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IWC masters graduate lands high-profile job in West Africa

International WaterCentre (IWC) Master of Integrated Water Management graduate Katie Spooner has been appointed as the Associate Director of Climate Change at Water and Sanitation For Africa (WSA).

The research and implementation organisation hired Ms Spooner after she undertook freelance work with WSA in 2011 for her IWC Masters research in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Ms Spooner commenced this role in January this year and is based in WSA’s headquarters in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Ms Spooner’s position is a newly created role aimed at enabling WSA country offices to mainstream climate change into their various water and sanitation projects. “I will be working with the country offices across Africa to ensure they have the technical knowledge and capacity to incorporate climate resilience into our various water and sanitation projects,” Ms Spooner said.

WSA has 23 country offices in West, Central and East Africa and is looking towards expansion in the near future. The organisation has been implementing water and sanitation projects for 23 years and has recently received a mandate by its governing board of African Ministers of Water to increase its reach to all 54 African countries by 2015. “We are working in a very fast paced environment, which we hope will allow us to reach these goals,” she said.

"The specialisation I gained through the Masters course was a critical factor in me gaining this current role.”

Ms Spooner said life in Ouagdaougou was vastly different to Brisbane but she enjoyed the challenge of living in a country where access to water and sanitation were not guaranteed. “We are heading towards the hot and dry season at the moment, where temperatures will reach 47 degrees. There are regional winds that blow over the Sahara, creating dust storms, so you have to resign yourself to a constant hue of orange dust over everything you touch and own,” she said. “But it’s an opportunity to really understand the country’s water and sanitation issues, to work directly with the governments and communities affected and to develop an understanding of the most appropriate way to address these challenges.”

Prior to this role, Ms Spooner had spent seven years in the water and sanitation sector where she had gathered a range of skills in technical knowledge of water and sanitation in the African context, project management, facilitation, report writing and fundraising. She then undertook her Masters degree in IWRM with IWC. She conducted her Masters thesis research in Burkina Faso, looking at the institutions related to water resource management. “This enabled me to better understand the water sector as well as develop contacts and networks,” she said.

“The practical nature of my Master’s enabled me to gain confidence in my existing skills and develop new skills in project management, multi-disciplinary approaches to WASH and technical aspects of service delivery. Specifically in relation to my role, I did not have the ability to integrate environmental perspectives to issues of WASH and poverty prior to my Masters. Understanding the synergies between poverty and sustainable development will be a critical issue in the future of global sustainability and a key focus of my current role at WSA. The specialisation I gained through the Masters course was a critical factor in me gaining this current role.”

IWC’s Master of Integrated Water Management creates water leaders by drawing on international teaching and research from many fields to provide a transdisciplinary, whole-of-water-cycle approach to water management. Students who complete the program graduate from IWC’s four member universities – The University of Queensland, Griffith University, Monash University and The University of Western Australia.

IWC offers scholarships to study an Integrated Water Management program (Masters, Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate). Find out more.

 

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