Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Anna Shepherd

MA Democratic Studies | 2005 - 2006

Photo of Anna Shepherd

Where did you study for your undergraduate degree?
I studied Economics and Politics with North American Studies at the University of Leeds of which I spent 1 year studying at Toronto University.

What made you decide to study an MA in Democratic Studies?
During my undergraduate degree I felt that I often only touched on subjects, with the most interesting concepts and topics arising in my final year. It seemed as though I was just starting to understand and explore issues, when my time was up. The modules I most enjoyed were connected to the theory side of politics. I particularly relished the courses taken with Dr John Schwarzmantel, connecting to Gramsci and democracy theory. I spoke to John about the possibility of completing the MA and he was very encouraging. I already had a year out travelling planned and decided to think about it over my months away. On my return I was really looking forward to returning to complete the MA in Democratic Studies and could not wait to come back to Leeds University.

Why did you choose to study at POLIS and at Leeds? 
I had read that Leeds had a vibrant youth culture and both the POLIS and Business Schools were performing well. I made the visit to Leeds and found that the University was very friendly, people were enthusiastic about the subjects and there was a great atmosphere on the campus. 

I stayed at Leeds for my masters for a number of reasons. I had built a wide friendship base in the area, I loved the local countryside; so accessible from the centre of the city and continued to feel connected to the youth culture as a whole. I knew the university; its policies and procedures. I knew where the lecture theatres and libraries were. Yet most significantly I knew the lecturers; I needed to be inspired by the subject and the teacher; the MA in Democratic Studies gave me both.

How did the course match your expectations?
The MA was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I felt as though I had time to explore my ideas on subjects. I had a wonderful balance between my studies and home life. The year gave me a chance to develop on both a personal and conceptual level. 

What did you most enjoy about your course?
I really enjoyed the subject, developing on one specific area for my dissertation. This was an area which I felt, and still do feel, passionate about, influencing my outlook in life.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
Anyone considering the MA in Democratic Studies should jump at the chance. We should all have the opportunity to have the time and space to develop our own ideas and opinions under the support of inspirational subjects and tutors, which this MA gave me. 

How has your MA in Democratic Studies helped your career? 
It built within me my ideas and outlook on life, which influence everything I do. The passion for the subject I studied is reflected in my working career and impacts the lives with whom I work.

Tell us about your favourite lecturer:
Dr John Schwarzmantel would certainly be whom I would single out. I felt he gave me, and the other students the opportunity to develop our own ideas, within a structured setting. He encouraged me to undertake the MA, yet was not naïve about the outcomes which I should hope to achieve. He cared about how my studying was going and always had time to discuss new reading material or essay argument direction. John has been the most positive influence on my time at university. Without attending his modules I would not be the person I am today.

What have you been doing since you graduated?
I am currently working for a charity in Bradford, which engages with at-risk young people. I split my time between working for: the Family Intervention Project, (which is connected to Social Care) where we work with families at risk of loosing their tenancy though ASB, and running the Junior Youth Inclusion Programme; a prevention initiative working with 32 young people aged 8-13, aiming to divert them from being engaged in the Youth Justice System.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
My major hobby is rock climbing. I now live in Otley, just on the outskirts of Leeds where I have easy access to the countryside. This was a passion that I greatly developed during my years at university and provides a huge balance in my life between work and play.

What are your plans for the future?
I would loved to undertake a PHD; at the end of the MA I felt that in some ways I had only really touched the surface of ideas, and would love the opportunity to develop them further. I would like to use the skills honed during my MA more directly in my vocational career; how ideas and concepts can have direct influence on the outcomes achieved in practical means. 

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