Mastercard Scholar wins award and prestigious scholarship
A Mastercard Foundation Scholar has won the Sir William Darling Award and been awarded the Rhodes Scholarship.
For the second year in a row, a Mastercard Foundation Scholar has been awarded the Sir William Darling Memorial Prize. By receiving this award, Daniel Mutia Mwendwa, a final year BEng (Hons) Electronics and Electrical Engineering student, was recognised as a member of the University community who has excelled over the last year through his conduct.
Daniel explained how it felt to find out that he had been nominated: “This was such a pleasant surprise, and a big honour beyond my wildest dreams. What made it more special was that I didn’t apply for it or even know it was happening but was nominated by some of the university departments that I have had the pleasure of working with.”
“It feels unreal that a boy from a little unknown village in Kenya made his way to one of the top universities in the world and made contributions that were worth this recognition. It is a story of hope, hard work, believing and a lot of support along the way.”
He feels that everyone has something they can contribute to society: “I feel very honoured and inspired, that we should all be courageous in sharing our gifts and passions with communities that we occupy. Everyone has something special to offer and it is by all of us wholeheartedly offering what we have however small that we can move our societies forward.”
Creating a more inclusive University Sports Union Daniel was awarded the Sir William Darling Memorial Prize due to his inclusion work with the University Sports Union and for his work with Edinburgh University Student’ Association.
Working as the Sports Union’s first ever International Participation Officer, Daniel was tasked with finding ways to help increase the number of international students taking part in sporting activities which included both creating new opportunities and understanding and helping to bridge barriers that students may face.
We were able to bridge the barrier of awareness of available sports through tournaments including the first ever African Cup of Nations and taster sessions by our 65 clubs. We were able to bridge financial barriers by waiving the entry fee for international student teams to be involved in intramural sports.
Recognising that there were more ways to promote and establish inclusion, the Sports Union recently established a new committee to look at further ways they could be more inclusive. Daniel said: “This year we took this a notch higher by establishing an inclusion committee which not only looks at tackling challenges international students face but also looks at challenges by Women in Sport, Ethnic Minorities, LGBT+, Trans and Non-binary, Widening Access students, Postgraduate Students as well as students with disabilities. I chair this committee and was in charge of ensuring that all its positions were filled in time and by abled, passionate individuals. Some of our works include developing guidelines to help tackle racism, updating the SU Code of Conduct with regards to handling discrimination cases, highlighting intersectionality of challenges women in sport face, as well as fundraising for good causes such as period poverty.”
Daniel also helps to create inclusion and a sense of community for international students through his role as the International Students’ Representative at the Students’ Association. He contributed to the initiative of extending the Global Buddy Scheme to all international students coming to the University. The Global Buddy Scheme, which helps to create a sense of community and peer-to-peer support, assisted 2613 new international students this year.
Through his role, Daniel encourages student societies to collaborate to organise multicultural events by using opportunities such as the Global Community Fund.
The Rhodes Scholarship
The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest international scholarship programme giving talented students the chance to study at the University of Oxford. Applicants to the programme have to go through a competitive process in order to be awarded a scholarship.
Daniel said: “Being the competitive process that it is, I didn’t really think that I had a chance but after a bit of push and motivation from my friends I decided to put my best foot forward and hope for the best.”
Kenya is one of the Rhodes Scholarship constituencies, with only two scholarship places being awarded each year. Daniel faced a competitive process lasting a few months which included submitting a personal statement and a CV, having multiple referees and eventually facing a final interview. Normally, the final interview happens in Nairobi, Kenya, and applicants in the final stages have a chance to meet beforehand. This year however the final interview was held online.
Daniel explains what being awarded the scholarship means to him: “The Rhodes Scholarship is arguably the most prestigious international scholarship in the world. Getting it is the joy of my life, of course alongside my Mastercard Foundation Scholarship without which I wouldn’t have had the chance of winning Rhodes.”
“It is special because of its over 100-year history and how much former Rhodes Scholars have done in making the world a better place. It is a huge opportunity which comes with great responsibility to fill very big shoes and to leave my mark in impacting the lives of others positively. It is a fantastic opportunity to actualise being the change-maker I have always wanted to be.”
On being a Mastercard Scholar
Daniel describes his experience as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar as being ‘the time of his life’ and that it has given him the opportunity to concentrate on his studies, extracurricular activities, networking, and developing as a transformative leader. He describes the Mastercard Foundation team as being like a family:
The MCF team has been very supportive. Throughout my time here, I have felt like I have a family away from home. In first year, I had a reflection coach who I would meet for coffee every month and chat about how I was doing which was very helpful at that difficult time of transitioning to a new place and culture. Every time I have had an issue, I knew I could go knock at MCF Office and someone would be there to listen and to help.
Through the Program’s enterprise fund Daniel has been able to start his social enterprise, BuniTek which is already making a difference in his home country. BuniTek offers simplified, hands-on tech course to inspire young people to think creatively to help solve local problems.
Achieving through believing and support
Daniel said: “I would like to tell everyone to believe in the beauty of their dreams and to give their best every day in working towards them. If you partake your responsibilities diligently and with a big heart, the universe will offer you limitless opportunities you never knew existed.”
“I want to thank Jo Holtan and the MCF Edinburgh for believing in me and giving me a scholarship to study at this wonderful university. I also wish thank Michael Webster and the Edinburgh University Sports Union for entrusting me with the responsibility to lead in very important pioneer roles of inclusion.”