HCA Journal

Getting to know an HCA Member - Q & A with Aliaa Remtila

The next in our series on HCA members, Aliaa Remtilla, Program Leader for Monday Club. 


Q: What did you study at Harvard and why? 

The technical answer to this question is that I concentrated in Visual and Environmental Studies, specializing in Film Production. But I chose to go to Harvard to play varsity field hockey and probably spent as much, if not more time across the river training than in classes :)

Q: What is your role with HCA? 

I'm the PL for the Monday Club, which means I get to leverage the Club to contact amazing people in Australia and ask them to speak to us. I have been really impressed with how many high-powered individuals have been interested in addressing the Club; the Harvard 'brand' goes a long way!

Q: How has your degree impacted your career? 

My degree taught me how to think critically about the world, trust my instincts and know how to ask the right questions at the right time. More practically, only 50% of my coursework was in my concentration - the rest of it (even the Gen Ed options I got to choose) had something to do with the study of Muslim civilizations. 9/11 took place the day before my first day of classes Freshman year. As a Muslim in America in the post-9/11 era, I used a lot of my time at Harvard to work through how to navigate my religious identity at a time when public understandings and perceptions of Islam were so drastically at odds with my own experience of my faith and community. These explorations led to my Doctoral studies in Anthropology and Film Production, through which I lived for a year on the Tajik-Afghan border, where I studied the fascinating intersection between Islam, capitalism and development. My PhD film can be viewed here:  www.PushTheBounds.com

Q: What is your main focus right now? 

I currently work for the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim community in Australia and New Zealand as the Executive Officer. This is the same minority interpretation of Islam in which I was raised, and that I studied through my PhD. Our community organization's mandate is to ensure a high quality of life for all community members, enabling each one to become an active and contributing member of Ausssie and Kiwi society. On the side, I'm writing a book about the history of the Ismaili Muslim community in East Africa. My parents are Tanzanian Ismaili Muslims - so the book has a personal twist - but it's mostly based on some post-doctoral research I conducted about East African Ismaili spaces of worship.

Q: What have you learned during the COVID-19 crisis? 

Virtual platforms are wonderful tools to bring people together with ease. They enable borders to be traversed and new connections to be fostered. But they have limitations. My desire for face-to-face interactions has felt so much stronger after they ceased to be a possibility! Q: How do you think the Harvard Club of Australia can have the most impact going forward? I met some of my closest friends through the Harvard Club when I first arrived in Australia four years ago. The ability to bring a self-selected group of like-minded people together has been, for me, the biggest impact of the Club in my life. Whatever we can do to make this happen for other members should be a key part of our way forward. For me, our other initiatives in the 'Members Vertical' - including getting to hear amazing speakers at the Monday Club - are all bonus side benefits of membership.

Q: What does a perfect weekend look like for you? 

Finding the perfect wave on a warm, sunny day with no wind. Spending the day surfing (and sitting out back catching up with friends) and then cooking a delectable dinner before an early night...so we can do it all again the next day!


Getting to know an HCA Member - Q & A with Shori Hijikata 

The next in our series on HCA members, Shori Hijikata who is a Program Leader for Young Members at HCA.

 

Q: What did you study at Harvard and why?

 

I concentrated in Neurobiology, with a secondary in Global Health & Health Policy. I've loved biology since high school and think the brain is fascinating. I particularly love the paradox of studying the human brain: If our brains were simple enough for us to understand them, we'd be so simple that we couldn't, and vice versa.

 

Q: What is your role with HCA?
I'm the Program Leader for Young Members, so I spearhead connecting with both recent graduates and current/incoming students and liaise with the Australian clubs on campus.

Q: How has your degree impacted your career?

 

While I majored in the sciences, I really appreciated the opportunity to take a broad range of classes through the Gen Ed curriculum and electives. From conflict negotiation to linguistics, the diversity of subjects, perspectives, and peers that I encountered pushed me to constantly think outside my comfort zone. Along the way, I stumbled upon an entrepreneurship class that inspired me to pivot from medicine to business. I went into management consulting after graduation, then the startup world, a path I wouldn't have discovered without the flexibility of Harvard's degree!

