“Oxford is beautiful; its beauty is its plumage, its method of procreation. The beauty of the dream of Oxford, of spires and quiet learning,of the life of the mind, of effortless superiority, all these had beguiled me.”
― Naomi Alderman, The Lessons.
It is true that once one becomes an Oxford University student, the indelible connection to Oxford remains for a life time. The invitation to attend the Future of Government Conference 2018, at the Blavatnik School of Government where I completed my Masters of Public Policy as a Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholar, was one of many instances when I have happily returned to my Alma Mater.
Being an ardent gender equality advocate, I had written a contribution for the Oxford Government Review for the Conference. I arrived during an all too familiar rainy day in Oxford on the 31st October, 2018. However, my reflections were not sparked by the buildings or the ‘dreaming spires’ but by my most cherished memories of time spent among other Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust Scholars. I was very fortunate to be invited to this year’s Robin Hambro Moral Philosophy Seminar where I listened to current Scholar reflections on justice, global governance and borders. Like always, I found this seminar to be the single most important thing from my time at Oxford; an experience that helps me improve myself as a leader, even today.
I remember participating in my first moral philosophy seminar at Harris Manchester College amidst beautiful architecture and gardens. It was a life changing experience in leadership for me. Coming from an administrative background, philosophical debates with scholars from diverse backgrounds was a treasure and a treat. Since my time at Oxford, I have heard insights from my colleagues and other future leaders on how they view the world, their work and its values. However, few are able to engage at the same level on the subject matter of Moral Philosophy. I can proudly recount the musings of such great philosophers and public intellectuals as Socrates, Isaiah Berlin, Niemöller, Rousseau, Averroes, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.
During my latest visit to the WHT, I found that the seminar discussions have become more diverse as the size of the scholar group has increased over the years. New scholars’ views on leadership , morality, freedom and ethics left me very impressed with their critical thinking skills and proud to be associated with such a dynamic and captivating group of future change-makers.
As I left Oxford, the discussions around moral philosophy still whizzing through my mind, I reflected on how my own experience as a WHT Scholar helped me become a better and more careful-thinking leader. I expect that it will keep on creating more aware, empathetic and deliberate leaders (who the world needs now more than ever) with every passing cohort of Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholars.
The WHT Leadership and Alumni Programme would like to take this opportunity to thank WHT Alumnus, Manas Nanda (India, MBA. Louis Dreyfus – Weidenfeld and Hoffmann, 2014) who has contributed funds toward programming and activities for current scholars through the Leadership Programme.
Please look out for the Annual Report to learn more about how this generous and heartfelt contribution will be used.
Manas’ contribution comes at a time when more Alumni are reaching out to the Trust, to find meaningful ways to give back to a Programme which was at the heart of their time at Oxford. The Leadership and Alumni Programmes actively work with Alumni across the globe, to keep them engaged with WHT programming and events including opportunities for career and professional development, participating in WHT events and serving as a sounding board for the Trust’s programmatic direction.
We look forward to building a larger inventory of Alumni who are giving back to the Trust, financially and otherwise, towards our shared vision of cementing the WHT Leadership Programme at Oxford.
If you are an Alumni who wants to get involved in shaping the future direction of the Trust, please reach out to Laura.firstname.lastname@example.org to get a conversation started. #whtwishyouwerehere
Vilija completed her DPhil in EU Law in 2017 at the University of Oxford, thanks to the Weidenfeld-Roland Berger Scholarship and Oxford Law Faculty funding. She has published a paper based on a chapter of her doctoral thesis in the Croatian Yearbook of European Law and Policy (2016). During her Doctorate, she also held a lectureship in EU Law at Oxford, where she taught at five colleges. Vilija was recently awarded the British Academy Early Career Research Fellowship at the Law Faculty of the University of Oxford (2018–2021).
Abhijay resigns as President of MAD
As MAD prepares to take its next step as a preeminent youth led organization in India, Abhijay has chosen to pass the baton of the Organization’s leadership to a fresh face. “I recently announced that I will resign from the post of its (MAD) President. As it’s Founder, I wanted MAD to evolve into a movement of young minds and not to remain it’s life-long President. As I have started my litigation career, I thought it was time that the reigns of a student movement are put in the hands of a student. I will soon be passing on the baton as soon as the formalities are complete”
Read more about MAD and the organization’s recent Zero Waste Marathon in India here.
Carolina advancing human-wildlife conflict mitigation in Namibia
After graduation from Oxford Carolina returned to Colombia where she worked with Awake Adventures – a local ecotourism company, to develop a biodiversity conservation strategy and alliances with conservation NGOs in order to achieve conservation through ecotourism. During this time she got to sign MOUs with Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the regional NGO ‘Fundación para la Conservación y DesarrolloSostenible’. It was based on this experience and her passion for wildlife and biodiversity that she accepted a position in Namibia, working with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) as an Ecologist/Conservation Scientist, what she considers her “dream job”. Carolina is working on community-based research for human-wildlife conflict mitigation strategies in the eastern communal conservancies; finding ways to prevent farmers from losing livestock to predators in order to avoid retaliatory killing of predators from farmers. Alongside this, she builds capacity with local farmers on how to manage livestock in a predator environment, through integrative predator and livestock management workshops. She is also conducting wildlife monitoring at CCF’s property through camera trap surveys and game counts. In a note to the Trust, Carolina communicated her gratitude to the WHT family, “I am very grateful to have had the support of the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust for my postgraduate studies, without this help, I would not have been able to gain the skills necessary to be where I am today; living and working in the bush, and helping wildlife and local people thrive together – a dream come true! I can’t wait to see where this new path takes me in helping ensure biodiversity as we know it today for future generations”.
