In this interview, we talked to Somesh Sharma, Environment and Sustainable Development Planning specialist at IHS. Somesh is currently teaching the Urban Management short course and the Urban Management Tools for Climate Change training programme. In today’s chat, we dived deeper into what role short courses play in the career development of urban professionals.
Somesh has been working as an Environment and Sustainable Development Expert at IHS since 2012, where he is currently part of the Urban Sustainability and Climate Change Resilience Department. His main functions include delivering courses to the master’s programme, supervising research theses, designing short courses and professional training programmes, and giving inputs to advisory projects. He also assists in the research workshop module for the Urban Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change Master track and the Mass Online Open Course on Financing Infrastructure in African Cities.
Which short courses do you teach, and what topics do they cover?
Somesh: I am the course coordinator of our 3-month programme in Urban Management (UM). The course focuses on Urban Sustainability, Governance, Policy Planning, and Public-Private Partnerships. We also have modules on Local Government Finance and Investments and Academic Writing for Urban Theories. I am also part of the hybrid professional training programme on Urban Management Tools for Climate Change (UMTCC), where participants learn about Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Nature-Based Solutions and Climate Change Adaptation based on Dutch best practices.
What type of teaching methods do you use?
Somesh: As part of the offline short course, we have in-person lectures, interactive workshops and peer-reviewing activities. In the case of a hybrid program, we work with the same methods but in the online environment. We ensure that participants of both short courses have on-site excursions around the Netherlands.
"We have created an active learning environment. It is not just reading but a two-way kind of knowledge exchange where students get real-life examples of best practices in the Netherlands."
What skills can students acquire during the course, and how do these skills contribute to their careers?
Somesh: Urban Management students learn how to design theoretical frameworks, write scientific articles and reports on urban issues and communicate their findings through poster presentations. This course helps professionals to bring higher-level intellectual quality in their routine tasks and strengthen their practical decision-making abilities. Moreover, learning from the best practices through excursions has its unique advantages, which helps participants learn their lessons and expand their professional network.
How does the knowledge from this short course enrich one's professional development?
Somesh: This course gives the right learning environment to professionals who wish to build up their “knowledge base” and then return to their routines again, with a stronger and significantly augmented expertise and abilities. After some time in a profession, we unknowingly limit ourselves to the knowledge we acquired during our education and everyday routines. This in a way limits the scope and depth of our professional inputs in our tasks.
"In this course, our emphasis is on bringing forward the basics. The basics for professional development have always been reading, learning, enhancing your knowledge and applying it in a relevant context."
How do the participants transform their careers after finishing the course?
Somesh: As heard from our alumni, the course has been very useful for professionals who want to switch their careers from practice to academics and research. We also recommend the short course for candidates who wish to refine their scientific education in urban management skills to get a promotion or change functions in their organization.
What background do the students have?
Somesh: It is a mix of different cultures and professional backgrounds. This gives us a great opportunity to share experiences from several parts of the world under a common roof and academic framework. Participants with educational backgrounds from any academic discipline relevant to urban management can apply. However, we also consider the nature of the professional tasks of the applicants. For example, medical doctors have been a part of the course because they were working with the public health department of the municipality in their city.
Why should urban professionals apply for the short course?
Somesh: You get the right surroundings to expand your academic knowledge base, enhance your professional skills, and then return to your routines again with a stronger and significantly enhanced knowledge base and professional skills.
"We have designed a course that allows professionals to take a short and refreshing break from their routine and put themselves completely into a high quality and very international academic learning environment."