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Philosophical principles drive Rhodes Scholar

He is one of three young New Zealanders who have been awarded the prestigious scholarship to carry out postgraduate study at the University of Oxford (UK).

Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Politics, and a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Population Health, Johann is already in Oxford, England, where he is the inaugural Worcester College Provost's Scholar (Visiting Student).

He is undertaking study and research at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and population health.

Johann is a Filipino-Chinese immigrant to New Zealand and completed his schooling at St Pat’s Silverstream (Wellington).

He was the inaugural recipient of the Worcester College Scholarship, which is funded through the University of Auckland Campaign For All Our Futures by New Zealand and US businessman Chris Liddell, who currently serves as White House Deputy Chief of Staff.

Liddell says: “I’m delighted to congratulate Johann and I am very pleased that the Worcester College Scholarship gave him a stepping stone to a Rhodes Scholarship. This certainly bodes well for future recipients.”

Johann lists his academic interests as primarily in political and moral philosophy, especially around issues of social, global and distributive justice, political liberalism, public health ethics, and normative analysis of public policy.

Outside of academia, he is active in the community and has been a St John volunteer for more than 10 years, and founded the Silverstream Elderly Outreach Group and Academic Tutoring Programme.

Johann says his overarching motivation in life is to advance the human condition socially, politically and ethically.

“To do this, I am a firm believer in combining the principles of analytic philosophy and political theory with basic human compassion,” he says.

Johann is equally enthused about increasing diversity in the humanities and at Worcester College, where he has already been the student body’s Equal Opportunities Representative and LGBT+ Officer.

“I hope to one day contribute something significant to how we do political philosophy and orient it towards advancing our great challenges; not just for ‘us’ or ‘ourselves’, but for everyone.”

In his spare time, Johann is a freelance journalist and writer, writing mainly on social, political and philosophical issues for the mainstream media.

His plans are to study for a Master of Philosophy in Political Theory at Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations, a programme that combines philosophy with politics and political theory.

“This especially appeals to me, as I am passionate about using theory to inform practice and making political philosophy relevant to the wider populace.”

Governor-General Her Excellency the Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy announced the three Scholarships on Friday 16 November. The other two recipients were Mattea Mrkusic (University of Melbourne/Harvard University) and James Ranstead from Lincoln University.

“I was impressed once again by the intelligence and poise of this year’s candidates during the interview process, and their obvious enthusiasm for their areas of study,” she said.

Rhodes Scholarship applications for 2020 close in July 2019.

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