Andy Yates

Student spotlight details

Andy Yates wanted a more holistic understanding of urban sustainability and chose to study on our part-time MSc in Sustainable Urban Development.

'Immediately before beginning the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development programme, I worked for an international NGO focused on improving local governance within Jordanian municipalities. My role was to help mayors and city councillors launch citizen outreach initiatives and implement targeted infrastructure projects. These activities included town hall meetings, repairing streetlights, planting trees, creating city parks, and establishing citizen academies that provide residents with an in-depth understanding of their respective cities' operations.    

'These four years in Jordan sparked my interest in sustainable urbanism. Though our efforts tangibly assisted cities to be greener and better managed, I became increasingly concerned that we weren’t having enough lasting impact. For this reason, I desired a more holistic understanding of urban sustainability and chose to pursue the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development. The need to foster resilience in advance of future uncertainties is becoming more imperative for all nations – especially those lacking resources to respond quickly to disasters.     

'It’s essential to keep in mind that life doesn’t remain static once you’re accepted into the programme. In my case, there was a global pandemic, I began a new job overseas, and got married. So, you can imagine how challenging it was sometimes to balance work, school, and personal commitments. However, through an occasionally exhausting combination of early mornings/late nights – and having a patient fiancée – everything worked out well in the end.      

'Though it wasn’t always enjoyable at the time, the sheer volume of interdisciplinary reading and writing required by the course compelled me to engage with academic literature in an entirely new way. It feels like I’ve learned a new language that makes academic research much more accessible, regardless of the topic. I’m already using this newfound ability to help complete my next project.     

'My wife, Sarah, and I are currently restoring a historic inn (1838) located in her hometown of Wyoming, New York. We hope to return the “Wyoming Inn” to its traditional role within the community as a point of pride and a central gathering place for locals and tourists. Throughout the process, we’re learning a lot about the rich history of Western New York and how to make thoughtful restorations that honour the building’s past while simultaneously being more energy efficient and practical for modern lifestyles.  

'To anyone on the fence about applying to the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development programme, I encourage them to take the plunge! In addition to learning about such a critical topic from world-class professors, students are also steeped in the unparalleled academic environs of Oxford, making new, lifelong friends along the way. (One of my classmates even played Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 at our wedding!) With all this in mind, I would wholeheartedly recommend the programme. Moreover, I advise future students to make the most of campus life by attending college dinners, punting on the Cherwell, joining the Oxford Union, touring each of Oxford's incredible museums, and taking walks across Port Meadow.' 

Learn more: