Univ Dates: 2008-2009
Degree: MSt History
Degree Level: Postgraduate
Occupation: Outreach Officer and Pathways Coordinator, Oriel College
Biography: Emma received her History MSt degree from Univ. From 2009-2013 she worked as part of the Widening Participation Team in the University Admissions Office. She has worked for Oriel College since 2013, where she offers advice to prospective students from schools and regions that are currently under-represented at Oxford. This role includes hosting activities at the College and visiting schools.
Coming from small town America, what were your expectations of Univ?
I had no expectations about what Univ would be like, only that it looked gorgeous and amazing, and I knew that the buildings I would be living and studying in were built before the foundation of the United States. When I came here I found that it was instant family and instant friendships – I’ve never really felt as supported as I did when I was at Univ.
Was it all a bit of a culture shock?
When I first arrived at Oxford I was jet-lagged. The coach from Heathrow is five steps away from the doors of Univ and I came in and met the porters and instantly felt at home; they could not have been nicer – helpful in finding my room and finding a place to make my home. Later that evening I met other people who were just as passionate as I am about trying to change the world and that first day and that Freshers’ Week will always be in my memories. This is a place where I’m meant to be.
Was there anyone that really inspired you?
It would have to be the person who supervised my thesis, Dr Ben Jackson. He was really instrumental in helping me become a better writer, a better thinker – helping me make my thesis a really great document. It was so much fun sitting down with him, discussing politics and the Labour Party… just amazing.
Did you know what you wanted to do after Univ?
I had no idea when I was at Univ what I wanted to do afterwards, but when I was here I met friends and tutors who made me think about how we could try and change the world, how we could make Oxford accessible to everyone. I was lucky enough that a job came up just a couple of weeks after I finished my degree; I applied for it and started working for the central university primarily trying to encourage secondary school students to think about higher education.
What are your longer-term ambitions?
My day-to-day job involves meeting a lot of young people and going in to schools, meeting teachers, meeting parents or hosting workshops and events here where students find out more about university and about the Oxford application process. At the moment what I would like to do is think about the policy behind how we make educational decisions – so I’m thinking about pursuing further research in educational policy.
How important is a project like this?
For me this really shows that Univ is very committed to the kind of work that I do. It shows that they really care and are trying to make Oxford more open and accessible by ensuring that everyone who deserves a place gets a place.