Nov. 22, 2016

University of Calgary alumnus and new Rhodes Scholar-elect James Thorogood heading to Oxford

Mechanical engineer and social entrepreneur one of Canada’s 11 winners of the prestigious scholarship
James Thorogood is the University of Calgary's newest Rhodes Scholar winner

James Thorogood is the University of Calgary's 15th winner of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

Scholars Academy, University of Calgary

James Thorogood is a recent mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Calgary who is passionate about water sustainability, food systems, and poverty reduction. He was also recently named as one of only three people from the Prairie provinces — and 11 across Canada — to win a Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford.

During his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, Thorogood spent his free time volunteering with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada. As co-president of EWB Calgary’s student chapter, Thorogood supported youth outreach programs, promotion of ethical purchasing on campus, and advocacy to Canadian Members of Parliament. 

“This is a phenomenal accomplishment and I would like to personally congratulate James for this outstanding recognition of all your hard work, dedication and perseverance,” said President Elizabeth Cannon. “I look forward to seeing the incredible things you will accomplish at Oxford and wish you the best of luck in your studies.”

Thorogood, who received a Seymour Schulich Academic Excellence Scholarship in 2011, is engaged with entrepreneurial initiatives on an international scale. He worked with EWB in Ghana to identify viable businesses that could reduce import dependencies and create opportunities for rural communities. He also co-founded Skill2Scale, a social enterprise that develops digital education services for low-income youth in India and East Africa. Currently, Thorogood is working with a startup enterprise in Kenya to improve the livelihood of millions of small dairy farmers who are entrenched in cycles of poverty.

“On behalf of the school, I want to congratulate James on this incredible achievement,” says Bill Rosehart, dean of the Schulich School of Engineering. “He is an excellent example of an engineering leader making a positive difference in the world.”

“James is a natural in terms of collaboration, community and compassion, qualities all great engineers possess,” says Marjan Eggermont, associate dean (student affairs) at the Schulich School of Engineering. “He wrote his fourth-year finals early to take a job in Kenya where he is taking on a breadth of activities from designing passive cooling for a greenhouse, to developing a program for cattle nutrition, to networking with investors and building financial models. I am extremely happy and excited for him — he has enormous potential and his time in Oxford will open doors for him that will add to the positive impact he is having on the world already.”

In addition to his academic pursuits, Thorogood is an enthusiastic musician. While in university, Thorogood collaborated with Calgary musicians to perform in the university’s Battle of the Bands and also recorded an electronic single with producer Sodhivine. A vocalist, violinist, and guitarist, Thorogood continues to enjoy music as a way to meet people and create new experiences.  

“I’m making friends in the music community in Nairobi, Kenya, and have even had a brief opportunity to work in a local recording studio,” says Thorogood. “I also have the pleasure of teaching a young violin student in my neighbourhood, and my fee is chai tea and a hot meal.”

Thorogood intends to pursue a master’s degree in water science, management and policy and will pursue his master of business administration in his second year.