Cecile Tang '16 (France and China)

Cecile Tang '16 (France and China)

I’m a Batch 10 MESPOM-er who studied at CEU (Hungary), UoA (Greece), UoM (U.K.), and finally UoS (Canada) from 2014-2016. Prior to MESPOM, I completed a BSc in Biology from McGill University (Canada), minoring in both Environmental and Hispanic Studies. My interest in conservation issues originated from my experience as a volunteer in sea turtle conservation in Mexico in 2010 when I was a first year university student keen to explore my interests and still new at navigating through academia. During my undergraduate studies I was able to expand my knowledge on environmental issues, especially from a scientific perspective. I loved conducting reef fish and coral community surveys in Honduras, sorting freshwater invertebrate specimens from the St Lawrence river, or collecting seafloor video footage on boat surveys across the North Aegean Sea in Greece. It wasn’t until I was in the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, working on a dashboard of sustainability indicators for Panama’s development strategy, that I really appreciated the nature of effective conservation: how science goes hand-in-hand with education, management and policy.

When I was searching for an interdisciplinary and international Master’s degree, MESPOM immediately stood out due to its international mobility opportunities and robust curriculum. I still remember the day I sent in my application, excited and optimistic to find a program which seems to fit so perfectly with my aspired career: one at the intersection between scientific research, ecosystem management and sound policy-making. Fast forward a few months, and there I was in Budapest, surrounded by classmates from more than 20 countries - all attempting our best to pronounce Egészségedre and having our first taste of Pálinka. This was the first of many social events with my fellow classmates - and if you ask me, these were the true highlight of my two-year journey! Courses such as ‘Sustainable Food Systems’, delivered by Dr. Phil Loring from UoS, had a great impact on me. My thesis under Phil’s supervision was an interpretation of historic records, and the perfect opportunity for me to gain experience in historical ecology, anthropology and ethnographic analogy. Focusing on a key time of transition for Alaska Native people, I interpreted records of 20th Century subsistence hunting and fishing practices among Alaska Native people living along the Yukon River. But MESPOM is much, much more than assignments, thesis-writing and classrooms. In fact, the family that you become part of, and the networking possibilities across and within countries is what I cherish the most. Still today, don’t be surprised to meet alumni in conferences and gatherings organized all over the globe!

Since graduating in 2016, I’m a founding Steering Committee member of Youth for Wildlife Conservation, a youth organization that facilitates a network of early-career conservationists. I’ve never thought that my first step after MESPOM would be to set up a global organization, and so far it has been a great new adventure! Despite the steep learning curve, it has been (and continues to be) rewarding and much more than I’ve expected. Our organization is a direct legacy of the ‘Youth Forum for People and Wildlife’ held in South Africa the week leading up to the CITES CoP17 in September 2016, where I was one of 34 youth delegates invited to participate. As a global network, our members come from more than 25 countries, and MESPOM definitely plays a role in increasing my ability to work across socio-cultural backgrounds and borders. Perhaps I’ve fallen for having a big, international family!