Reaching higher

2017-12-19 06:01
Dr Meryl Burgess

Dr Meryl Burgess

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Colorado Park welcomes a new doctor as a product of Highlands Primary School graduated last week.

Dr Meryl Burgess, now in her 30s, graduated with a PhD in Political Science at Stellenbosch University after 13 years of studying.

“My PhD research was a comparative study on the role of environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in environmental policy-making in South Africa and China. Since 2009 I’ve worked at the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University, firstly as a research intern and later on a research analyst,” she says.

She officially graduated on Thursday 7 December.

“I was always very fortunate that I had a supportive family for me pursuing higher levels of education. Whenever I would ask my father if I should carry on and take on the next degree he would ask me ‘why not?’ Both my parents never tried to discourage me from studying further and did all they could to support my academic career. This kind of support was instrumental in me having the confidence to take on post-graduate studies like the Honours and Master’s degrees and then finally a PhD,” she says.

She adds that being surrounded by academics pushed her to getting her PhD. “Every day I was surrounded by academics with PhD’s or pursuing a PhD and as soon as I completed my MA in 2011 they were encouraging and pushing me to follow suite. By watching them and seeing their successes in academia I was able to draw from their experience and also aspire to set the same types of academic goals for my future career path,” she says.

Burgess says the course was not without its challenges.

“The PhD itself was really hard. It is a very solitary process. While you have a supervisor and co-supervisor providing guidance as to how to approach your study as well as the writing up of a thesis – more than 200 pages long – it ultimately rests on you to implement and see it through. Another challenge was getting funding to do a PhD. There are various funding opportunities especially for postgraduate studies but you have to do your research and know who funds your particular type of research. I was fortunate to get a scholarship from the National Research Foundation who funded my PhD for four years,” she says.

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