For academics, The University of Oxford is hallowed ground; the stuff dreams are made of.
This is where Kim Becker is – completing her PhD – when we call and tell her she has been named our Audi Foundation – CEF Alumnus of the Year for 2021.
“I am deeply humbled and honoured to win this award. It is a reminder that CEF fosters a community for country students past and present, and I’m honoured to be part of it.”
Audi Foundation – CEF Alumnus of the Year 2021:
Kapunda High School Centenary Foundation, SA
2014 – 2017
University of Adelaide
Bachelor of Science (Advanced Mathematics); Master of Philosophy (Pure Mathematics)
FROM KAPUNDA TO ADELAIDE TO OXFORD
Maths was Kim’s favourite subject during her studies at Kapunda High School in South Australia. So much so that she says: ‘I used to leave my maths homework last as a reward for studying everything else.’
When she ventured to the University of Adelaide to undertake a Bachelor of Science (Advanced Mathematics), she didn’t realise the amazing opportunities that would become available to her.
A true, passionate and dedicated supporter and advocate for women in STEM, she founded the Women in STEM Society (WISTEMS) at the university, a club she says, ‘aims to foster a supportive community for women, non-binary people and allies in STEM degrees at the university, as well as advocate for diversity of all kinds in the sciences.’
I began WISTEMS in 2017, together with an all-star founding committee, and am deeply proud to see it continue to blossom and grow long after I have left Adelaide.
WISTEMS is one of the things Kim is most proud of to date, alongside her impressive mathematical achievements.
She won the Adelaide University Research Medal for her thesis in Pure Mathematics and has already had her first maths paper published in the Journal of Geometry and Physics.
And, if this isn’t remarkable enough, she was awarded the Oxford-Australia Scholarship in 2019, which funded her move to the holy grail of academia.
When many of us think of Oxford, we immediately picture extremely intelligent academics wandering the prestigious halls, and there is no doubt that Kim is that picture in living colour.
Every time I finish a degree, I think there is still lots more I want to learn, so I pursue another!
The other image that immediately springs to mind – rowing on pristine waters in college uniforms with people cheering from the waters’ edge.
Despite professing she has ‘never been a particularly sporty person,’ the call of oars was one that even Kim has not been able to ignore. In fact, she loves it.
She recently competed in a race called ‘Torpids.’ She says it’s a little difficult to explain but, essentially it is an Oxford tradition of races held over four consecutive days. If you win each day you get ‘blades,’ and Kim and her crew did just this, giving her ‘one of the most exciting times in recent memory.’
There’s nothing like the feeling of getting on the water and rowing in perfect unison with your crewmates.
She also recently created a website for her boat club. She found great joy in learning the history of the club, talking with old members and sharing their stories on the website.
She says it was a great privilege to do this, which is very much the way CEF feels about being able to share Kim’s story – it is most definitely a privilege.
KAPUNDA WELCOMED KIM AND FAMILY WITH OPEN ARMS
Our Alumnus of the Years’ story begins with an Australian Mother and French Father settling in the United States to have children. The family lived in California until Kim was 13 when they relocated to the small regional town of Kapunda.
She says she’s not entirely sure how they ended up there, she thinks mostly by ‘dumb luck’, but is so grateful they did. The community was wonderful and welcoming, and she still remembers the excitement of getting to put on a school uniform for the first time ever to attend Kapunda High School.
Leaving a country high school for university is difficult in many respects – not only are you starting a new phase in your education, but you’re saying goodbye to the tightknit community you have been part of for so many years.
When it came time to pack the uniform away and head to Adelaide, Kim says what she remembers most about receiving her grant was the feeling of support as a she embarked on a journey where she would ‘join a massive cohort – just one person in what felt like a sea of people.’
Kim thinks very highly of her local Kapunda High School Centenary Foundation and the work they do, knowing firsthand just how important their assistance is saying, “With the CEF grant, and the support of the Kapunda High School Centenary Foundation, I never really felt like Kapunda was all that far away.”
These feelings are very much reciprocated by the Kapunda High School Centenary Foundation, who nominated Kim for this year’s awards.
“Her sense of purpose and focus on her chosen path in Mathematics and success to date is remarkable. We are very proud of her and believe she is very deserving of recognition for all her achievements,” the volunteers say of their Oxford PhD scholar.
She has become very passionate about encouraging women into mathematics and is now a great role model and ambassador.”
Anne Hornsey – Chair, Kapunda High School Centenary Foundation
Her life in Kapunda has left Kim with a deeply profound sense of community. She is grateful for the small town that welcomed her family all those years ago, for the local foundation who supported her journey, and for the teachers at Kapunda High School who she says she ‘still thinks of and looks up to today.’
I look forward to the day when I can donate to the foundation and watch the new generation of alumni grow and prosper.
When asked about the importance of the CEF alumni network, Kim says it is a wonderful representation of the sense of community in and diversity of country Australia, both subjects she is passionate about.
She believes the strength of the alumni shows the positive impact a student can have on their local community, no matter where they end up.
And Kim is proof of this! From California to Kapunda; Adelaide to Oxford and whatever comes next, it is clear that Kimberly Becker is a trailblazer in STEM, destined for success and leaving a trail of inspiration in her wake.