The Elite Network of Bavaria master’s programme “Global Change Ecology” (GCE) started in 2006 at the University of Bayreuth. Since then, several GCE students have already completed their degree. Last year, we began the GCE Alumni series to check in with our past students and foster connection within the programme. Here we get updates (and even some tips!) from these special people who will always be a part of our GCE family. Our thirteenth interviewee is María Mejía, who was born in Colombia and began studying GCE in 2016.
Why did you decide to study GCE?
I was attracted to GCE’s interdisciplinarity and the fact that the program was in Germany. The latter refers to i) Germany is a leading country in environmental research and project implementation. ii) Germany’s public educational system was something I was keen on experiencing. In Germany, the system itself teaches you to be a better citizen i.e. work-life balance, solid waste management and recycle, quality time with people, simple life, etc. iii) Lastly, Germany was a platform upon which I reached out to diverse opportunities (within the country but also internationally).
What did you like most about GCE?
The broad portfolio of courses and seminars.
How has your career continued after GCE?
Academically speaking, I haven’t embarked into new programs. Professionally, I have been involved in NGOs, consultancies with the English and German cooperation agencies and I have boosted my participation in international knowledge networks in the fields of urban ecology.
What is your current position? What are your tasks?
I lead the BiodiverCities by 2030 Initiative at the National Research Institute of Biodiversity of Colombia, commonly known as Instituto Humboldt. This initiative was commissioned by the Government of Colombia and will be jointly developed with the World Economic Forum. Some of the key work fronts of this initiative – linking biodiversity and cities – are i) Creating a 25-member Global Commission, ii) Bringing together a knowledge network in Colombia; and iii) Consolidating a publication that will speak to the world. The two latter are under my coordination. Here you can find the official announcement.
How has GCE supported your career?
It provided me with the ecological and environmental foundations I was lacking to understand environmental change. My focus is societal issues, so my aim was to make broader understanding about global change.
What do you recommend to the current GCE students?
I believe that the role of students, even outside of GCE, is to be critical and engage in disruptive conversations. Especially for GCE students, I’d say to engage in cross-cutting conversations and bring to the table examples in which one can put all three modules into motion. And if those examples are not always there, then push a little to make them part of your seminars so that one can unpack and make visible how ecological, environmental and societal issues interact. Last but not least, enjoy the GCE family and camaraderie. Have tea or grab a beer at Glashaus and then crash in Iwalewahaus for an art exhibition or afrobeat party!
María has also been involved in other organizations and initiatives, serving as a Regional Curator at The Nature of Cities and as a collaborator for URBANET and Situated Political Ecology Collective. Additionally, she is a member of Parks for the Planet Forum hosted by the Salzburg Global Seminar and an alumna of the Global Environments Summer Academies (GESA). Feel free to check out María’s master thesis, “The social nature of urban nature: A qualitative study linking value articulation and contested geography in Santiago de Cali, Colombia.” If you would like to continue to keep up with María, follow her on twitter at @okmejia!