience
What has been your student experience at City so far?
The level of attentiveness and feedback has been very high, from lecturers to library staff, including access to facilities.
How studying a postgraduate degree has helped you develop personally and professionally?
Personally, this course has helped me to find my voice, to stand up and be heard, to feel that I have something valuable to offer in terms of the discourse around food. Professionally, it has put me in a valued position, although I've not changed career because of it (yet...), people within industry seek and respect my opinion on food matters because of it.
What skills and knowledge do you think the course has helped you develop?
The course has helped me develop massively in many ways. In an intellectual sense, it has challenged me, as my undergraduate degree was design, so written academic work and the research skills that entails was a new area for me. It has taught me the skill of critical analysis and constructively questioning the ideas and dialogues of others. The level of knowledge around food that I've attained in just 16 months is phenomenal.
What opportunities and experiences City has offered you during your course?
The department for Food Policy is linked to IFSTAL, which is an interdisciplinary course allied with Warwick, LCIRAH, Oxford and Reading universities, fully funded by HEFCE. This provided an incredible opportunity to expand my learning in collaboration with students from other universities and disciplines, culminating in a week long residential summer school. Beyond this, the close alliance with other University of London institutions has given me access to libraries, events and talks beyond the City campus. Furthermore, I've attended great talks with key food figures from around the world via the Food Research Collaboration 'Food Thinkers' talks which are based at City.
What advice would you give to people thinking about postgraduate study? What would you have liked to know then that you know now?
Before starting the course I was understandably nervous about the commitment, however this study has exceeded my expectations in terms of personal fulfilment and engagement with the subject.
What are your career plans once you have completed your postgraduate degree?
I intend to continue working as a freelance food photographer and writer, although I am also considering a PhD degree.
How do you think City has equipped you for the next stage in your career journey?
City has given me all the skills and knowledge I need to continue my journey with great confidence.