Ilisapeci Vakacegu -  USP Alumni Network

Name: Ilisapeci Vakacegu

Counrty: Fiji

Programme: Postgraduate Diploma in Climate Change 2013



What did
you study at USP and when did you graduate?
I studied Climate Change at the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development in USP. I graduated with my Postgraduate Diploma in April, 2013.

What made you choose this field of study?
Climate Change is a pressing issue that needs immediate attention at the local, regional and international levels. Living in a country and a region that is at the forefront of the impacts of climate change and witnessing these challenges, I decided to further my studies in this field.
I enrolled in PACE-SD’s Climate Change program with the realization that my country and my region were being affected and therefore the onus was on us to act and do something about it! So, I studied climate change with the goal of assisting affected communities in Fiji and the region build resilience and adapt to climate change and its impacts.

What do you do now, where are you based?
Currently, I am one of three fellows chosen under the AOSIS Fellowship Programme. I am based at the Fiji Mission to the United Nations in New York. Here, I handle all climate change issues for the Mission and I work closely with the Climate Change Division in Fiji.
Before coming to New York, I was a project assistant at the Climate Change Division under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation. I dealt mostly with climate change mitigation and mainstreaming issues.

How does your current role tie in with what you studied at USP i.e. briefly explain what you do and how you hope your work will help your country / make a difference.
The programme offered at PACE-SD really helped me understand the holistic picture of climate change. We learnt not only about the science of the issue but also about climate economics, finance, mitigation, adaptation, policy etc. The courses also had field work components where students went out to communities and assessed its vulnerability to climate change. Basically, the programme is structured in a way that students are taught about climate change from the policy level right down to the community level.
Now, taking part in negotiations, I have realized that having a holistic understanding of climate change is a great advantage. We need to know and understand what is happening on the ground to adequately negotiate on issues at an international level. Climate change is a cross-cutting issue that needs to be addressed as such and not in isolation.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
In 10 years’ time I hope to have completed my Masters degree and be working in Fiji or in the region, assisting affected communities adapt to the challenges caused by climate change.

Advise to students
i.    Commit your life and your plans to God and pray about it constantly.
ii.    Determine what you want to become in life, set goals for yourself and work towards achieving them. Understand that achieving these goals will require a lot of hard work and sacrifice on your part, remember that nothing good comes easy.
iii.    Choose your company wisely!
Pray hard, work smart, work hard, stay focused, be humble and just do your best!

Further comments
I am very thankful to God for my parents who have supported me tirelessly through the years and for the sacrifices they have and continue to make for me.
I am also very thankful and privileged to have had the chance to learn under the guidance of Prof Elisabeth Holland and the supportive staff of PACE-SD.

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