Atherton and Irina on ‘Student Entrepreneurship’ at Oxford
Atherton and Irina (Russia, DPhil Geography and the Environment, Hoffmann 2016) were recently featured in the University of Oxford’s campaign, “Student Entrepreneurship Top Tips“, which is an online toolkit and awareness raising platform to support upcoming entrepreneurs. Atherton is the Founder and CEO of Hutano Diagnostics Ltd. which is a start-up developing a diagnostic and surveillance platform for diseases caused by Emerging and Dangerous Pathogens which cause recurring epidemics in the African Region. The company is currently developing an Ebola diagnostic and surveillance platform. Irina is a co-founder of Bio Carbon Engineering and Kindness Collective.
Maheen leads Climate resilience project in Dubai
Maheen is currently based in Dubai, where she is working on a climate change resilience project for a major utility in the region and conducting a social impact assessment for EXPO 2020. “Funnily enough, I wrote about wanting to work with clients like Expo 2020 in my Oxford application essay”, she said, in a note to WHT. “It brings me great joy and a sense of achievement to be on my journey of working in this field and making an impact in this niche but growing space in the MENA region. I wanted to share my updates as a kind reminder that you facilitate a truly life changing scholarship and leadership programme, which will always be close to my heart”.
Manisha was recently in India (with a group of experts from Oxford) to train obstetricians to use hand-held echocardiography machines which can diagnose heart failure in pregnant women. “The training was good, and we have provided 13 hospitals with a hand-held echocardiography machine ( funded by a UK based company). I will be conducting a study to understand the cost-effectiveness of these machines and if these were able to save lives by helping obstetricians diagnose the condition promptly”. Speaking of the programme, Manisha said “I was happy to visit the hospitals where we are conducting the study. I can gradually see that we might be able to make a difference, although a long way to go”.
Making a Difference by Being the Difference (MAD) is an organization founded by WHT Alumni, Abhijay Negi, which recently held India’s first zero waste marathon. (Left: Chief Minister Trivendra Singh kicks off the marathon in India)
The marathon is one of the organizations many pioneering, environmental awareness oriented campaigns. It was held in celebration of MAD’s 7th anniversary. Aside from drawing participation from over 8,000 runners, the Marathon stayed true to mission by using steel glasses and kulhads (a type of a traditional small earthen utensil made of clay) to serve water and food. Not a single plastic banner was printed for the event which instead used banners made of canvas cloth. To read more about the event visit the Times of India website here. Abhijay has since conducted a TEDx talk about his work through MAD.
The organisation has continued its campaign to rejuvenate the Rispana river of Doon Valley by involving more and more youngsters in cleanups and advocacy. Read more about this work here. MAD is also currently the only NGO and youth activist group to be a part of the policy formulation high table that has been convened by the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, pressuringseveral Government departments to drop their concrete/construction/dam- oriented approach to rejuvenating the river and focus on plantation of endemic species that conserve water. MAD has also asked the Government regularly, both in one to one meetings and publicly, to remove all encroachments on the river that enjoy political patronage. Read more about it here
As MAD prepares to take its next step as a preeminent youth led organization in India, Abhijay has chosen to pass the baton of the Organization’s leadership to a fresh face. “I recently announced that I will resign from the post of its (MAD) President. As it’s Founder, I wanted MAD to evolve into a movement of young minds and not to remain it’s life-long President. As I have started my litigation career, I thought it was time that the reigns of a student movement are put in the hands of a student. I will soon be passing on the baton as soon
as the formalities are complete”.
Here is the link to Abhijay’s resignation letter.
Oxford was buzzing this term as families came from all corners of the globe to celebrate graduation! This is an especially remarkable time for the Trust as we celebrate the ambitions, efforts and inevitable success of our incoming Alumni. Here are a few pictures and snippets from Michaelmas Term graduations at Oxford:
“I am very honored and happy to have my dear parents by my side to experience this amazing moment, directly from the Sheldonian theatre here in Oxford, where we just watched the instruments of time and truth concert! Thank God for this special gift!!!” – Claudia Coleoni (Brazil, MSc Water Science Policy and Management)
“And this is how a very looooong chapter has ended. Thank you friends and family and a family of friends who have come to share this moment with me. You can trust me now, I’m a doctor.”
WHT Alumna, Rubeena Mahato (Nepal, 2015, MPP, Louis Dreyfus) recently published an article through the South China Morning Post (SCMP) about China’s growing influence in South Asia. In it, she notes that India and the West are concerned about China’s increasing power as a geopolitical force and explains why South Asians should be paying attention too.
“Having lost hope of reducing poverty with the Western development model, developing countries have opted to try the Chinese approach of investing in large infrastructure projects.
It remains to be seen if the Chinese model will rescue countries from underdevelopment or push them deeper into economic troubles. But economic impacts aside, there are other less-discussed consequences of the belt and road strategy and increased engagement with China that South Asian countries should carefully consider”.
Rubeena completed a Master of Public Policy at Oxford as a Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld Scholar in 2015. She is a Social Policy Officer at the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia. One of the most read columnists in Nepal, she has written extensively about failing institutions, endemic corruption, and dwindling trust in democracy in war-torn Nepal for the Nepali Times – the country’s top news magazine.
To read the rest of Rubeena’s article, visit her page on WHT’s Alumni Network.