Member of the Month - Navleen Kaur

Navleen talking to students

Navleen matriculated at Wolfson in 2000 and studied for an MPhil in Education. We met up with her at the September 2021 Wolfson Alumni Reunion.

Navleen talking to students

1) How did you come to study at Wolfson College?

I had taken a gap year to work in a non-government organisation in India. I came across children in extreme poverty and who were indirect victims of torture. I wanted to further my skills and applied for an MPhil in the School of Education, where I was interviewed by Dr Joan Whitehead. She listened patiently to my passion and my dream to open a rehabilitation and trauma therapy centre in India. She asked which college had I applied to. "I am still thinking", I said. She replied, "you no longer need to think. Come to Wolfson. It is the right place for you." I was so touched by her stories of multiculturalism and diversity at Wolfson. It was decided in an instant: Wolfson was for me (Dr Whitehead was also an inspiration), and from that moment on I never looked back!

2) What is your current occupation and how did you get into this role?

I am an Educational Consultant. I resigned as an Assistant Principal recently as I had been teaching in mainstream education for twenty years! I wanted to develop my training skills and look deeper into humanitarian development work. I am a Senior Leader in All Faiths and None (AFAN); a charity developed to help train staff and work with students on spiritual, moral, social, and cultural understanding. I am also embarking upon a new venture, Sahara Sisterhood, which works to empower women and provide them with a safe space to explore and create opportunities to develop themselves and their career/home pathways without judgement, fear, doubt, or limitations.

3) What do you most enjoy about your job?

I am passionate about helping others, working at the grassroots, and empowering those who have lost their ‘voice’ and faced social injustice or human rights violations. I am passionate about engaging and networking with people in the community in order to give them back their power and help them find purpose and fulfilment. My work is very rewarding and a blessing, especially when I get to see positive change in peoples’ lives!

4) How have your studies at Wolfson helped you in your career?

My studies taught me how to develop myself by listening to and observing carefully the needs of others. I learnt to put others before myself through my degree and especially during my research. Wolfson also opened my window to new horizons and, through the contacts and professors I met, I was able to cross cultures, countries, and communities that I had never crossed paths with before.

Wolfson also taught me patience and gave me the strength to withstand pressure. I remember presenting my first academic paper to my tutor, who tore it apart. In agony and tears, anxiety and hopelessness, I dragged myself back to my room. Deep down, I knew she was asking more of me, telling me I could push myself further. After a few hours of reflection, I realised that of course she was right, I could have done better and would have done more if I was not rushing to meet my deadline. My tutor and Wolfson taught me another lesson: I could do more, and my best was yet to come.

5) What is your fondest memory of your time at Wolfson?

At Wolfson, I made some amazing friends. I met a powerful, strong woman who became my strength and anchor. She was a rower and a PhD in Veterinary Science and we both enjoyed time together in and out of our shared accommodation, where I learnt about horses and she learnt about Panjab, my roots.

Also, every morning I would walk up to Porters' Lodge and be greeted by the Head Porter, David. “Good morning Blossom!”, he would say. His innocence, simplicity, and words of support and encouragement always lifted me in the darkest of times. I couldn't get to the Club Room without smiling, he was able to turn the frown around and push me out the other end. He did help me blossom and I will never forget him. I’m also grateful to my friends in the garden, certain trees became my companions in the early meditative hours of the morning.

6) What is next in your career?

I am planning to set up more charitable and philanthropic projects in India and the UK, and I have merged with two large educational projects in India to open 100 fully-funded free schools over the next 15 years.

7) You have recently volunteered to do some work with our students. What was it that made you want to work with them and what will you be doing?

I met Abbernaa and Annoa at the Alumni event held at Wolfson in September. It was an honour and privilege to be back and reminiscing through the grounds. I became aware that Wolfson really was where the story began! Conversing with the President and speaking to others, I was told I must meet these two dynamic women. I did. We have been working and meeting virtually and I am humbled to share that we have organised our first Diwali fundraising and awareness event at Wolfson on 7 December 2021. From music to culture, from creative conversations to lectures, we aim to make it the first of many where we celebrate ourselves as BAME women with Wolfson Wisdom to “Ring True” and help others who do not have access to an education.

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