2017 saw the first Development Awards granted to students as part of the Margaret Thatcher Scholarship Programme. Open to all students of Somerville, the Development Awards are designed to give students at any stage of their studies the financial backing to pursue an innovative business idea, academic project or travel opportunity. The underlying intention is to advance students’ own personal and academic development, but applicants are also encouraged to consider how their project will have a positive impact on others.
The Somervillian reputation for care can compassion was much in evidence in this year’s projects, with several students planning to undertake voluntary work or unpaid internships around the world, as well as projects to support student wellbeing. Other proposals concerned local social issues, environmental concerns, business plans, field trips and expeditions. Read more about this year’s projects below.
Interested in applying? Applications for the 2017/18 academic year will open in Michaelmas Term on 31st October. Financial support of up to £2,000 will be awarded to give students, at any stage of their studies, to pursue an innovative idea. Priority is given to projects that enable students to develop their academic skills, contribute to their personal development and have a positive impact on others. Examples could include: participating in internships in the long vacation or volunteering with overseas charities; ideas to tackle social issues; a training/development opportunity that will enable applicants to make a difference and benefit others; a business plan. Come to the Awards Showcase & Reception on Tuesday 31st October to find out more from 5.30-6.45pm in the MTC.
A Clarendon Scholar and DPhil candidate in Medieval and Modern Languages, Rebecca plans to use her award to fund a three-stage project which will expand her own academic work while also engaging other members of the College in her research on Dante. Rebecca presented her work to the Leeds International Medieval Congress this summer. During the coming term, she will be inviting JCR and MCR students to participate jointly in a seminar and a series of discussions on Late Antique and Medieval visual and literary culture. Rebecca also has plans to draw the JCR and MCR into looking more closely at Somerville’s Dante holdings, working alongside Dr David Bowe (Victoria Maltby Junior Research Fellow in Medieval Italian Literature) and Dr Anne Manuel (Librarian, Archivist and Head of Information Services): ‘I’m planning to organise a Dante-based book display in the library loggia from the holdings we have in the college library, in particular, from the Dorothy L. Sayers collection.’
A PPE finalist in 2017, Mariella travelled to Peru this summer to volunteer in the economic development department of a charity supporting economically disadvantaged children in Trujillo, Peru. Her responsibilities included issuing small loans to improve housing and develop businesses as well as planning and co-ordinating business workshops.
Benjamin Hawkey Gilder
A fourth-year Chemist in 2017, Ben plans to pursue a career in international development. This summer, he travelled to Kenya to undertake voluntary work in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Nairobi. His work was primarily as a teacher of English, but he also got involved in projects such as improving water sanitation and developing sustainable farming. Ben was motivated to take on more volunteer work after his time volunteering at the Calais refugee camp last summer: ‘I saw first-hand the migrants’ desperate need for support and also how valuable this help can be, which motivated me to seek opportunities to support refugees.’
Rebecca completed her undergraduate degree in Modern and Medieval Languages in 2017. A Development Award gave her the opportunity after finals to take her comedy sketch show to the Edinburgh Fringe. From ‘Tudor Tinder’ to ‘Let’s Pay Tribute to the Patriarchy’, the sketches offer a feminist take on the trials and tribulations of dating in the modern age. ‘After a sold-out run and positive reviews at the Burton Taylor Studio, we realised that our anarchic show would be perfect for the Edinburgh stage,’ Rebecca says. ‘Many of the cast and crew hope to pursue careers in the arts and the experience of putting on a show in Edinburgh will give us all a springboard to future opportunities.’
Jai Bolton and Daniel Simonsen
Jai Bolton and Daniel Simonsen are now starting their second year studying Biological Sciences. During the summer, they headed to Guyana, working as research assistants with Operation Wallacea, supported by a Development Award. ‘This allowed us to fulfil our ambitions of doing rainforest research,’ they explained. ‘We learned about project planning, real-world data gathering and how to conduct scientific investigations in the field.’ This term, Jai and Daniel will pilot a Science and Society Forum, with external speakers and panel discussions on topical science issues. ‘We plan to share our knowledge and experience with school students, to help them make decisions about future study.’
Avani Tandon Vieira
Avani is reading for an MSt in World Literatures in English at Somerville. She received a Development Award to support her establishment of The Pind Collective, a collaborative online space that brings together young artists from India and Pakistan. ‘In 2013, I made a trip that very few young Indians ever make, travelling across the Wagah border to Lahore,’ says Avani. ‘I was confronted with a history of prejudice and violence that I have carried with me all my life. The Pind Collective was born out of a desire to enable people to reach out and connect across the border, to give visibility to new art, to connect young creators and to redefine the relationships that that exist between our nations.’