Hold Yourself to a Higher Standard

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In 2019, Morgan Briggs arrived in Oxford to take a master’s degree in Social Data Science. She took part in the Global Leadership Initiative (GLI), an experience which she recalls with much fondness and gratitude. In an informal conversation with Dr Roger Revell, she shared her takeaways from the programme and advice for future applicants.

Roger: How did your GLI experience line up with what you expected it to be?

Morgan: It exceeded my expectations! Given how accomplished Oxford’s graduate students are, I was pleasantly surprised to find my GLI cohort particularly friendly and unpretentious. We all shared an earnest desire to make the most of the experience, to seriously engage the sorts of questions at the heart of the initiative.

I should also add that the GLI proved to be a welcomed and enjoyable break from my coursework. The readings and guest speakers – both of which were excellent – got me thinking about something more than data science. This break from my academic work was refreshing.

Roger: In terms of the fortnightly GLI discussion groups, what were some of your key takeaways?

Morgan: One thing jumps to mind immediately – the sheer diversity of the participants, which immensely enriched our discussions. Never before had I had such close, sustained interaction with an array of people whose cultural backgrounds and life experiences were so different from my own. Our conversations were incredibly eye-opening and at times challenging, but in a good way. They prompted me to examine my own inherited values, to rethink some things I’d taken for granted.

Another thing I gained from these conversations was a sense that responsible leadership is about holding yourself to a higher standard of character. And it also entails surrounding yourself with people who can question your ideas and hold you accountable.

Roger: With respect to other aspects of the GLI, is there anything else that was particularly impactful?

Morgan: Definitely. Here, I should mention the mentorship opportunity offered to all participants. I was fortunate to be paired with Ruth Turner, who once advised Tony Blair. Ruth was generous in her time with me and very frank in our chats. She offered me some solid advice on taking care of my personal well-being in the midst of the pressures of work. She also gave me some tips on how to make decisions well, which I continue to use to this day. She even connected me with a tutoring agency for under-privileged kids, where I am still involved.

Roger: What should GLI applicants know about the programme?

Morgan: Two things, I think. It can seem like a major time commitment but in fact, it’s entirely manageable. So, if you’re worried about the time, don’t be. Unless you’re someone who has lots of other co-curricular commitments, of course.

Second, the GLI is what you make of it. If you apply and get a spot, throw yourself into the readings, the conversations, the reflection, and practices. You’ll be changed for the better.