 

Q: What is your main focus right now?

 

I'm currently in a startup generator program with Antler, a global venture capital firm that invests in the next wave of technology ventures. Over the next few months, the goal is to find my co-founder/s, validate a business idea, and launch a startup. Outside of that, I also dedicate time to the Sydney Fitness Project, a fitness community that I started last year. We host free weekly workouts if anyone would like to join!

Q: What have you learned during the COVID-19 crisis?

 

1) Humans are incredibly adaptive

2) Connection and community are more important now than ever before

3) A company, organization, government, or technology is nothing without empathy and actions from its people

 

Q: How do you think the Harvard Club of Australia can have the most impact going forward?

 

Elaborating on point 2) above, I believe the HCA can continue to strengthen its role in building community and providing support among the Harvard community. I think this is particularly crucial now because of what is happening in the world with an unprecedented level of uncertainty and anxiety, it's important for both students and alums to know that there are people who have their back.

 

Q: What does a perfect weekend look like for you?

 

Waking up without an alarm, going for a run or to the gym, some Facetime calls with friends abroad, a dinner catch up with friends in Sydney, and some life admin to stay organized and get ready to tackle the week ahead!


lowres_headshots_august2016-0001-1

Getting to know an HCA Member - Q & A with Elizabeth Carr,  AM

Q: What did you study at Harvard and why? 

 

Given my undergrad at the University of Western Australia was an Honours Degree in Political Science it was inevitable that politics, policy and government would be interconnected in my career. After 16 years in commercial organisations (IBM and Macquarie) I decided that rather than an MBA I would undertake an MPA at the Kennedy School. It was a mid-career course which means they gave you credit for life experiences. 240 classmates from 58 countries and 40 states of the US. I could not have asked for a better experience.

 

Q: How has your Masters in Public Administration impacted your career? 

 

For a year at Harvard I indulged in wide-ranging conversations that highlighted the inter-connection between the private, public sectors and community sectors. No sector can operate without the other. Since coming home to Australia I have kept that notion at the forefront of all personal and career decisions. And with friends now around the world who continue to challenge my views and outlook my MPA has certainly impacted my life as much as my career. 

 

Q: What is your main focus right now? 

 

As a Non-Executive Director my portfolio is a lovely mix of commercial, government, not-for-profit and educational organisations in both NSW and WA. This allows me to “tie-the-bows” between issues and required outcomes in the various sectors, whether that be primary/senior school education, vocational education, aged care, international development, local health or insurance.  

 

Q: What have you learned during the COVID-19 crisis? 

 

From a business perspective, the old adage “cash is king” comes to mind. Those organisations that had the financial flexibility to ride the wave – and to, therefore, most importantly be able to put kindness and fairness for their people and their clients at the forefront of their decision making are coming out of this crisis stronger. 

 

What I am particularly excited about for us as a Harvard community is that our members have also embraced technology which will allow us going forward to truly be the Harvard Club of Australia rather than the Harvard Club of Sydney, Brisbane, Perth.

 

Q: How do you think the Harvard Club of Australia can have the most impact going forward? 

 

HCA is very clear that it exists to make a difference as a Harvard community for our members, for Australia and for Harvard University. As we continue to imbed the new strategy it allows as many members as possible to bring this vision to life. If members wish to drive a new scholarship, solve a societal problem, organise a special interest group, develop networking opportunities, then the role of the Board is to provide the guidance and structure to enable this to happen. So we can be agile at looking at issues and using our various connections – whether they be classmates or Harvard Professors – to continue to drive the change we want to see. As a Club we should be proud of the work of the past in developing extraordinary scholarship programs and opportunities for Australians to study at Harvard, Leadership programs in Australia and mentoring and networking opportunities to continue to raise the bar. I see this foundation as growing and becoming stronger with the new generation of members.

 

Q: What does a perfect weekend look like for you Elizabeth? 

 

Whether I am in Perth or Sydney, I love to be outside whether that is walking, going to the beach or outdoor cafes. I am most definitely a summer girl - which of course made life in Boston a rather interesting experience!