On Thursday, September 23, eight King’s students had a chance to hear from King’s 31st Rhodes Scholar, Sarah Burns, BA(Hons)’15, at a special dinner hosted by President William Lahey.
“It was so nice to be in person and really be able to get to know the students and answer all their questions,” says Sarah, who was visiting Halifax from her home in London, UK.
Despite only being in the city for six days, Burns was happy to prioritize the opportunity to speak with a new generation of King’s students. “It’s incredibly humbling to have these students be interested in meeting with me and ask all these great questions, so I’m glad we were able to put it together so quickly.”
Topics ranged from her time at Oxford to her current work as CEO with the crowdfunding platform she is about to launch, Nia Crowdfund. Nia is described as “an equity crowdfunding platform that provides institutions, sophisticated investors and young professionals access to ambitious, innovative and impactful African businesses.” Burns has long been passionate about African development—she lived in Rwanda at 19 and later spent two years of her PhD living in Liberia.
The students were especially interested in how the idea for Nia first came about, how the company determines which businesses to work with and how funds are distributed.
Conversation over dinner also touched on important topics like mental health and imposter syndrome in academia. “For me personally, going from a community where everyone is so friendly and supportive to going to a place where everyone’s going to tell you about their CVs, I found it quite challenging. It took a few years to make that transition. But the one thing I’ll say is that it did give me lots of space to work on myself and work on what my priorities are in order to navigate the Oxford space,” Sarah explains.
Although it had been five years since she last came to campus, Sarah says she still feels so at home at King’s. In fact, while in Halifax, she defended her final PhD virtually and spent four full days in the King’s library preparing for her defense. She even worked in the same nook where she used to study and write her King’s papers. “It’s so funny how those things feel so comfortable and it’s like muscle memory to go back to those places. For something that I was really anxious about and is obviously such a big deal, it was nice to be somewhere I was so comfortable.”
Sarah is now visiting her family in Ontario before returning to the UK, where she’ll officially launch Nia this fall. Working with businesses ranging from employment matchmaking platforms to maternal health pop-up clinics, she hopes that the company will help African businesses receive the funding required to prosper.