Sir Douglas Myers Scholarship for 2012 to Cambridge University in England has been awarded to Zoë Higgins, a student from Banks Peninsula with a passion for improving the quality and sustainability of human life. There she will study for a bachelor of arts degree in geography with a view to working in developing countries and eventually back in her home province of Canterbury.
The scholarship, worth $100,000 a year, will take her to Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge. Sir Douglas Myers, a Cambridge alumnus, set up the scholarship 12 years ago for academically gifted students intending to return to New Zealand to become leaders in their chosen fields.
Last year Zoë was dux at St Margaret’s College, Christchurch where she also became the first student ever to receive Academic Honours twice for academic excellence, service and commitment. She scored 44 out of 45 in the International Baccalaureate Diploma while also gaining NCEA Scholarship in English.
Zoë was a member of the Canterbury schools debating team and won the school cups for debating and public speaking. She contributed to drama, film, writing and cultural events, and took part in dragon boating, indoor netball and table tennis. As prefect, Head of Community, she was responsible for events and fundraising for charities, including co-leading the school’s World Vision Forty Hour famine fundraiser.
Cambridge will give her “an amazing opportunity to make new friendships and step out from New Zealand into the world”, says Zoë. “I love the idea of living with students from around the world who have very different backgrounds and experiences.”
The ability to take papers from different disciplines at Cambridge appeals to Zoë as does the college system. She is also looking forward to advancing her own ideas and theories at intense, one-on-one supervision sessions.
Its “combination of imagination and problem-solving” and “the way it brings together science and humanities” persuaded her to pursue geography. “Mostly, I love the way it’s useful."
Zoë plans to apply her degree to engage with the world’s challenges: "equality, improved standards of living, and sustainable use of resources, in New Zealand and overseas. I want to be able to work on the ground and see what the problems really are, not just propose solutions from on high. Geography gives you the tools to do that. And it shows you how much of an impact informed, creative solutions can have."
New Zealand “is quite firmly my home” and after travelling and working overseas she would like to return to live here. “As a Cantabrian I care about finding ways to protect our soil and rivers from contamination by practising safe, sustainable agriculture.”
Currently Zoë is taking papers for a conjoint Bachelor of Engineering/Bachelor of Laws at the University of Auckland pending her start at Cambridge in October.