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Rhodes Scholarship for Otago Chemistry graduate

Friday 22 November 2019 2:01pm

ANews1119 Oliver Pooke 650px

University of Otago graduate Oliver Pooke has been awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to carry out postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Oliver is one of three outstanding young New Zealand graduates to be named this week as the 2020 Rhodes Scholars.

“The standard of all of the finalists was extremely high and their enthusiasm and ability was impressive. They are all outstanding young New Zealanders,” said the Governor-General Her Excellency the Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy when announcing the awards.

Oliver graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry in 2017 from Otago and has since been working as an Associate for The Boston Consulting Group in Sydney.

At Oxford, he plans to study for a Master of Public Policy and an MSc in Evidence-based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation.

“I am in no doubt that evidence-based policy making holds enormous potential as a tool for creating more effective policy, something particularly important in the current political climate of rising populism, which is resulting in poor policy decisions based on ideology rather than evidence,” he says.

“I aspire to work at the interface of policy and research, because I believe New Zealand needs a stronger and more consistent approach to the use of academic evidence in policy-making across government.”

As well as academic excellence through his school and university career, Oliver has achieved widely in music (completing his ATCL in violin and playing in regional and national youth orchestras), debating and swimming.

His community service has incorporated these interests, from working with Ignite Consultants (a student organisation that provides voluntary consulting services to local not-for-profits), serving as a committee member for the Dunedin Youth Orchestra, to his role as an intern on the Board of Trustees of The Healthcare Otago Charitable Trust.

These interests have continued into his working life in Australia, where he has worked on pro-bono projects for organisations in the social and arts sectors, and has coordinated the Sydney BCG office’s relationship with 180 Degrees Consulting, a large student-run organisation which draws on talented university students to provide consulting services to non-profits, improving and developing the next generation of future leaders committed to making a difference.

One of his referees describes him as “a person with great empathy and humility [who] uses these qualities to engage peers and progress development of new ideas. Combining these core attributes, together with his exceptional intellect and his experiences to date, together with the opportunity provided by the Rhodes Scholarship, I would certainly expect to see him being a future leader and driver of positive global change.”

The Rhodes Scholarship provides transformative opportunities for exceptional all-round students to carry out postgraduate study at the University of Oxford. Today, 95 scholars are selected from 64 countries and go on to become part of the wider Rhodes scholarship community while at university and throughout their lives.

Sir Cecil Rhodes’ vision in founding the Scholarship was to develop outstanding leaders who would be motivated to “fight the world's fight”, “esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim” and promote international understanding and peace.

The Scholarship covers the students’ fees, accommodation and living costs for up to three years at Oxford, which is one of the oldest and top-ranked universities in the world.

Also named as 2020 Rhodes Scholars were Isabella Lenihan-Ikin from Victoria University of Wellington, who has a BSc (Hons), majoring in Cell and Molecular Bioscience in her undergraduate degree and Geography in her Honour’s degree; and KDee Aimiti Ma’ia’I, the first Pacific woman to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, who is currently completing a BA (Hons) majoring in Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.