Five Scholars tell their stories

  • November 7, 2014

Surviving narcotrafficking in Colombia, moving from corporate law to academia, an adventure on the Trans-Siberian railway and growing up with siblings adopted from disadvantaged families will form the basis of a Scholars' Stories session next week.

Surviving narcotrafficking in the Colombian jungle, moving from corporate law to academia, an adventure on the Trans-Siberian railway and growing up with siblings adopted from disadvantaged families in Chicago will form the basis of a Scholars’ Stories session next week.

Five Gates Cambridge Scholars will tell their stories at the event on Thursday.

Gustavo Nicolas Paez Salamanca [2014, MPhil in Economic Science] will talk about his experience of working on a public health programme for indigenous communities in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, in a place called San Felipe, on the borders between Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. The place was well known for being a drug corridor between Colombian guerrillas and Brazilian drug dealers. Later on, military forces eliminated narcotrafficking but with it a large number of the indigenous population. After the attacks, the government reduced its presence, leaving the people on their own in the middle of nowhere. Gustavo will talk about how members of the community have worked for both sides and do not consider each other the enemy and how peace has sprouted from resigning themselves to living their lives in the middle of nowhere.

Catherine Gasciogne [2014, PhD in Law] will speak about what prompted her to switch from working as a lawyer in a corporate law firm to doing a PhD because it fit better with her internal value system. She says: “In making this switch from corporate law to academia, I realised that I was very much going against the tide of popular choices, as it necessarily involved eschewing money and to some extent, prestige. Many of my friends and colleagues were mystified that I would voluntarily chose what they saw as ‘a vow of poverty’ when I could have an office with harbour views and a six-figure salary. In coming to this decision, then, I was forced internally grapple with what I wanted my life and career to stand for and what I thought was the true meaning of ‘success’.”

Kevin Grove [2011, Phd in Divinity] and Chris Boyce [2011, PhD in Chemical Engineering] will talk about their epic trip [pictured] to Russia, across Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Railway and through Mongolia with Gates alumnus Harry McNamara [2012].

Adam Cowden [2014, MPhil in Planning, Growth and Regeneration] will talk about his five adopted siblings, all of whom were born to mothers from extremely impoverished neighbourhoods in South Chicago. He says: “Since they are now being raised in a relatively affluent suburban neighborhood, all of my siblings are extremely likely to receive a college education, survive past the age of 21, and eventually have the opportunity to raise a family in circumstances that afford the same opportunities that were available to them. Had they grown up in their communities of birth, however, this would very likely not be the case.”

He says imagining what their lives would have been like if they had been denied these opportunities has played a big part in his studies at Cambridge. He adds: “It is a harsh reality of the global socioeconomic system that children separated by a distance of several miles face wildly different life prospects, even within affluent cities in affluent countries. Drawing on this background, my research interests focus on this “geographic discrimination” and what might be done to alleviate it.”

*Scholars Stories will take place next Thursday from 19-21:00 in the GSCR.

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