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Congratulations to our latest Rhodes Scholars

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ABOVE: HAMISH MCKENZIE ('09), MR TOM BATTY, ANDREW WHEELER ('07).

Two Old Boys are among the nine Rhodes Scholars from Australia this year.

Each year, nine Rhodes Scholarships are made available in Australia to enable outstanding students – chosen on the basis of exceptional intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service – to study at the University of Oxford. This year, two Old Scotch Collegians, Hamish McKenzie (’09) and Andrew Wheeler (’07), are among the Australian Rhodes Scholarship recipients.

Congratulations to Hamish and Andrew. Their names will be added to those on the Rhodes Scholars honour board in the Memorial Hall. It is now almost 111 years since the first Australian Rhodes Scholars took up residence in Oxford in 1904. Since then, hundreds of Australians have been awarded this prestigious scholarship, enabling them to pursue a wide variety of careers. Australian Rhodes Scholars include the current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, the former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, and the former Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen (‘35).

In this article, Hamish McKenzie and.Andrew Wheeler pay tribute to the excellence of their Scotch education, which Hamish describes as ‘the most incredible education in the world’. Andrew says Scotch ‘fostered my intellectual curiosity, encouraged me to pursue diverse interests, and instilled in me a values system centred on service, leadership and fellowship’.

The two Old Boys describe what they hope to achieve through the golden educational opportunities they are about to seize..

Hamish McKenzie (‘09)

As more and more years pass since I left Scotch, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the wonderful years I spent there were an immense gift. Scotch instilled in me a strong work ethic, a deep appreciation of community, and an enthusiasm for seizing opportunities, all of which have enabled me to thrive. Having studied now in three universities on three continents (and soon to add a fourth), I’ve seen that a Scotch education is truly the most amazing leg-up in life for all those who pass through its gates.

For it has enabled me to do some amazing things, and certainly, in the five years since I have left school, my life has been a series of incredible and frankly absurd experiences. I have gained a degree in anthropology, spent a year living in South Africa, become involved in some truly exciting social justice activism through World Vision, and am now working for the Boston Consulting Group.

Looking back, it seems absurd to list the paths I’ve trodden; and in my travels across the world, I’ve done some phenomenal things. I’ve ridden a pony across the Lesotho highlands, I’ve partied until dawn at music festivals in Paris, and I’ve spent a week in the Peruvian Amazon, shadowing research biologists studying the forest. The world has been good to me, and I have seized opportunities when they have come.

But navigating this ongoing onslaught of opportunity has crystallised something for me. I have come to believe that education is certainly a gift, but it is not meant to be kept, but to be passed on. That is what is so wonderful about Scotch, and what is so immense about our task as Scotch boys. We have been gifted the most incredible education in the world, and we have every opportunity in the world to use it for good.

I applied for the Rhodes Scholarship because I felt that studying at Oxford was the best way to continue to use my education for good. At Oxford I’ll be studying a Masters of Environmental Change and Management and a Masters of Public Policy. It’s pretty obvious that the way humanity uses our resources over the next few decades will determine whether we will flourish or fail as a species. And it is also obvious that human societies can thrive in any context where there is sufficient will to do so. So I want to be involved in working out how Australia particularly can use our significant resources for the betterment of all those who reside on our shores, and all those who may come here.

As young Australians, we were born into a momentous time and a marvellous place. But the future of our country, and all countries, is a precarious one. And certainly as we collectively build the future of this country, we must strike a balance between conserving what is good and changing that which is wicked.

But it seems to me that if you listen to the stories of those who have suffered in this world, there is much, much wickedness to be changed. And it also seems fairly clear that there will always be those who stand in the way of progress – out of fear or custom or self-interest – and so we can never take progress for granted. I applied for the Rhodes Scholarship because I want to be equipped with everything I can to help guide our planet through the uncertain years ahead, as we deal with problems more nefarious and more immense than we have ever had.

As Scotch boys we are all well placed to contribute to the betterment of the world, and I am proud to be contributing to the legacy of this great school in the works into which I channel all that it has given me.

Andrew Wheeler (‘07)

The Rhodes Scholarship’s application process was both tremendously testing and rewarding. It examined our aspirations and motivations in enormous depth, so required us to explore these characteristics of ourselves meticulously. Through this process I not only gained a great deal of clarity over the life that I wish to lead, but also the key influences in my life to date. Scotch stood out as one of those key influences. The school fostered my intellectual curiosity, encouraged me to pursue diverse interests, and instilled in me a values system centred on service, leadership and fellowship.

After graduating from Scotch in 2007 I enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce and Diploma in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Melbourne. From early in my degree I was fascinated by the broad applications of economics to interesting problems. In lectures we were taught how responses to issues as diverse as climate change, financial crises and economic under-development are all shaped by economic thinking. Through the subjects I took and by volunteering in Melbourne and overseas, I was drawn to applying economic thinking to problems in the developing world. That ultimately led me to decide to pursue a career in international development.

I developed and fostered this passion for international development largely through volunteering, to which I was introduced at Scotch through the school’s social services and refugee tutoring programmes. I continued to volunteer at university by tutoring refugee students in Carlton and working with non-profits in Cambodia and Tanzania. My overseas volunteering experiences were particularly influential, exposing me to the extraordinary gulf in living standards between the world’s richest and poorest, and instilling in me a desire to help close it.

Volunteering has continued to be an integral part of my life. I currently devote my time to the charity that I co-founded, which donates used computer equipment to remote schools in the Northern Territory, leading the community engagement committee at L.E.K. Consulting, where I currently work, and acting as an adviser to the Melbourne Microfinance Initiative. I also recently visited Papua New Guinea to research the drivers of child malnutrition in the country, and am now working with ChildFund to implement some of the research’s suggestions.

Another voluntary role that I held at university was president of the Financial Management Association of Australia, which is Australia’s largest commerce student organisation. This role taught me an enormous amount about leadership, setting a strategic vision and executing that vision in the face of obstacles and resource constraints, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I had at university.

These experiences have led me to pursue a Master of Science in Economics for Development followed by a Master of Public Policy at Oxford. I hope that these two degrees will give me the skills to think deeply about the most effective development policies, and broadly about how to navigate complex decision-making systems to ensure such policies are implemented.

After graduating from Oxford, I hope to join the Overseas Development Institute Fellowship programme, which places young economists in developing countries’ public sectors. My preference will be to work in the department of health or education of a nation in the Asia-Pacific. Following the fellowship, I then aspire to work with UNICEF or a child-focused NGO to learn how to successfully implement projects in the field. My ultimate career goal is to lead an organisation with the ambition, resources and political influence to significantly reduce global poverty, such as Australia’s aid programme.

I’m confident that the Scotch spirit and values system will stand me in good stead throughout this journey. I look forward to remaining connected to the school, both through the Old Scotch Athletics Club, with which I currently compete, and the roster of other Old Boys’ events.

Updated: 3 October 2016