Modulian in Focus - David Leonard, PhD '18

Lecturer David Leonard has been at Modul University since nearly the beginning, as a student in the second Bachelor cohort - 10 years and three degrees later, he has recently completed his PhD here on Kahlenberg and will continue teaching. He shares his thoughts on MU and his advice for future Modulians. 

Why did you choose Modul University Vienna?

Location, landscape, luxuriousness, liberalism, language, leadership, lecturers, and luminaries: but not necessarily in that order.

How has studying at MU changed you/shaped your worldview?

Having been at MU for so long, it is difficult for me to differentiate what effects may be unique to MU from characteristics of academia in general, and even from the normal process of human development. But what I have come to realize is the importance of identifying, analysing, and reconciling one’s own values, and allowing these values to inform one’s path in life.

What makes MU special?

MU is special in the way that diversity is embraced. Not only is this reflected in the demographics of the student body and faculty, but, more importantly, also in the inclusion and acceptance of diverse perspectives and worldviews.

You are the first person to complete a Bachelor, Master and PhD at MU - how would you explain the differences in the programs?

The content of the respective programs aside, there are differences in the goals, extent, and nature of learning process as one progresses through the levels of higher education. Matt Might (2010) explains this graphically in The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.

We acquire a small and generalized set of knowledge at school through highly directed tuition. A bachelor degree expands this general knowledge base and begins the process of becoming specialized in a particular field. Master degrees deepen this specialization through increasingly focused and autonomous learning. The Ph.D. takes one to the limits of human understanding within a highly specialized field, and, with much effort, enables one to expand this boundary by contributing new knowledge. It is clear that to go where no person has been before, one must take the final steps alone.

Your grades have been excellent the entire time - how did you stay top of your class throughout your studies?

The key to getting good grades is understanding exactly what the instructor wants from you.  This is no different from satisfying a supervisor’s expectations in the workplace, and is therefore a valuable skill to learn. So how can one develop this understanding? The first tip is to read the syllabus carefully, and particularly focus on the learning outcomes, which specify the instructor’s objectives. Secondly, attend lectures! A course textbook may contain all of the factual information of relevance, but it is only through direct contact with the instructor that one gets to know which parts to focus on. This makes learning much more directed and efficient.

What is your advice for future generations of Modulians?

Take responsibility for your own learning. It is those students who have clear personal objectives for their studies who are able to realize the greatest benefits from their time at the university.

What will you be teaching at MU next year?

As a lecturer in political economy, most of my courses are related to economics and development. At the master level I will be teaching Principles of Sustainability & Economic Development. In the bachelor programs I will teach Microeconomics, Sustainability Literacy for Business, and Maths & Stats 1, and I will also teach Geography & Economics in the Foundation Program.

In five words or less, what’s the best thing about MU?

Freedom for self-directed growth