Marion Fields, MEd International Studies: Management and Policy, 2000

Alumni profile 2015

Marion has enjoyed extensive development in both her career and extra-curricular pursuits since her initial profile in for the University in 2010.

How has your role progressed over the past few years?

My job is very varied! Since I last spoke to the University my job title has remained the same, but my responsibilities have grown. I now manage most of my organisation's international activities and have just started to coordinate an Erasmus+ strategic partnership project Future Skills go the Third Sector which aims to increase knowledge about volunteer managers' future skills needs.

I have also been involved in a few projects as an external evaluator or on the advisory board. I've conducted many small-scale research projects and published books or reports on topics including peer learning, training needs and strategies in the voluntary sector, neighbourhood democracy and advocacy capacity, and evaluation. I've trained people working in the voluntary and adult education sectors also outside Finland.

Have you attended any additional training or development that has helped in your career progression?

I have attended some short courses. The most important one was the European course for younger adult education staff organised by the European Association for the Education of Adults in Brussels in 2011. That was vital from a networking perspective.

Do you have any additional advice for students based on your recent experience?

My advice for students is to learn to acknowledge and appreciate your skills. You will learn useful things through your studies but also through any extra-curricular activities. Part of your professional development is to learn to reflect on your learning. It will also lead to a lifelong love of learning.

Are you involved in any new extracurricular activities that you would like to share?

My most important ongoing extracurricular activity is with Amnesty International, where I have been involved for almost 25 years. This year I facilitated a working party at the organisation's International Council Meeting in Dublin. My work experience and my volunteering tasks support each other and even though I feel I have a lot to contribute in both capacities, I also learn a lot all the time.

Alumni profile 2010

Career experiences

After graduation I first went to work for the Research Unit for the Sociology of Education at the University of Turku, Finland. I worked there for seven years, during which I also completed my PhD. The title of my thesis is "To Educate, Empower or Economise? Lifelong Learning in Civil Society Organisations". Besides research, I also translated and edited a variety of academic texts. In 2007 I left academia and started in my current job as coordinator of the OK Study Centre, Helsinki, Finland (www.ok-opintokeskus.fi). OK is an adult education institution that caters for the voluntary sector. My tasks include project management and coordination, international projects, evaluation, training and consultation. I also contribute to the study centre's various publications.

What is the best thing about what you are doing now?

Working with NGOs is very rewarding: both paid staff and volunteers are enthusiastic and interested in learning. I can use my expertise (both theoretical and practical) to make a real difference. 

What was the best thing about your time as a student here?

I enjoyed my studies a great deal. I also got to study and live with some really wonderful people, even though I haven't kept in touch with most of them. I also got to have a lot of fun! For a half British person who was born abroad, like me, living in the UK itself was also important for me.

How did you grow as a person by coming to University?

Taking a year off to take a master's degree gives you time to reflect on what you really want to do. My career took a new path after studying at Birmingham, and that of course changed my life.  

In what way did living and studying in Birmingham live up to your expectations?

The degree programme was great because the teaching was excellent and I could combine modules flexibly. My student accommodation was also a positive experience, even though sharing a flat was slightly hard in the beginning, as I had been living alone for a good few years before coming to Birmingham. The city was also great, even though it's even nicer now. 

Advice for current students

Take up an extra-curricular activity. Even though you will be working hard with your studies, student groups and other activities give you a chance to mix with people from other departments. Voluntary work in the community can help you meet locals, which will make you experience richer. I was involved with the postgraduate students' committee, the Amnesty International student group and volunteered for Oxfam. I made new friends and could make myself useful.

Find out more about all our Masters and Professional Development Programmes in the School of Education