Catherine Bishop studied for an MPhil in International Politics at Aber. She is an Olympic Medallist, winning silver in the coxless pairs in Athens in 2004. She currently works for the Foreign Office as Deputy Head of the UK Government's Stabilisation Unit.
What do you remember most about your time at Aber?
Windy walks at the coast, and challenging International Politics seminars (particularly those led by Professor Steve Smith who was head of the Department at the time).
What are you doing now career-wise and how has your Aberystwyth Degree helped?
My time at Aber made me think hard about the workings of world affairs, and gave me a rigorous international perspective on world events. After Aber, where I was a part-time research assistant (looking with Professor Howard Williams at political theory and events of German Reunification) and MPhil student in International Politics, I continued my studies and interests in German Reunification, within the German Department at Reading University where I did a PhD on 'Themes of the 'Wende' (reunification) in literature 1990-1995'. I also continued my international rowing career, going on to compete in the Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Olympics where I won a silver medal. After my PhD, I joined the Foreign Commonwealth Office and have worked on some fascinating areas and had two incredibly interesting and challenging postings in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Basra, Iraq. With stints working on EU issues in between, I have developed a specialism within government in working on conflict issues, and am currently Deputy Head of the UK Government's Stabilisation Unit, where we support and deliver civilian expertise to difficult and hostile environments, principally Helmand Province in Afghanistan, but also Kosovo, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and other stabilisation environments. The experts can be both civil servants and non-civil servants who form part of a specially managed database of expertise available for the UK government, with skills across areas such as governance, rule of law and justice, infrastructure and strategic communications.
What advice would you have for a student doing your course now?
International Politics is a fascinating and fast-changing world - challenge yourself and your lecturers to ask the difficult questions and get to the bottom of the real issues, which often aren't what you expect at the outset. Governments and non-governmental organisations grapple with international issues constantly and make a lot of mistakes visible to us all globally - so there's a lot to learn from, and lots of scope for new thinking and new approaches to improve the way organisations from civil society up to governments act in the future.