Geography Lives: Dr Charis Enns
Over the coming months, we will be hosting Q&A sessions with members of academic staff in the Department of Geography, providing an insight into their teaching, research and interests beyond academia. You can read the questions and answers from our interview with Dr Charis Enns below, and view her full staff profile and list of publications here.
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Q: What does your role in the Department of Geography involve?
A: In addition to research, I teach a number of undergraduate and postgraduate modules and I supervise undergraduate, Masters and PhD students. Most of the modules I lecture on relate to international development, such as ‘Geographies of Development’ for 2nd year students and ‘Key Issues in Environment and Development’ for postgraduate students. I am also involved in teaching field classes and participating in research clusters and reading groups across the university.
Q: What are your current research interests?
A: I am currently researching resource corridors in sub-Saharan Africa. Resource corridors are networks of roads, railways, pipelines, and ports that are built to transport commodities from sites of production to global markets. I am interested in understanding how the construction and operation of new resource corridors impacts rural communities. My current project focuses on resource corridors in four different countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Cameroon.
Q: What impacts do you hope your research will have?
A: Over the past few years, there has been renewed interest in building resource corridors in sub-Saharan Africa. The international development community has demonstrated a strong level of support for new resource corridors. For example, the UK’s Department for International Development has committed official development assistance to the construction and upgrading of new transport corridors in Africa while the Chinese Government has placed infrastructure financing at the centre of its approach to engaging with Africa. Because so much development assistance is being directed towards the construction of new resource corridors, it is incredibly important that we understand how corridors impact day-to- day life in rural communities. This will in turn enable us to better understand how we might maximise the benefits and minimize the adverse effects that these mega-infrastructure projects have on the livelihoods and wellbeing of rural people.
Q: How does your research feed into your teaching?
A: My teaching is informed by my research on international development and by my experiences working in international development. When I teach about a topic, I try to use examples, quotes, images and video clips from my own research or experiences to ground what I am teaching about with real-life examples. I also get regular updates from the academics and civil society partners that I work with, which means that the examples I use in my teaching are up-to-date and reflective of current discussions going on in developing contexts. I find that this approach to teaching is appreciated by students who have an academic and/or professional interest in international development.
Q: What is your favourite part of teaching?
A: My favourite part of teaching is mentoring students as they think about and carry out research. Some students design research projects that closely relate to my own area of research. In these cases, it is enjoyable to be able to discuss our shared interests during supervision meetings or to email relevant news stories throughout the week. However, supervision is just as enjoyable when students design research projects on topics that are more tangential to my own area of research. In these cases, I guide students towards relevant bodies of literature that they might not have otherwise considered while also learning alongside students in the process. It is incredibly rewarding to mentor students as they design research projects that reflect their own interests, values and career aspirations.
Q: What are your interests beyond academia?
A: When I am not at the university and not away doing fieldwork, I take advantage of living in Sheffield. As I am still relatively new to Sheffield, I have been spending my evenings and weekends getting to know the city and the surrounding area. Although Sheffield maintains a small-town feel, I lived in a very small town previously; so I feel like there is so much to do and see in the city. I am also really enjoying having the Peak District right at my doorstep. Every weekend, I try out a new walking route in the Peak District with my dog, Oliver.