Meet the Scholars events - inspiring us to support our future leaders

Six clubs hosted the Meet the Scholar events in November - here are reflections from all the clubs.

Karen Eveleigh, 21st December 2022

This year’s six Meet the Scholars events were held on zoom through November, hosted by six of our Rotary clubs. The contributions below come from all of those clubs.

Richard Kirby, Abingdon Rotary and chair of the district scholars team.

“The ‘Meet The Scholar’ events have become a favourite around the District. This was the third November that we have organised the events and the feedback tells us that it provides more Rotarians and  guests the opportunity to better understand how the Scholars are truly supporting the values of Rotary. On average 35 people were present/logged in to each of the six events.

“As Rotarians we do make a difference, we do improve the world, and in my book, anyone who says I shall leave that for others to do as it is too big a challenge, is not a Rotarian at heart. Can you imagine the laughter that went around the room 45 years ago when a Rotarian dared to say “Let’s tackle the ΒΌ million cases worldwide of polio.” Yet Rotary did it.

“I mention that as I have heard several fellow Rotarians say you won’t stop people smoking, or you won’t influence gun culture, or you won’t get eyes to mend themselves, or women will always be second class citizens. These young people, supported by Rotary, have explained in their talks how they are using scientific means and practical solutions, (medical, mathematical, social, analyses of big data), and are quietly changing things for the better and succeeding in these and many other challenges.

“Like polio, some things will take years, but will always start with the first small step. That’s why we need to support our scholars.”

Chris Scruby, Oxford North Rotary and member of the district scholars team

“Some 34 participants from clubs across the District listened to four interesting and varied Scholar presentations.  First was Rachel Finlayson from the USA researching the individual and collective factors that influence human decision-making.  Next was Ayomide Olaniyan from Nigeria, our District-funded Scholar, studying environmental management at Reading University and interested in environmental sustainability.  Third was Emma Walker-Silverman from USA, who is researching migration and ways of reducing conflict caused by people displacement.  Finally, Chian Yang from Taiwan updated us on her research into cell proteins aimed at new therapeutic treatments for cancer and degenerative diseases.  There were questions after each talk and our ADG Geoffrey Scott-Baker gave a vote of thanks at the end.”

Tessa Hammond, Eynsham Rotary and member of the district scholars team

“One of my favourite aspects of Rotary is the Global Scholar scheme. As the host of a scholar for the last few years it has been challenging to make the most of their contribution to Rotary life during the pandemic, so it was such a pleasure to be able to arrange an “in person” meeting with four of our current scholars at one of our Club meetings, plus embracing Zoom to widen the meeting to include district visitors. The new technology enabled me to “meet” 8 of our scholars – and what inspirational young people they are.  Not one of them left me unmoved with their passion, intelligence and determination to contribute to a better world in whatever field they study.” 

George Argyropoulos, Reading Thames Rotary

“We were all inspired by the passion and dedication of Alice, Jack and Ayomide to address burning issues. From tackling environmental challenges to preventing human trafficking, our scholars play a big part in proving that Rotary supports our communities through thought leadership as well as in action.

“We were very fortunate to be joined by our very own 2021-22 University of Reading scholar Jackie Tino. Jackie having graduated with her MSc in Applied International Development went on to join the GSMA in their London office actively contributing to economic and community development in emerging countries.

“With our support and encouragement our scholars bring the change Rotary is all about to our communities.”

Chris Philip, Newbury Rotary 

“This was the second time Newbury had hosted a Meet the Scholars evening and we were not disappointed in either the attendance  or the quality of the presentations. Although on Zoom, the meeting was riveting with each of our four invitees sharing their obvious passion and determination to widen their own knowledge and understanding of small area of knowledge with a view to eventually making a difference in the world.

“Jelka Stojanov, sponsored by our own District 1090 is at the end of 4 years of research using experimental psychology to understand how emotion and empathy effect how and to what extent we perceive other or other groups and acceptable or a threat. Her work has led on to an opportunity to undertake post-doctoral research at Birmingham University.

“Luke Pajic from Australia has just begun a Master’s degree course in Sustainability and the Environment . His passion was very evident when he told us he switched courses in undergraduate studies as he realised just how significant protecting the  environment is.

“Pier Francesco Lapolla Losasso amazed us when he described his area of research into possible early diagnosis of abdominal aortic aneurysm – a condition that is hard to survive.

“Sandrena Frisker is just beginning a 3-year DPhil looking into the ethical dilemmas faced by researchers in the field of public health. She will be undertaking field work in Uganda, focussing on the programme to treat schistosomiasis. 

“The questions asked after the presentation were focussed and penetrating and without a doubt left us all amazed at the enthusiasm and altruistic nature of each scholar Each of the four will make excellent Rotarians in the future and we all agreed it was a worthy investment of funds from our worldwide Charity the Rotary Foundation.”

Keith Crawford, Witney Rotary

“Our three speakers were Alessandro, Carlee and Annika. All three were very impressive. 

“Carlee spoke about a mass shooting in a school in her home town in Florida in 2018 which made her want to do something to reduce the very high incidence of gun violence in the USA. She is studying the differences (historic and current) between the attitude to guns in the USA and UK, and how that could be used to reduce the number of mass shootings in the USA (a staggering 580 incidents in 2022 up to the start of November).

“They were all very appreciative of studying in Oxford.  Carlee said that living in Oxford is like living in a medieval castle!”

Hilary Hogg, Witney Rotary

“Whatever life’s rich tapestry throws at us you can never take education and being educated away.

“Being a host to a scholar is like being a Godparent again. It tickles my neurones to hear about the MPhil subjects and innovative ideas that may become the words of a leader in the future. I feel honoured in many ways to support the individual through the ups and downs of landing in a new country and in turn to learn a little about theirs.”

A huge thank you to all our Rotary Scholars for engaging with their host clubs, to our hosts for showing our scholars some UK life beyond their studies and to all the Rotarians in our district and in the scholars’ home districts who continue to support this fantastic Rotary Foundation programme.

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