Interview with Matthew Stephensen
The good foundation in theory, methods and analysis that I learned in the CIE programme have been invaluable in all the work I have done since
1) What is your current position?
PhD candidate at the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway
2) What do you do in your present job?
I am conducting research on decision-making in risky environments, in particular how cognitive biases affect decisions made by backcountry skiers in avalanche terrain. My research examines the factors that increase our confidence in our decisions but not necessarily their accuracy. For example, one idea I am exploring is how rudimentary learning and access to an abundance of readily available information via the internet can cause people to overestimate their competence and be overconfident in their decisions, despite the presence of contradictory evidence.
3) What was the subject of your thesis?
The role of education in emergencies. I examined how humanitarian education programmes supported the fulfilment of the right to education during crises.
4) In what terms has your CIE master helped you in getting where you are today?
The CIE programme and my particular topic of academic interest led to me working as an education specialist with UNESCO and UNICEF, and then as a programme specialist with the Norwegian Refugee Council. Ultimately, during the CIE programme I developed the theoretical, analytical and methodological competencies that are necessary for me to pursue a career in academic research.
5) Are there any specific topics/methods taught to you during the programme which is more relevant to you in your current position?
The good foundation in theory, methods and analysis that I learned in the CIE programme have been invaluable in all the work I have done since. When I enrolled in the CIE programme, it was very important for me that the programme permit students to focus their learning around specific areas of interest. What I did not fully appreciate at the time is that interests and professional responsibilities change over time, but once you have developed the skillset to conduct good academic work you can apply those skills to a wide range of topics.
6) Why did you choose the CIE programme?
I wanted to study in a programme that would qualify me to work with education in humanitarian and development contexts, but that would also provide me with the knowledge and abilities required to pursue a career in academic research. It was also extremely important for me that I could study in a multicultural context in Norway. I wanted to study with a diverse group of people from a variety of backgrounds, while not giving up the outdoor lifestyle that I enjoy in Norway.
7) Where do you see yourself career wise in the future?
I hope to be a researcher at a Norwegian university.
8) Any additional comments you may have for future applicants to the CIE programme are welcome.
Although you no doubt have your area(s) of interest and specialisation in mind, and those should definitely be reflected in your thesis topic, do not shy away from subjects that may not appear relevant. Broaden your knowledge and skills and challenge your assumptions. You just might discover ideas and methods that are relevant and valuable for both your current studies and all that comes next.