Doctor of Philosophy candidate
How resilient and effective are integrated conservation and development projects when there are global disruptions? That’s the interesting topic Roxane (Roxy) de Waegh is exploring for her PhD in tourism.
“In an attempt to support the social-ecological wellbeing of marginalised communities, integrated conservation and development projects were introduced in small island developing states like the Cook Islands and Tonga in the late 1980s. However, the effectiveness of such projects in meeting either conservation or development goals has long been debated, and it’s not clear how major disruptions will impact small island developing states and if these projects can effectively support social-ecological wellbeing during and after global disruptions.
“My doctoral research aims to explore different strategies, including tourism, that can effectively promote economic growth while supporting conservation efforts and providing social wellbeing to remote coastal communities. Given the recent and ongoing global disruption due to COVID-19, this research aims to explore the resilience of these strategies to global shocks in order to develop a conceptual framework that can provide valuable insights for effective integrated and development projects in an increasingly uncertain world.”
Roxy’s PhD research is being supervised by Professor Mark Orams and Professor Michael Lueck.
The right fit
Her PhD was the natural next step in her academic career, says Roxy who came to AUT as an international student from Belgium and expects to complete her doctoral degree in 2023.
“Given the increasing dependence on tourism for many islands in the South Pacific, alongside the increasing threats of climate change and environmental degradation associated with the development of tourism-related infrastructure, I consider this degree to be the perfect fit that will enable me to develop a deeper understanding of the dichotomy found within integrated conservation and development projects.”
The calibre of her supervisors is what attracted her to AUT.
“I chose AUT for my PhD because both of my supervisors are professors at this university, and I have been fortunate to receive an invitation by them and AUT to come study here.”
Supported to thrive
The support from AUT has been exceptional, says Roxy whose studies are supported by an AUT Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship.
“Despite being in lockdown for the majority of my first year at AUT, I was still able to communicate and interact with other students and staff. It’s clear that the success and wellbeing of students is AUT’s top priority. AUT is a young and dynamic university that clearly puts its students first by offering them opportunities to grow professionally and personally through various networking interactions – even during a pandemic.
“The genuine spirit of comradery and collaboration, in addition to the continuous and dependable support, is what I enjoy most about my studies at AUT. These attributes provide a sense of comfort and security which is usually incredibly challenging to find at an academic institution.”
Studying in such a supportive environment has made it easy for her to find her voice as a budding researcher.
“A PhD journey can be quite isolating at times, however with the proper guidance from your supervisors, and the space they allow you to think, reflect and analyse knowledge, you can find eureka moments on a weekly basis. The freedom and trust that my supervisors continue to offer me has enabled me to construct my own academic opinion and develop a researcher’s voice, which of course is still in the making.”