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Catching up with Paul Manning, Class of 13

Posted by stephanie rogers on January 27, 2014 in News

If you’re an alumnus of the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture, the name Paul Manning probably rings a bell. Former student association president, varsity cross country runner, Active-8 ambassador, top-notch student, volunteer and all around do-gooder, the 2013 graduate was a well-known figure in the Dal AC community even before his most notable accomplishment: winning the Rhodes Scholarship.

Sarah Fanning and Paul Manning in Oxford

Rewind two years. Paul, who grew up in Canning, NS and studied environmental science at the Faculty of Agriculture, decided to apply for the world’s most prestigious postgraduate award after reading an article about it early in 2012.

“I’d known for several years that I wanted to continue my education by studying beneficial insects within agricultural systems,” he says. “I applied for the Rhodes Scholarship because I wanted a chance to broaden my horizons, collaborate and interact with some of the world’s brightest minds and to gain new and interesting ideas to bring back to Atlantic Canadian agriculture.”

When Paul learned he was one of two winners from the Maritime Canada region in November of 2012, making him Dalhousie’s 87th Rhodes Scholar and the first ever to come from the Faculty of Agriculture, his first reaction was “complete and utter shock.” Now, after finishing his first semester of studies at Oxford University, the shock may have worn off, but the awe has not.

“Oxford has certainly lived up to and surpassed my expectations,” he says. “When walking through streets lined with dreaming spires and century old gardens, it can be easy to momentarily forget you're there to study, and not as a tourist. Friends and college members are happy to share historical accounts of Oxford - and there are plenty! It's truly a unique studying environment.”

Oxford operates under the Oxbridge system, a distinct, decentralized university structure. Under this model, Paul is a student of Magdalen College, where he has settled in nicely. Magdalen has around 800 students and a community atmosphere similar to the one found at Dal AC, which has helped him feel at home there. Paul has spent much of his free time exploring his “breathtakingly beautiful” surroundings and taking in talks in a variety of fields including economics, global health, sustainability, gender equality, history and ethics.

Never one to neglect his extracurricular activities, Paul has been involved on campus since day one. “I was fortunate enough to work my way onto the rowing squad at Magdalen, which is fantastic exercise and a phenomenal test of patience and focus,” he says. “I’ve also been writing for the Oxford science magazine, which has been a tremendous amount of fun.”

Paul found immediately that he was missing student politics, so he ran and was elected as a general committee member on the Magdalen graduate student council. He is currently working on a campaign to help raise awareness of sexual violence on campus.

Academically speaking, Paul feels prepared to take on anything Oxford throws at him, and he credits his time at the Agricultural Campus for that. “My summer research experiences gave me a huge leg-up in experimental design, writing and being able to critically discuss scientific literature,” he says. “Having an agricultural background has given me a unique stance on environmental, social and ecological issues. It allows me to speak from a different and valuable perspective.” According to Paul, he is also deeply grateful for the skills he acquired from being heavily involved with student life here. He is able to juggle a hectic schedule, which will come in handy as he works his way through the next three to four years of research.

Paul’s studies are purely research-based. He is pursuing a PhD in zoology, focusing on dung beetle communities associated with Welsh cattle farms. When he’s done, he hopes to find a career involving research, the natural world and creative communication. So far he is an expert at all three of these things, as he is pursuing research, is fascinated by the world around us and is maintaining an entertaining blog chronicling his experiences in England.

It’s safe to say Paul’s life as a Rhodes Scholar has been extremely successful thus far. He has settled in nicely in Oxford and although he is missed at the Agricultural Campus, he’s certainly doing his alma mater proud. Don’t worry about losing him to the mother ship, though. According to Paul, “though Oxford feels like home, Canada is where I would most love to be.”

To find out more about Paul’s life as a Rhodes Scholar, follow his blog, PM in the UK, at