Samantha Cooper

Samantha Cooper

Postgraduate Research Student

Bachelor of Social Research & Policy

Graduation Year: 2015

Current Position: Social Planner, Cred Consulting

Tell me about your current role...

I work as a Social Planner at Cred Consulting. It is kind of like the job Leslie Knope does on Parks and Recreation! It is sort of similar to urban planning but with a focus on community facilities and services planning. It involves community engagement and social research. I have been at Cred Consulting for just over three years. I started there when I was still at uni and then moved to full time once I graduated.

What does your typical day look like?

We are a small consultancy so I work on a lot of different projects at the same time. My day often involves analysing survey data from our community engagement, usually for local councils. I might also do some best practice research into services internationally. I also work with my boss on designing community engagement initiatives and in hosting workshops. Sometimes I do some graphic design work for our communication materials. I also go out and do focus groups or intercept surveys. Intercept surveys involve direct engagement with the community by approaching them in the street to gauge their opinions on issues that matter to them in their area. I’ve also used Snapchat to engage with young people about their needs in the Parramatta CBD.

Did you imagine this would be your career? What would a 17-year-old Sam think of what you are doing now?

17-year-old me wouldn’t be shocked with where I am. 17-year-old me would like that I am doing work in a social field. Over four and a half years of uni I gradually figured out that this was what I wanted to do. By the time I had finished I knew, but at the beginning I was just pretty open and picked things that I liked. I have tried a lot of different things like academia and activism, and now I have found this space that I really like where I can effect change and also use my knowledge and skills.

Why did you decide to do a Bachelor of Social Research & Policy degree at UNSW?

I actually started studying a Bachelor of Social Science, and then later the degree was changed to the Bachelor of Social Research & Policy. I did Social Science at UNSW because I liked the Development Studies course and the Psychology course at UNSW. I didn’t want to do an Arts degree because I wanted more skills-based learning in a specialist area. I just knew that would be the best fit for me.

What was your Bachelor of Social Research & Policy degree at UNSW like?

The highlights of the degree for me were the third year subjects, and working more closely with lecturers and learning about things in more depth. Dr Charlotte Smedley who I had met while working at the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW, taught my capstone subject. Her work was just so relevant to the real world. I knew I didn’t want to go into academic work, so it was great to see that I could do publishable academic research, that also had a real world benefit.

Were there any a-ha moments during your degree that changed how you viewed the world or your career?

I remember in my very first class in first year thinking how difficult the subject was because it was not my usual style of thinking or learning. Then I had the same lecturer again in my final semester and while it was still a challenge to the way that I thought and the way that I wrote, it was really good to come full circle and realise that I could use this new way of looking at things. My lecturer’s passion, and that way of thinking, has had a really big impact on the way I see the world now, not just in terms of work, but in everything that I do.

How do you feel that your UNSW Bachelor of Social Research & Policy degree shaped your career?

I often have those a-ha moments in the workplace when I realise that something that I studied at uni makes complete sense in a professional context. It is great to realise that if I hadn’t done that degree I would have viewed that situation completely differently, or not viewed it as critically. A lot of the work that I do around survey design would not have been possible without the knowledge and skills, and ways of thinking, that I gained in my degree.

What advice would you give to someone trying to decide if they should sign up for a Bachelor of Social Research & Policy degree?

If you like variety and thinking in different ways, and learning about social theory but also doing surveys and dealing with data and numbers, then it is a great degree for you. You get to examine a whole lot of different social issues from different viewpoints including government, academia, the private sector, and community.

Do you have any advice for current Arts & Social Sciences students?

Get involved in things outside of uni as well. Whether that be activism and trying to push for changes to policy, or making policy change from the inside through policy research, or working with a charity or in the private sector. If the reason you are studying Arts & Social Sciences is because you care about social justice issues, then it is a great opportunity to find ways to effect change on those issues.

What's next for you?

I would like to stay with my job for a while, because I love it. If I were to do something different in the future I’d look more at community development work, and perhaps building and implementing a program or service of my own, rather than coming and going as a consultant.