Sustainable Cities, MSc in Engineering

Jody de Graaf, Bodegraven-Reeuwijk

Jody de Graaf, Bodegraven-Reeuwijk

Jody from the Netherlands works as a policy advisor sustainability at the Municipality of Rotterdam. She chose to study Sustainable Cities at the AAU Copenhagen Campus and found an international and current education, which successfully aims to understand problems and finding solutions within the field of sustainable cities.

Why did you choose to study Sustainable Cities?

"I chose to study Sustainable Cities because cities, in my opinion, are very interesting phenomena. Furthermore, I'm very interested in the environment and sustainability. Growing up on a farm in a rural part of the Netherlands, I already knew as a child that it was important to take good care of the Earth, because we all rely on it. My bachelor education was a new, combined programme of three former separate bachelor educations (social geography, spatial planning and environment and society studies). I really like this combination of topics, because they have a lot in common and are often all represented when solving a problem. However, the following master’s programme only focused on one of the topics (social geography, spatial planning or environment and society studies), why I decided to join the SusCi programme in Copenhagen instead."

Group picture - SusCi
Group picture from the first semester at Sustainable Cities

"I liked the challenge of learning new things and becoming an expert in the field of sustainable cities. Furthermore, an education in a foreign country is very recommendable on your CV."

Titel: Master of Science
Full name: Jody de Graaf
Year of graduating: 2016
Age: 25
Recidence: Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

How did you experience your study time at the university? 

"I really enjoyed the study time at the university and appreciated that the students in my programme came from different countries and that the group was rather small (24 students). The project work was sometimes rather stressful, but I was pleased that we had the time to thoroughly understand a problem and find the solutions. The lectures were very interesting and every day I learned plenty of new things. I also liked that we didn't have any books; instead the lecturers selected articles for the specific lectures. This ensured that the education was based on current and relevant articles within the field."

Graduation Ceremony
Graduation Ceremony - Sustainable Cities 

Did you do an internship?

"I did do an internship. Actually, I did two internships. My first internship was a 5 month internship at the Water Department of the Municipality of Rotterdam in the 3rd semester. I enjoyed experiencing how it was to work fulltime and how a governmental organisation functions. The Municipality of Rotterdam is a very large and complicated organisation with highly specified functions and working areas."

The office in Rotterdam

"My second internship was a 3.5 month internship at Waternet in Amsterdam. I did this internship in the 4th semester, as part of my thesis. The organisation allowed me to spend the whole internship conducting research and writing my thesis. This was a perfect match, because they 'provided' the information and knowledge I needed (I conducted several interviews). I do recommend students to do an internship, because it makes the step from being a student to a fulltime employee easier and most of all, it is essential for your professional network and potential job offers."

Internship in Rotterdam
Two SusCi friends visiting Jody in Rotterdam during her internship

How did you get your first job?

"I got my first job in a rather unusual way. I applied for a vacancy (advisor playing, green and waste) and I was appointed for a job interview. During this interview, the HR managers saw a potential in my passion for sustainability related to the huge tasks that the Municipality Bodegraven-Reeuwijk faces to meet in their goals of being climate neutral in 2035. I was then invited for a second interview followed by a meeting with the alderman who is responsible for sustainability. After a common agreement, a job was created for me. For 3 years, I worked as a strategic advisor and programme coordinator of sustainability. I developed the local sustainability agenda and worked on its implementation. My role was to keep an eye on the overall strategy and to steer people in the right direction.”

at work

What is your current job situation?

“My current job situation is that I work fulltime (36 hours per week) as an policy advisor Sustainability at the Municipality of Rotterdam. Most of my time, I work on energy transition related issues.

The past two years, sustainability and energy transition in specific has become one of the main topics on the political agenda in the Netherlands. Due to earth quakes caused by the drilling for natural gas and the Paris agreement, the national government decided that natural gas must be phased out in 2050. This is a huge tasked, because this means that alternative heating solutions must be found for more than 8 million buildings.

In 2021, every Dutch municipality needs to have a plan for every neighbourhood on: the alternative heating solutions (what), the moment of transition (when) and the implementation plan (how). The necessary conversion is not only costly, it is also very complex: it involves millions of owners. Together with a colleague, I’m working on this plan.”

What skills from your education can you use in your present job?

"In my present job, I use a lot of knowledge on energy planning, urban infrastructure synergies and transition management. In addition to that, I use a mix of knowledge of all the different topics educated (transport, waste, energy, buildings and water). It is very important to understand the interconnections between these different fields. Furthermore, I use some of the methods (backcasting, citizen participation) and the skills I achieved during diffent parts of the curriculum (stakeholdermanagement, giving presentations and working together in project groups).”

If you were to highlight projects you've been involved in - what should that be?

“The past years, I’ve coordinated a participationtraject to find suitable locations for large scale renewable energy generation (windturbines and solar fields). It was very exciting to stand in front of a large group of citizens and to talk with them about the necessity of renewable energy and to talk in smaller groups about their wishes and concerns. Also, I’m very pleased with the roadmap I developed for Bodegraven-Reeuwijk to become climate neutral in 2035. 

I’m also very proud of the work I’m doing now (the what/when/how plan for alternative heating solution for buildings in Rotterdam). This is still ‘work in progress’, but I hope to tell you more about it in the near future!”

"The study project I would like to highlight is the organic waste recycling project with Roskilde Municipality. This project was very interesting and I learned a lot. Not only about energy management, but also of power relations.”

Visiting Biovaesk during 2nd semester
Project visit at BioVækst

Roadmap for climateneutral Bodegraven-Reeuwijk in 2035