5 May 2014

Dear RSA Blog readers, it is our great pleasure to introduce to you Eduardo Oliveira, who has been appointed as the Regional Studies Association - Student Representative. We managed to take him away from his busy to-do list and he was so kind to have a short chat with us to serve as his introduction.

1. Can you please introduce yourself?

Let me start with a warm thank you for this interview. I’m very happy and honoured with the RSA’s decision of appointing me as Student Representative. I was born in Braga, a city in northwestern Portugal, in 1982. I hold a degree in Geography and Planning from the University of Minho, a Post-Degree in Tourism and Regional Development from the Catholic University of Portugal. After some work experience I was thinking every day about going back to academic life. After some deep reflection I embarked upon a Master of Science in Marketing and Strategic Management, also in Braga.

I completed the M.Sc. with a thesis on place marketing and territorial competitiveness, focusing on Northern Portugal. That kind of inner attraction to explore the synergies between territory/places and competitiveness/development served as my main motivation to finish the M.Sc. in 2010, after six extraordinary months as an exchange student at the University Sains Malaysia. The interaction between territory and the economic perspectives was what attracted me the most.

In 2012, I started a four years Ph.D. programme in Spatial Science at the Department of Spatial Planning and Environment, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. My research and writing is focused on the theory and practice of place branding in strategic spatial planning with the Northern Portugal region as case study. I also dedicate particular attention to cross-border regional dynamics between Galicia and Northern Portugal.

2. What are your main research interests in relation to the RSA's fields? 

My main research interests go closely with the Association's work. I dedicate particular attention to regional dynamics of Northern Portugal specifically in turning comparative advantages into competitive ones, a topic developed by Philip Cooke, and largely published as book chapters in the Regions and Cities book series.

I do agree with RSA’s statement of embracing regions as a key spatial scale for examining the nature and impacts of political, economic, social and environmental change and innovation. 

David Bailey, in a post published on this blog, has suggested that regions and regional institutions can have a key role building economic resilience. By taking Northern Portugal as my primary research area, I have been researching the theoretical entanglements between place branding and strategic spatial planning. Bearing in mind that strategic spatial planning is able to support a strategic change, changing the spatial agenda, and thus socially and economically improve places, such as regions. At this level, regional branding could work as an instrument in strategic spatial planning, as a way to overcome the limitations of traditional spatial planning instruments and thus envision, in an innovative and creative way, better futures for cities and regions.

3. Can you describe your RSA track record/evolution?

I have been following the work, events and publications developed by Regional Studies Association, more intensively since January 2012 when I started my Ph.D. studies. I have been sharing some of the events trough my social and professional networks as well as reading several articles published by Association’s flagship journal - Regional Studies. At the moment, I’m writing a full article for the Early Careers Papers Section of the new interdisciplinary open access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science (RSRS), which I found an extraordinary initiative for doctoral students and young researchers to develop their ideas.

I had many incentives from some of my department colleagues to engage myself with the Regional Studies Association. In good time I did. Now I can contribute to the global discussion on everyday challenges posed to the environment cities, city-regions and regions operate in. I have ordered several books from the collection – Regions and Cities to enrich the catalog of the library of the University of Groningen.

4. Can you exemplify for our prospective student members how has the RSA influenced/affected your academic/professional evolution? 

I would say that the RSA's work has been a great influence to my evolution as an academic. Not only by supporting the research of new theoretical links, but also to shed some light on my empirical case. 

Despite the considerable number of publications, I would like to highlight the article by Bjørn Asheim, Ron Boschma and Philip Cooke (2011) ‘Constructing Regional Advantage: Platform Policies Based on Related Variety and Differentiated Knowledge Bases’, published by Regional Studies, 45(7). This article was my main inspiration to develop a draft article on ‘Constructing regional advantage: a joint cross-border branding strategy for Galicia-Northern Portugal’ currently being revised.

5. How do you see the role of the Student section of the RSA for its members? 

I see the opinion of the students as a fundamental contribution to the strategic development of the RSA. Students, for their constant instability concerning funding, job perspectives, and permanent doubts about staying in academia or leaving to an uncertain world of ‘practitioners’ are key thinkers in the construction of fair and equal cities and regions. 

In addition, the irreverence, unconformity and desire of change students and young researchers put into their work, require innovative thinking in regional studies. Therefore their ideas, interests and main concerns need an interlocutor near to the RSA board members. By keeping in line with the great work developed by Julie Tian Miao – as former Student Representative – I will make their voices heard, and hopefully see some of the desires accomplished.

6. What are your main goals/objectives in your new role as Student representative? 

I can promise that I will attempt to excel myself and make sure that the interests of the RSA student members will be taken further and strengthened. The students will have the opportunity to interact with me by using social media and email. I will get in touch with them and guarantee them that I will not do a 'monologue'. My voice will be their voice, an exchange of thoughts in order to design some effective actions. 

By attending the RSA meetings and events, I will have the chance to interact with highly reputed researchers and find out effective ways to address issues which the students’ members will be sharing with me during the coming three years. I am highly motivated to accomplish the tasks as student representative, bring fresh ideas and engage with potential RSA members.

In the end, let me thank Sally Hardy, RSA CEO for her support and Julie Tian Miao for her words of encouragement and wish best of luck in her new position. 

7. Is there anything else in special that you would like to emphasize/transmit to our student members from your new position as RSA Student Representative?

I would like to transmit to student members to feel free to contact me. I would be happy to know their main concerns. I also suggest checking regularly the RSA webpage for latest news and upcoming activities.


You can contact Eduardo via Twitter, LinkedIn or email. He also writes on his own blog: Envisioning Better Futures