14th October 2015
Robin Hambro Moral Philosophy for Leadership Seminar
26-29 September 2015, Harris Manchester College
Oxford basked in glorious autumn sunshine as the 2015-16 cohort of Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholars gathered for the Robin Hambro Moral Philosophy Seminar, the first event of the new academic year. This year’s seminar was made possible with the support of Mrs Robin Hambro and took place at Harris Manchester College which provided the perfect, intimate setting for the scholars’ first meeting.
2015 is a particularly exciting year for the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholarships & Leadership Programme as we welcome the first Oxford-Weidenfeld & Hoffmann Scholars supported by the endowment fund set up earlier in the year as a tribute to Lord Weidenfeld. The full cohort of 31 is made up of ten new endowment-funded Scholars, alongside thirteen new and continuing Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld Scholars, five new and continuing Weidenfeld-Hoffman Scholars, two new match-funded Weidenfeld-Oxford (Arcadia) scholars and one continuing Weidenfeld Oxford (Annenberg) scholar.
The seminar began on Saturday morning with a welcome and introductory session from the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust team, led by Alexandra Henderson (Director and CEO of the Trust), Academic Director John Adamson and Dean of Studies Elizabeth Roberts. Straight away it was clear from the smiling faces and easy conversation that this was a particularly outstanding group of young people, eager to meet their new colleagues and embark upon the challenges of the year ahead.
Two continuing scholars, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh from South Africa (Oxford-Weidenfeld & Hoffmann – Rausing/Abraham Scholar, awarded a second scholarship for a DPhil after completing his MPhil as a Louis Dreyfus Scholar earlier in 2015) and Irina Fedorenko from Russia (Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholar, DPhil Geography & the Environment) then gave their own personal words of encouragement and advice before leading a useful Q&A session.
The morning concluded with the new scholars meeting their mentors. In response to feedback we have this year introduced a new mentoring initiative as part of the Leadership Programme, by which all first year scholars have been paired with a mentor from amongst the continuing scholars or alumni. The objective is to formalise and strengthen the relationship of mutual support which is already a key aspect of the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann community. Eight alumni in total joined us over the course of the weekend and all scholars – new and old – enjoyed the opportunity to chat informally and share their experiences.
On Saturday afternoon the scholars began the programme of daily seminars on moral and political philosophy which form the main focus of the event. Taking as their start point a range of seminal texts – from Aristotle to Mandela – the seminars provide an environment in which scholars can explore their own attitudes to, and learn from their fellow scholars’ observations on, what constitutes leadership and a ‘good society’. The scholars are prompted to reflect upon fundamental questions about how individuals engage in civic and public life, including the tensions that can exist between principles such as representation and democracy, equality and justice, personal liberty and collective security.
In addition to the academic content of the seminars, the event also provided many opportunities for the scholars to get to know one another and to socialise together, forming important bonds of friendship which will be invaluable throughout their time in Oxford. The group enjoyed a walking tour of Oxford – particularly interesting and useful to those newly arrived in the city – and a visit to Blenheim Palace where they had the chance to explore the stunning interiors and gardens.
The event culminated in a special dinner at Harris Manchester on the evening of 28 September in honour of Lord Weidenfeld and to celebrate the arrival of the new cohort. The scholars – many of them resplendent in national dress – were joined by Lord & Lady Weidenfeld, Robin Hambro, WHT Trustees Michael Lewis and Alina Barnett and other prominent supporters of the Programme, as well as Rev Dr Ralph Waller, Principal of Harris Manchester, who had provided such a warm welcome to the College. Two Louis Dreyfus scholars Karim Aziz (Egypt, MPP) and Athinangamso Nkopo (South Africa, MSc Africa Studies) concluded the evening with a note of thanks to the WHT’s generous donors and supporters for the unique opportunity they have been given thanks to the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholarships & Leadership Programme.
As the scholars head off to begin their studies, we look forward to the year ahead. The Leadership Programme has a number of activities scheduled for Michaelmas Term, including follow-up moral philosophy seminars, an event with the Louis Dreyfus Foundation on 15 October, a talk with Russ Feingold (2016 candidate for the US senate), a trip to Cambridge for the Humanitas Lecture delivered by former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari and, of course, the annual Practical Skills Training Workshop held at Cumberland Lodge in December, as well as regular informal lunches to help the scholars keep in touch. It certainly promises to be a busy and exciting year ahead!
“The Robin Hambro Seminar provided the perfect welcome into Oxford. Not only did it provide the opportunity to discuss many topics that I had never seriously pondered before, but I was also able to meet an array of inspiring individuals from many different countries and cultural backgrounds… It was a wonderful experience. I came out of it with a new family and an understanding of true leadership.”
Siying Zhang, Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld, China
Read Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld Scholar Quratulain Fatima’s reflections on the event on our blog here.