Canning’s Paul Manning is enjoying his time at Oxford.
The Agriculture College 2013 environmental science graduate is now a Rhodes Scholar in the UK.
“I’d known for several years that I wanted to continue my education by studying beneficial insects within agricultural systems,” Manning said. “I applied for the Rhodes Scholarship because I wanted a chance to broaden my horizons, collaborate and interact with some of the world’s brightest minds and to gain new and interesting ideas to bring back to Atlantic Canadian agriculture.”
When Manning learned he was one of two winners from the Maritime Canada region in November 2012, making him Dalhousie’s 87th Rhodes Scholar and the first ever to come from the Faculty of Agriculture, his first reaction was “complete and utter shock.” Now, after finishing his first semester of studies at Oxford University, the shock may have worn off, but the awe has not.
“Oxford has certainly lived up to and surpassed my expectations,” he said. “When walking through streets lined with dreaming spires and century old gardens, it can be easy to momentarily forget you're there to study, and not as a tourist. Friends and college members are happy to share historical accounts of Oxford - and there are plenty. It's truly a unique studying environment.”
Oxford operates under the Oxbridge system, a distinct, decentralized university structure. Under this model, Manning is a student of Magdalen College, where he has settled in nicely. Magdalen has about 800 students and a community atmosphere similar to the one found at Dal AC, which has helped him feel at home there. Manning has spent much of his free time exploring his “breathtakingly beautiful” surroundings and taking in talks in a variety of fields including economics, global health, sustainability, gender equality, history and ethics.
Never one to neglect his extracurricular activities, Manning has been involved on campus since day one.
“I was fortunate enough to work my way onto the rowing squad at Magdalen, which is fantastic exercise and a phenomenal test of patience and focus,” he said. “I’ve also been writing for the Oxford science magazine, which has been a tremendous amount of fun.”
Manning found immediately that he was missing student politics, so he ran and was elected as a general committee member on the Magdalen graduate student council. He is currently working on a campaign to help raise awareness of sexual violence on campus.
Academically speaking, Manning says he feels prepared to take on anything Oxford throws at him, and he credits his time at the AC for that.
“My summer research experiences gave me a huge leg-up in experimental design, writing and being able to critically discuss scientific literature,” he said. “Having an agricultural background has given me a unique stance on environmental, social and ecological issues. It allows me to speak from a different and valuable perspective.”
He is able to juggle a hectic schedule, thanks to his undergraduate experience, which will come in handy as he works his way through the next three to four years of research.
His studies are purely research-based. He is pursuing a PhD in zoology, focusing on dung beetle communities associated with Welsh cattle farms. When he’s done, Manning hopes to find a career involving research, the natural world and creative communication. So far he is an expert at all three of these things, as he is pursuing research, is fascinated by the world around us and is maintaining an entertaining blog chronicling his experiences in England.
“Though Oxford feels like home, Canada is where I would most love to be,” Manning said.
To find out more about his life as a Rhodes Scholar, follow Manning's blog, PM in the UK.