Hi! Please tell us more about yourself and why you decided to study with MLA College.
I consider myself fortunate, both in my life’s journey and the courageous family that supports my career. I originate from social housing, the wrong end of town and a broken home. This bumpy start in life did not detract from my desire to serve at sea and to make something of myself, to be the best I could be. I joined the Royal Navy in 1982 at 17 and never looked back. I have since had an extraordinary 19 year career in submarines as an engineer. I then ventured into the Merchant Navy within the offshore energy disciplines where I have excelled again during the last 20 years. I am a 2021 recipient of the Merchant Navy medal for meritorious service. All my career has been in maritime operations.
As a mature student I decided that I would do a degree alongside my son so as to support his efforts. This led to a somewhat mid-life crisis endeavour and a deep enthusiasm for higher learning and critical analysis. Between 2013 and 2017 I completed 3 self-funded distance learning masters degrees, all on subjects related to my maritime career. I gained 1 merit and 2 distinctions. I am an advocate for lifelong learning and CPD. I believe undertaking the MBA would be the icing on the cake of a distinguished maritime career and as a practitioner afford me the opportunity to contribute to the body of knowledge in maritime operations. It will challenge me and ultimately assist my career when I choose to transition ashore.
I am a humble seafarer and currently give back to my maritime community in the form of mentoring, advocate for women at sea and as a maritime ambassador for the schools careers outreach program ‘Inspiring the Future’.
Additionally; – I did have a choice of course but chose MLA not only because of its reputation and its links to the University of Plymouth but also because it is local to me and I knew the building and its staff. Primarily though it was because of the MBA that was offered (in 5 x disciplines) and for me the ability to research on a business case relating to strategy and the future maritime professional by applying to do the subject specialism ‘Maritime Operations’ pathway.
Please tell us more about your programme of study and why you chose it?
The United Kingdom has always been reliant on the strength of its maritime heritage for both its prosperity and security. As an island nation in a competitive, globalised world of predominantly seaborne commerce the stability and growth of the UK maritime is essential for business. The Merchant Navy requires adequately trained and competent seafarers and a long standing discussion has been quite vocal on what the professional mariners skills should include as part of the future mariner discussion around the fast paced future technologies. This includes aspects of climate change and the UN 17 SDG’s as we seek to reduce the use of hydrocarbons. This also includes digitisation, autonomy, robotics, new fuels, and of course the seafarer to operate these new technologies. The UK maritime leadership, across multiple agencies, that are engaged in the promotion of Merchant Navy careers and training, have to ensure the correct strategies are in place to realise these future ambitions. My research provided the opportunity to shine a lens on this leadership, strategy and what skills the future mariner will require.
I chose it as part of my contribution to giving back to the maritime community. This research provides a voice for the UK maritime on these complex issues facing us. More importantly it considers the human centric aspects within this future scenario which also includes challenges that are apparent and upon us now. My research will include the creation of new knowledge, knowledge sharing and bring to the fore the concept of un siloed collaboration by practitioners to evaluate where we are and what needs to be done to improve on our strategy ambitions within the blue economy of the future.
How are you finding your online learning experience? What are some of the challenges you faced in the beginning and how did the College help you overcome them?
I have completed previous HE online, distance, blended learning. It suits me and my learning style as a practitioner. I thrive on the challenge, am well motivated and researching on a subject dear to my heart makes it all the more enjoyable. For those studying whilst employed as a seafarer the challenges are always about juggling your study time with family commitments, studying in your free time whilst at sea and as ever hoping that you have good wi-fi connectivity.
The MLA TLP is awesome as once you have downloaded it you do not require a permanent wi-fi connection. My program start date coincided with me joining a vessel in the Pacific. It would have been easier to download at home with broadband fast internet. The MLA staff were excellent and assisted me with downloading the required files with my limited connectivity overseas and thereafter I had no issues at all. I also required a Turnitin account and again the MLA staff were on hand to ensure my account was set up and functioning correctly. This enabled me to make my assessment submissions on time.
I was also appointed a knowledgeable and personable supervisor. This really made a difference so that responses to my emails were timely, accurate and always consisted of encouragement. When we came across a difference in opinion with regards research methodology again my supervisor was respectful and professional. He sought additional academic advice and within no time we were well aligned and I was set back on the correct course of action.
What are the positives to you personally about studying a distance learning course?
Within reason I can pace myself. Of course, there are assessment deadlines to meet but controlling the pace and where and when I study is invaluable to me. The major positives with distance learning is of course you can remain employed whilst studying and fit your study periods around your own personal life and commitments. Basically, you create your own time table. For me being on a ship sea going with a +8hrs UTC time zone and doing shift work meant that I could create my own tailor-made study and research periods.
Even though I am confident and capable of studying on my own I never felt alone as I always had on hand the MLA staff and my supervisor for support and guidance.
Is it challenging balancing other responsibilities with your studies?
Most certainly and conducting research ostensibly as a lone student is not for the faint hearted. It best suits those who are undertaking research in a field that they are already comfortable with, a practitioner or have a wealth of knowledge or experience to rely on. Of course, many choose to undertake research without this kind of background so they should seriously consider their initial approach and the reading material they will require as part of the build-up preparation period.
Most will be employed during their study period or like me more senior with a family already so juggling research around work and family commitments will always suit those who are suitably prepared, very self-motivated and excellent time managers. But then this is also the attributes that you should have or continue to hone studying at this level anyway.
How are you finding the learning materials? Is it easy to understand and learn?
All the learning materials were first class and as part of the TLP always there for you to refer back to at junctures in your study. Not everyone is great at grammar or linking thought processes together intelligently within the written word. Not everyone considers a writing style or how best to put into writing your own personal critique of an area of research. The TLP has bite sized videos with accompanying text which explains all these basic principles. Just as importantly it covers topics on ethics, integrity, research methods, project management and a whole host of supporting materials. It also includes the MLA MBA handbook which is invaluable and I referred to this document continuously whilst studying to ensure I remained on track within my personal time management plan.
What is the support like from your lecturers and other MLA staff?
All the staff are so friendly and approachable. From the admissions process right up to all the information you require to start your studies it was seamlessly provided in an easy to follow and understand manner. Of course, there are processes to follow and some rules to adhere to but all was explained in a professional and friendly manner. I even requested an interview (prior to me seeking admission and paying my fees) to provide my thoughts and ask questions relating to the dissertation process and how I wanted to proceed with my research studies. I was granted an interview with the Rector who put my mind at rest and answered all my questions fully.
My supervisor was always to hand should I need to check in with him or ask advice. The responses were always timely, accurate and I remained well informed at all times.
How are you hoping your career will progress once you have graduated?
I am a senior in the latter part of my career but like all seafarers we do think of transitioning to a shore role at some point in the future. As long as I graduate successfully, I would just like to think of this research opportunity concluding as an addition to my extensive career experience. Hopefully others will take my research even further. Who knows … that person may be me. Attaining an MBA with the prestigious MLA will of course aid my future career opportunities when looking for a senior position ashore.
Would you recommend other potential students to study with MLA College, if so, why?
I have already recommended the MLA HE course offerings to multiple seafaring colleagues. For those that seek the academic challenge and rigour it is a fantastic opportunity to learn even more about yourself and your own abilities.
In the wider scheme of things modern research doesn’t just end up on dusty shelves, most likely others will build on your research or use your efforts as a base to set off on another learning journey. Ideally my hopes are that my research will be accepted within the maritime community and that those agencies involved in the future professional mariner strategies will use my research for the betterment of the professional mariner both now and in the future.
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