Alumni Spotlight: Tope Folarin (2004, MSc African Studies)

Tope Folarin (2004, MSc African Studies & 2005, MSc Comparative Social Policy)

Rhodes Scholar, Author of A Particular Kind of Black Man, and winner of the 2021 Whiting Award for Fiction.

tope folarin
What I’m doing now

Executive Director at Institute for Policy Studies and Lannan Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing, Georgetown University. Novelist and Critic.

Best memories of HMC

I remember that a fellow student, Toby Fell-Holden, screened films on Sunday evenings in the Quiet Room. I was a film lover by the time I arrived at HMC, but I learned a great deal more about cinema during those sessions.

Favourite activities at HMC

I loved spending time in the Library. I remember that it was an aesthetic marvel, and I loved studying there, and working my way through plays and novels. I began to come to terms with my artistic ambitions in that wonderful space.

Why HMC?

I read a great deal about the various Oxford colleges before arriving at HMC, and I was drawn to the idea of attending a college with mature students — some of whom had worked for years before pursuing higher education, and others who were attending college for the first time. I had this sense that HMC would be a diverse place, a space where I could comfortably explore my interests and interact with people who had emerged from similar contexts as me. As a son of immigrants who struggled financially, I felt I would find myself at HMC. I was absolutely correct.

Why is giving to HMC important?

HMC is unlike any other college at Oxford. It possesses a unique and important mission: to educate mature students, many of whom would likely have a difficult time attending college otherwise. This mission acknowledges a major challenge that countless students face in the United Kingdom and around the world — the difficulty of attempting to navigate a system that was not created for their benefit. HMC is an essential institution.

My advice to current students

My advice is simple — spend as much time as you can figuring yourself out and challenging yourself. And work hard. I learned a great deal about myself at HMC, and I worked hard, and I benefited immensely from my time at HMC.