Ilse Van Roy has worked predominately in management roles within the pharmaceutical industry. After working on an access project for sub-Saharan Africa, Ilse decided to make the move from the private to the not-for-profit sector. This led her to study for an MSc in Global Public Health with Queen Mary Online. We spoke to Ilse about her experience on the course.
Tell us more about yourself and your background.
I’m of Belgian origin, and I already have quite a long career behind me.
I originally trained as a clinical psychologist, but I never worked as a psychologist after my psychology studies. I did a degree in management and started working in the private sector.
Most of my career has been in the pharmaceutical industry. I’ve worked mostly in commercial marketing roles over the last 10 to 15 years, moving up in management roles, but still always with more of a commercial marketing angle.
In my last position in the pharmaceutical sector, I had a role that leaned somewhat towards corporate social responsibility. I was working on an access project to bring a long-acting contraceptive to sub-Saharan Africa. And I think that’s what really sparked my interest in global health.
So, last year, I made the move out of the pharmaceutical sector, wanting to move to not-for-profit. I decided to start the masters degree in global public health to strengthen my ability to understand the broad policy discussions and the frameworks, and to help me move into the not-for-profit sector.
What motivated you to study your MSc in Global Public Health with Queen Mary Online?
When I made the decision last year that I wanted to do further studies in global public health, I searched online for different courses available.
For me, a deciding factor was that this course was totally online, because I really didn’t have any idea of where I would be in the world. Taking a fully online course was going to give me the most flexibility, and the Queen Mary course content looked very good. The fact that it's part of the University of London was also an important factor for me.
How is the course impacting you on a personal and professional level?
I'm very happy doing the course. I find it really stimulating in terms of broadening my thinking.
Also, professionally, I've been able to get this new job because I could say that I was doing this course, and my new employer finds it very important that I continue this course.
Personally, well of course it is taking quite a lot of time. Until very recently, I was in Senegal for 6 months where I was on my own. I didn't have anything else to do, so I had all that free time, and a significant part of my free time could be dedicated to my course. Now, of course, since I'm back home with my husband, I’m finding a little bit more of a balance between having enough time for the course and also having a social life.
How do you feel the course has helped develop your confidence in terms of the global public health area?
When the course started, I had just moved to Senegal and was just starting a new job. I had a lot of logistics to sort out. The reading in the first two weeks was completely outside of anything that I had been familiar with, so I felt really out of my comfort zone.
What really helped me gain confidence was when I contributed on the forum and I got some really positive feedback from the lecturers. I actually seemed to be making valid points, and that helped me then slowly contribute more and put my ideas forward.
How are you managing your time – with your work, study and social life?
It's not always easy. For example, two weeks ago, I was travelling the whole week in Zambia, and I was in a remote part, so I couldn't really look at much of anything. But I just downloaded the readings and advised the lecturer that I wouldn’t be contributing on the forum because I was travelling.
Otherwise though, when it's a normal week and I'm just at home, it's just about being disciplined and making time for it. About 15 years ago, I did an executive MBA, and it was a very intensive programme. My children were very young back then, so that was also very much a case of being disciplined enough to sit down and do the readings and finish the assignments, because otherwise you couldn’t manage.
How many hours a week do you usually spend studying?
It's a little bit difficult to quantify. During a normal week, at the beginning of a module, I just try to do the reading and contribute something on the forum. But, for example, if an assignment is due, I’ll spend quite a bit of time working on that.
But maybe to my own surprise, I'm finding that I'm getting really good marks. So, now, I want to continue getting these really good marks. I've set my own hurdles quite high.
What do you think are the required skillsets you need to be successful at this course and to get those good marks?
Dedication, motivation and being willing to put in the hours.
I try to do as much reading as possible before starting to write up assignments so that I have a good understanding of everything and all the aspects that I need to cover.
For one of the first assignments that I got quite good marks in, the feedback was that I should have included more references and done more research. So, I’ve tried to improve that. I’ve found it useful feedback because the more research you do, the more you can see there are quite a lot of different arguments that you can make and different angles that you can take to look at something.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with this course?
The biggest challenges are also the biggest opportunities for me. I'm learning loads of new things that I haven't considered before. For example, I’ve never written an academic blog, so it's a challenge, but it's also exciting because if it goes well, I will have done something I had never done before.
So, I think it's the unknown and the different things that you're asked to do that makes it an enriching experience. That’s also why I’m doing the course.
Ilse is currently studying an online MSc in Global Public Health with Queen Mary Online. You can find out more about the course and how it can deepen your understanding of global public health issues. With good time management skills and the motivation and discipline to study 25 hours per week, you can finish your MSc Global Public Health within two years.