Oxonians did not let the weather rain on their parade!
Oxford alumni and their guests took part in engaging social and academic events throughout the 2018 Alumni Weekend in San Francisco. Guests, invited scholars, and politicians shared their views on issues ranging from the political climate in America to their latest research on the internet, sleep and circadian rhythms, literature, medical equipment and “The British American Dream.” Highlights included dinner at the historic Ferry Building, an exhibition of original J.R.R. Tolkien artwork, and a discussion on philanthropy and innovation between Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti (The Queen’s College, 1993) and Mr. Reid Hoffman, CBE (Wolfson College, 1990).
The Alumni Weekend in North America, organized by Oxford’s North American Office, took place on 6 and 7 April, and it was the first time the gathering had taken place on the west coast. Guests who stayed at the Westin St. Francis were conveniently located near some of San Francisco’s most famous sites: Union Square, Chinatown and the Fisherman’s Wharf.
The Saturday academic program commenced with two Oxford Conversations, one between The Chancellor and Sir Michael Moritz (Christ Church, 1973), and the second between Mr. Reid Hoffman and Mayor Eric Garcetti. The first discussion provided alumni and guests career advice including “follow your instincts” and “be willing to place your trust in people who are unproven, their loyalty to you will be unfailing.” Sir Michael Moritz shared, “I don’t believe in careers, I believe in a life” which testifies to his winding career path as well as his current success as a Venture Capitalist. In the second Oxford Conversation, Mayor Eric Garcetti stressed the importance of listening, a skill he learned while studying at Oxford. “Oxford University helped me in my political career because it taught me how to listen. If you step back and listen and process, you can accomplish and understand much more.” He also discussed how the city of Los Angeles is becoming more innovative and efficient and spoke of current projects such as drone deliveries, vertical plane take-off and traffic tunneling.
Alumni and guests also took part in a number of fascinating lectures by current Oxford Professors. The first lecture was given by Professor Phil Howard who is the Director of Research and Professor of Internet Studies at the Oxford Institute (OII). His lecture focused on fake news via social media and the threat it poses to democracy. Professor Howard explained that the fake to real news ratio in the United States is 1:1, a concerning statistic, which points to the country’s need for a strong cyber security strategy. Professor Russell Foster CBE, FRS, who is the Head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and Director of the Sleep and Circadian Research Institute, also lectured on how “sleep is the most powerful cognitive enhancer that we have.”