Scholarship helps steer new thinking in people-centred urban design

Friday, 15 December 2017


As a recipient of the 2017 International Development Scholarship for UON professional staff, IFS Campus Strategy Manager, Meri Butler attended the Gehl Institute’s Summer Masterclass ‘Tools for Change - Why Public Life Matters’ in Copenhagen.

Meri Butler

The Masterclass focused on the intersection of social sciences and architecture, in particular the relationship between the built environment and people’s quality of life. Meri also visited universities across Scandinavia including; the University of Southern Denmark, Technical University of Denmark, University of Copenhagen and Lund University in Sweden.

Meri is involved in the strategic planning of UON’s physical assets, and she said the scholarship gave her an appreciation of the importance and benefits of improving public life within an urban context.

“The scholarship was a great opportunity for me to develop my understanding of the principles of public life, gained from the Masterclass and the lessons learnt from the universities I visited. These will be extremely valuable in informing future project planning at UON,” Meri said.

The Gehl Institute, led by Professor Jan Gehl, is a world leader in change management and placemaking. Meri said the Masterclass was an intensive three days which included seminars, workshops and both walking and bicycle tours of Copenhagen.

“The opportunity to attend a Masterclass at Gehl was a privilege, the appreciation that I now have for the benefits of improved public life will shape my approach to my role at UON going forward and provide insight into facilitating change to deliver innovative physical environments,” she said.

Meri also wishes to implement the learnings from the Masterclass to improve the UON campus experience for staff and students, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people's health, happiness, and wellbeing.

“Visiting a number of international universities was both inspiring and heartening, as these institutions are facing similar challenges to UON, and the quality of our solutions are on par with theirs,” she said.

Meri will continue to work with counterparts in Scandinavia to build on the shared experiences and learnings she gained.

“The Masterclass was a great place to establish new relationships; we all pledged to establish a group communication channel to ensure we keep in contact. I am aiming to maintain my links with the university representatives that I met, to continue the sharing of experiences,” she said.

Meri recommends professional staff to take up the opportunity to apply for an International Development Scholarship in the future.

“The scholarship is a great way to develop further and understand how UON fits into the international context,” she said.

About the scholarships:

Launched in 2016 as part of the University’s NeW Futures commitment to increasing global engagement, professional staff scholarships of up to $10,000 support overseas travel for professional development. The experience will also benefit UON by growing our international networks for collaboration. The applications for the 2018 scholarships will open in February 2018.