MA in Development Studies, University College Dublin (1994)
In 2011, almost a decade and a half after completing his fellowship, Peter Balimunsi joined our alumni as part of the newly established Facebook group. We caught up with him to find out why his fellowship alumni connection is still going strong.
What were you hoping to get from the course?
My mind then was focused on project management, so I was looking for courses that had that element and the course at UCD had a very good component called Project Analysis.
How did it go?
When I went to do the course, I found wider and more interesting dimensions. It aroused my interest in the economic progress of developing countries, like Uganda, and in Development Economics. I found the course very satisfying and it made me a more rounded professional. I remember it brought together many people from all over the world – from South America, continental Europe, Asia and Ireland. The internationality was very good.
I liked the kindness and warm hospitality of the Irish people. The other thing I will never forget is the cold weather. It was my first time to get exposed to that kind of weather!
What about your return to Uganda?
When I went back to my job, my organisation was receiving a lot of donor finances, both from multilateral organisations and bilateral organisations: a big programme from the World Bank and the European Union, and something beginning from France and from Germany. So they opened an office called the European Union Assistance and Bilateral Programmes and I was selected to head that office because of my course, which had an element of international relations. I think it helped me to manage that programme very well.
Later, I was promoted to head the whole Planning and Capital Development division which was looking after all the projects in the corporation.
You went on to further studies as well...
Before I left UCD, I asked Dr Helen O’Neill [then Head of the Centre for Development Studies] how I could network with other professionals in the area. She advised me to join the Development Studies Association for the UK and Ireland. I also began looking for a course in Development Economics, so I took a postgraduate diploma at the University of London which prepared me for an MSc in Development Finance. I completed in 2004.
You tracked down the alumni network online. Why is the connection important to you?
It’s very difficult to locate colleagues of mine from that course, and even Ugandans who have been to Ireland are difficult to meet unless you have some kind of association. Beyond studying, I think it’s a good thing to further the relations between the two countries. So I see it as something very useful. Whenever we’re invited to the Irish Embassy in Uganda I always attend and participate. It’s good that you can connect online and you can also link on the ground.
I’m very grateful to the Irish Government for supporting my postgraduate study. It has been very useful for my career; everything I’m doing now has a very strong link with the course I did in Ireland, both in my professional practice and my academic advancement.
Tell us about your future plans...
I intend to concentrate on consultancy services and university teaching in the area of development. When I previously attempted to begin a PhD, I was finding a lot of conflict with my working time so I decided to leave my job last year and work in consultancy for more flexibility. My thesis will be in the field of development, building on the UCD course.