Marvin Lagonera

Student spotlight details

Marvin Lagonera saw our part-time MSc in Sustainable Urban Development as an opportunity to achieve his career goals: meaningfully contributing to the knowledge and practice of city climate action.

'Before starting the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development, my professional career focused on supporting cities and government partners in the Philippines and parts of the Southeast Asian region in advancing urban climate action. I had the opportunity to do this through my affiliation with two global city networks, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability Southeast Asia Secretariat. When the MSc started, I was the C40 Adviser to Quezon City, where I accompanied city officials and external stakeholders in developing a long-term climate action plan towards carbon neutrality and climate resilience. Before that, I worked for ICLEI, providing technical advice to cities and government partners in establishing ambitious climate targets and actions. I also supported city governments in the Southeast Asian region in advocating for increased representation for cities in the global climate agenda.

'I pursued the MSc because I wanted to expand my critical knowledge of sustainable urban development across various contexts and topics, like climate change, sustainable transport, finance, and urban economics. My professional background focused on providing technical and policy support for city climate action. However, I wanted to take a more critical and holistic lens toward climate action and urban policy. Urban development in Metro Manila, where I currently live, is depicted by stark socioeconomic inequality and an inefficient transportation network. I wanted to critically engage my work on climate action from a holistic view, or one that cut across various urban realities in developing countries. I saw the MSc as an opportunity to enhance my competencies and expand my critical knowledge to progress my career mission of meaningfully contributing to the knowledge and practice of city climate action.

'I found dissertation writing to be the most intellectually and emotionally challenging component of the MSc, but also the most rewarding. Dissertation proposal development and writing for my cohort coincided with the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. This made it extremely difficult to manage the academic pressure and expectations. I struggled to develop a relevant research question and design the appropriate methodology. Despite this, I found the process to be extremely rewarding. For my dissertation, I decided to write about a topic on transport that I genuinely wanted to pursue rather than work in an area within my comfort zone. My dissertation focused on mobility inequality in the context of transport policy and planning in Metro Manila. Researching this topic with the guidance of an esteemed academic in the field of transport opened new learning opportunities for me.

'Meeting and engaging with distinguished professors, practitioners, urban professionals from my cohort, and fellow students from my college was the most rewarding and enjoyable experience for me. It was an incredible experience being able to meet Oxford students with diverse specialisations, and be able to critically discuss topics of sustainable urban development with them. Individuals I met in Oxford brought remarkable perspectives and experiences.

'I am currently affiliated with the Catholic Relief Services as the programme manager for a USAID-funded project called Climate Resilient Cities. This project supports six Philippine cities and works with national government partners to enhance climate risk data, increase access to climate finance, and scale up nature-based solutions. I work with an incredible team and travel a lot to our partner cities to monitor activities. These days, I have more free time for personal travels, catching up with friends, and binge-watching shows. Recently, I pursued my interest in sustainable finance by joining a short online executive course and an in-person COP27 masterclass organised by the Oxford Sustainable Finance Group. I also look forward to contributing to communities of practice in transport in the Philippines. The MSc rekindled my passion and enthusiasm to work with like-minded individuals in critically engaging urban inequality issues in Philippine cities.

'The MSc provides students with a transformative academic experience. You have opportunities to engage with thinkers and professionals at the forefront of various specialised topics in sustainable urban development. Aside from that, as a part-time MSc student, you can take part in college and university life. You can participate in college activities such as formal dinners, talks, pub crawls, and welcome weeks. During the MSc programme, I became a member of the Oxford Philippines Society, had the opportunity to connect with the Oxford Urbanists, and formed meaningful friendships with fellow student members at Kellogg College. Although significantly limited by the pandemic, the in-person socials, matriculation, academic discussions at pubs, and college dinners were some of my most memorable experiences at Oxford.'

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