Arlan Hamilton - new Honorary Advisor & Black scholarship

Arlan Hamilton - new Honorary Advisor & Black scholarship

The Oxford Foundry is delighted to be working with Arlan Hamilton - the international entrepreneur and founder of Backstage Capital, the $10 million fund for under-represented, underestimated entrepreneurial founders - on Oxford's first scholarship for Black students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Oxford-Arlan Hamilton & Earline Butler Sims Scholarship - named in part as a living tribute to Arlan’s mother, will provide a full non-repayable scholarship covering fees and living costs for one UK undergraduate student of Black African and Caribbean heritage from a disadvantaged background per year, for three years, beginning in 2020.

Each beneficiary will also be provided with an internship grant of £3,000 to enhance their employability, and will have the opportunity to work closely with the Foundry and ventures on the L.E.V8 accelerator for entrepreneurial skills development and training opportunities.

Arlan first made the announcement that she wanted to set up the scholarship, while in Oxford for the Oxford Foundry's Demo Day 2019 - watch here.

Arlan also announced that she is joining as an Honorary Advisor to the Foundry. Arlan is already an ambassador for the Foundry's L.E.V8 Women Programme which has supported 19 Oxford women to build and scale their ventures through mentoring, resources and support. Arlan led a recent discussion at the Foundry about the face of our future workforce and our responsibility to diversify it to an audience of 100 Oxford students and staff.

Director of the Oxford Foundry, Ana Bakshi said,

“Diversity makes sense. Social sense, economic sense and progressive sense. Higher education is responsible for empowering, nurturing and building the next generation of leaders at all levels and across all industries. There are nearly 2.4 million students studying at universities in the UK, and there is a critical accountability that institutions like Oxford hold in ensuring that those they support come from diverse backgrounds and everyone is included. 

In a globalised world where technology is rapidly changing the way we live and changing the skill-sets we need to succeed, it’s vital and urgent that higher education institutions do everything they can to prevent growing inequalities and make sure that no one is left behind. That as students progress through the education system, everyone is brought along, given the clear message – this is for you, and given the investment, networks and opportunities they need to succeed. Educators at every stage are accountable for bringing people through the pipeline and helping create a diverse talent pool of our future leaders and workforce.

Biases - both unconscious and conscious – still exist, so we need to do everything in our power to be aware of them and to address them. To take positive action and be bold and proactive in levelling the playing field, countering the effects of past discrimination and eliminating stereotyping.

We are delighted that this scholarship has come to fruition. At the Foundry, as well as skills and training, we are all about making entrepreneurship accessible for all, regardless of any barriers, whether that be financial, societal or otherwise. Thank you so much to Arlan and to our community who’ve made this happen and we can’t wait to work with the recipient.”

Chris Willis, President of Oxford African and Caribbean Society, who are members of the Oxford Foundry's Student Advisory Board and OXFO Booster grant recipient said;

“The news of this scholarship is also exciting as it will feed into the current access and outreach work of the Oxford African and Caribbean Society. As a society we run a range of initiatives for pre-university students of African and Caribbean descent where we disseminate information about Oxford, share our personal experiences in order to inspire students, and help students set goals for the future. It would be amazing to incorporate this new scholarship into our work and spread the word to as many young Black students as we can.”

Speaking about the scholarship, Arlan Hamilton said; 

“I visited Oxford earlier this year, 2019, for the first time and as I was getting ready to speak, which was already, I was very excited to speak at Oxford Foundry, which is their business foundry there. I was given a private tour of the grounds of some of the grounds with my book co-writer, Rachel Nelson. So we walk around and there's just this wonderful woman who gives us a tour and I hope she hears this because she's just fantastic and actually she is a part of the reason that the scholarship exists because she just really opened up the grounds for me and opened up my imagination and answered some tough questions that I had very candidly.

I walked around and I just saw this beautifully manicured campus, these grounds. I thought about the history. I thought about everyone has heard of Oxford at least in the States and if you know anything about it, there is a certain reputation it has. I asked, I said, "Where are the black people? I didn't see many as I walked. I saw some, but I didn't see many as I walked around. So I started this questioning of this is wonderful, I'm learning about the colleges and the undergrad housing and how Harry Potter it is, and how I would have loved to have attended, but I hoped and wished that more people who looked like me would have the experience. So by the end of that tour, that 45 minutes of walking around having just landed, I said out loud, "I want to start a scholarship for a black scholar."

I meant it. It wasn't something like I hope to one day or something. It was, that's what I want to do here. I didn't know exactly how to do it or what the cost would be or any of that, but I knew that I wanted to do that because I could just already imagine in my mind's eye that person or those people and now it's going to be one scholar each year for the next few years. Then I returned a few months later and really met with everyone and really solidified this and we've been working on it for several months and this is the fruition of that.

We're not putting a mandate on what you have to study in order to get the scholarship, like you could study anything that Oxford offers. We are offering the ability to work at the Foundry that I am an advisor to. So that is really fun and I think that's really cool because at first I was like well should it be just someone who is doing some sort of business major? When they let me know at Oxford, "Hey, anyone's allowed to go into the Foundry and start a company or work on their company who is at Oxford." I thought, wow how wonderful and how freeing.

I think the more freedom someone is given, the better. In fact my mom taught me this, the person who's co hosting this scholarship. She taught me that when you give someone a gift, you give them the gift. It's theirs now and you don't necessarily tell them what to do with it. So I love that you can be studying anything and get the scholarship and that you also have the ability to take whatever that passion is and put it into a business, which is what I do on a daily basis and what I see surrounding us. I think I'm always going to think and believe that there needs to be more of us, more people represented who are black and from different backgrounds represented in those rooms. I wish for you a great success in whatever you do and it is an option for you.”

You can listen to Arlan’s full interview on a special episode of her Backstage Capital podcast

Read more about the Scholarship in press coverage from the Guardian, BBC, Forbes, USA Today, BBC Radio 4, ITV, Radio Oxford, the Cherwell and more.