Dreaming of a better future for New Zealand communities

Naomi Simon-Kumar is passionate about seizing opportunities when they arise, and after being named the recipient of the Provost’s Scholarship, she is thrilled to soon be travelling to Worcester College, University of Oxford.

The exceptional University of Auckland student is nearing the end of her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science conjoint degree, majoring in political science and international relations, English and psychology. 

She said it would be an incredible experience and was keen to explore her love for politics and international relations as part of her overseas studies next year.  “It’s really surreal, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” she said.  “For me there’s this idea that I do have a responsibility and commitment to use whatever it is I gain in some way to the benefit and betterment of communities here in New Zealand.”

Chris Liddell, who is the deputy chief of staff at the White House, recently visited the University to meet Simon-Kumar and chat about her anticipation of studying abroad. Liddell donated $450,000 to the University of Auckland Campaign For All Our Futures in 2017, which will be used to fund the postgraduate scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford, each year for a total of five years. 

Simon-Kumar is the second to receive the scholarship after the inaugural recipient, Johann Go. 

Liddell is an alumnus of the University of Auckland and Oxford. He is an accomplished business leader who has held executive positions around the globe including as CFO of Microsoft and General Motors. 

He hoped the students would come back to New Zealand and make a positive impact on the country. 

“From my point of view, hopefully a large number of people come back to New Zealand and use what they learn for the betterment of New Zealand.

“I think it’s tremendous, having been lucky enough to go to Oxford myself.

“It was a wonderful broadening for me, and if talented people can have the same experience as me and develop themselves and in due course use that skill to give back to New Zealand, that will be tremendous contribution to the country. 

“I see a lot of my success because of New Zealand, the education here and the opportunities I was given growing up in a fantastic country.” 

Simon-Kumar said it was because of women paving the way before her, that helped lead to where she is today. 

“I hope that young girls look at me and see that there is a path for them in some way. My Grandmother really wanted to be a doctor, sixty odd years ago, but she couldn’t, she could only be a nurse, because it was during a time that women weren’t really allowed access to certain kinds of education.  

“It’s kind of incredible to see that just two generations along, I’m in the position I’m in at the moment.”

Note: Worcester College is famous for its prominent alumni, including the likes of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, actress Emma Watson and former University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Sir John Hood.