Edinburgh Global

Johanna Holtan reflects on Scholars Program

Johanna Holtan has been instrumental in the success and growth of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program (MFSP) at Edinburgh since its beginnings in 2016. She takes up a new role in the Edinburgh Earth Initiative in the new year and shared her thoughts as she looks back at her time leading the program.

What is your proudest 'MFSP moment'?

"The Scholars Program has been a collective labour of love for so many people over the years."

"While I’m proud of the graduations and distinctions, enterprises grown and awards won, jobs created and gained, impact made – I’m most moved by the quiet personal moments of Scholars. It’s been the honour of my career to be a witness to their journeys – to see Scholars grow, develop, and expand, find their voice, face challenges and tough decisions, and practice courage in ways I have never known. Through their contributions, perspectives, and activism, the University will never be the same. I know I am better because of this job."

"I’ve also had the chance to work with inspiring, dedicated, talented and hugely compassionate people as part of the Scholars Program team. Most days have been full of joy thanks to the team. I’m grateful to have been part of something special and excited to see the Scholars Program grow in ways it was always meant to."

What impact has working on the Program had on you?

"The Scholars Program has been a whole person education."

"Both personally and professionally, I’ve been challenged to be a better manager, leader, ally, team member, communicator, and advocate. It’s been five years of hard lessons and I’m grateful to Scholars and the team for their patience and understanding."

"Institutionally, the Scholars Program and Scholars have challenged the way Edinburgh operates and supports students. It has reminded me of the weight of our responsibility to not only ‘teach’ students but support them in this transformative moment in their lives. To not only challenge them, but allow ourselves to be challenged and transformed."

What are the most exciting developments you are now seeing, led by the scholars you’ve worked with?

"We often talk about young people as Future Leaders.  Many students, especially Scholars were leaders long before they came to Edinburgh. With access to opportunities, further knowledge, and a rich network of leaders – we are seeing Scholars deepen their collective impact through their aspirations and work in their communities."

"Often, the glamorous individual stories of leadership are celebrated most. I’ve been inspired by the way Scholars are chipping away at the challenges their communities face, together and with grit. From starting networks, to educating youth, to developing policy with community coalitions. Scholars are role models to us all in how to lead change."

What are your hopes for the future of the Program at the University of Edinburgh?

"We must continue to ask what the lived experiences of Scholars tell us as a Scholars Program, a Mastercard Foundation partner, and an institution in the Global North. The lessons will continue and there comes a responsibility with this knowing - we must be alive to what emerges and respond with courage. As Scholars have taught us."

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program

Read more about MFSP

Edinburgh Earth Initiative

Read more about the launch of Edinburgh Earth Initiative