By Jennifer Vardy Little
The Kings County Advertiser
When he was a little boy, a book on bugs and plants began a fascination with insects that will bring Paul Manning to Oxford next fall.
The 21-year-old Canning native was named one of two Rhodes Scholars for the Maritimes region last week, along with Caroline Whidden of Hatchet Lake, NS. The scholarship is valued at more than $100,000 and will provide for all expenses for travel to and study at Oxford University in England for two years, with an option for a third year.
“I couldn’t even believe it when I heard,” Manning said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Manning is currently in his fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Science degree at the agricultural campus of Dalhousie University in Truro.
In order to qualify for the scholarship, Manning had to write an essay last November, provide references and be recommended by his faculty.
From there, he was shortlisted twice and invited to a two-day interview process in Halifax.
“The first day was a social, where we got to meet all the candidates from across the Maritimes, and then the second day was a 45-minute interview,” Manning explained.
The Rhodes Scholarship is not awarded, however, on the basis of academic distinction alone, as founder Cecil Rhodes stipulated in his will that the recipients of the scholarship must also have integrity of character, vigour, interest in and a respect for their fellow human beings, the ability to lead and the energy to use their talent to the full.
Manning demonstrates that in his activities. He’s the president of the Dalhousie Agricultural Students’ Association and has participated in a variety of volunteer initiatives, including working as a student intern with the Canadian International Development Agency and organizing the Nova Scotia Agricultural College’s Pakistan Flood Relief efforts in 2010.
He also serves as a board member of the Canning Area People for Real Enterprise and has received numerous academic and leadership awards. He is also an accomplished athlete and participates in competitive soccer, badminton and cross-country running. He was named most valuable player of the college’s cross-country team last year.
The opportunity to study overseas, however, is one he doesn’t think he would have without the scholarship.
“This is something I couldn’t do without the Rhodes Scholarship,” he said.
“It just feels incredible. It hasn’t sunk in yet, I think I’m still in shock. I’m starting to get really excited looking at the applications for Oxford.”
Manning will leave next October for the United Kingdom, where he’ll study towards a doctorate in Philosophy in Zoology. His main research will be around the ecology of the dung beetle.
He traces that interest back to his youth in the Valley.
“Growing up in the Annapolis Valley, I was really aware of agriculture as a kid – I worked on farms for pocket money,” he said. “I had a little book I’d carry around everywhere with me about plants and insects. It really helped me develop a love of nature. I just find insects really, really interesting.”