Could you please describe yourself in a few sentences?
I am dual national British-Swiss who is a Development Economist by training, an experienced academic who has worked in both private and public sectors in the UK and abroad, and who has extensive international experience of research and consultancy. However, my most recent claim to fame is playing trombone as part of a seven-piece band based in South East London called The Grey Cats (www.thegreycats.co.uk) – who said Economists have no soul?!
In my ‘day-job’ I am Head of the Department of Economics and Quantitative Methods at Westminster Business School, a post I have held since 1997. In that role, I have had lots of experience of managing a team of over 30 academics and of the strategic development of the department and its activities. Between 2004 and 2010, I was seconded to act as Director of Undergraduate Studies, which gave me a welcome opportunity to engage more closely with students and the issues that concern them.
What is your area of academic interest and which courses were you involved in ?
My main area of academic interest is Development Economics – specifically the Political Economy of Development – which encompasses areas such as sustainable livelihoods and poverty reduction, global value chain analysis and NGOs and the management and evaluation of development interventions. I obtained my undergraduate degree in Development Economics from the University of East Anglia, an MSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of Reading and my PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
Could you please tell us a bit about the courses that you are involved in Westminster Business School?
Given the teaching programmes we have in Westminster Business School, my teaching interests inevitably encompass a wide range of modules in applied business economics and development economics. At undergraduate level, I have developed and teach popular new first year options on The London Economy and The Business of Sport, a second year core business module in management decision making and a final year module exploring current themes in business (which includes a focus on diversity, social media, innovation and sustainability, amongst other topics). At postgraduate level, I deliver modules on the management and appraisal of development projects to postgraduate students, including those on our MBA programme.
What was your first job? What did you learn from it?
Well, I come from a small business background – my family owned greengrocery shops in North London over several generations – so my first experience of paid work was I suppose in retail, working on Saturdays or after school. What lessons did I learn from this? Firstly, that the customer is always right. Secondly, the importance of effective and interesting presentation of your ‘offering’ – and that quality matters and customers are willing to pay for it. And, finally, that the key to succeeding in a job is to work hard, to set achievable targets and to not be afraid to get your hands dirty. It also helps if you get on with the people you work with!
What did you do in your career before coming to Westminster Business School?
I joined the University of Westminster in 1988 after working for a number of years as a Senior Consultant with CRU International, a leading independent economic consultancy focused on the metals and minerals industry. At CRU International, which I joined after postgraduate study, I undertook market analysis and worked as an advisor on projects for governments and for major international mining companies. Since then I have acted as a freelance consultant for CRU International and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and have published widely on non-ferrous metals and on the scrap and recycling industry.
My interest in an academic career developed after I left my well-paid job at CRU and spent almost three years working as a teacher in a township school in Zimbabwe. The experience was incredibly fulfilling and made me determined to build a career in higher education on my return to London.
What advice would you give to the students during their studies and after graduation so that they make the right decisions for their career?
In terms of study, the obvious advice, perhaps. Work hard, attend regularly, meet deadlines, listen to feedback and use it effectively. This will help to ensure that you will achieve the best degree you can. But you also need to think about the ‘value-added’ elements that will make you stand out – learn a language, volunteer as a student mentor, participate in the life of the University via student societies or course committees. After graduation, keep in touch with your friends from university and build networks – success is increasingly to do with who you know as well as what you know. Take up opportunities available to you; all experience is useful experience.
If you were asked to give one piece of advice to students who are considering going into Post Graduate study what would that be?
Do your research and gather as much information as you can, so you can weigh up the costs and benefits of postgraduate study. Make sure you have chosen the right course – are you interested in the subject/area you will be studying, does it utilise you strengths and abilities, will it open up clear career opportunities for you?
How do you relax out of work? What are your interests/leisure activities?
Apart from the late blossoming of my career as a rock musician, I enjoy listening to music (across a wide range of genres, both recorded and live), going to the theatre (and ballet and opera), hiking, cycling, tennis and skiing, and spending time with my family. In addition, I am a trustee of a small charity which supports cultural activities projects in northern Mozambique.
Dr Vincent Rich Head of Department, Economics and Quantitative Methods, Westminster Business School
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