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Learning the meaning — and value — of servant leadership while at Oxford
Outdoor standing portrait of Anya Kasubhai

As Anya Kasubhai graduates from Oxford College and looks toward the Atlanta campus, she is grateful for what she’s learned and the bonds she’s forged with those who have contributed to her successes.

— Alex Minovici

Few, if any, students have been as involved in Oxford daily life as Anya Kasubhai. Her resume reflects the breadth of the Oxford experience — president of the Student Activities Committee, events chair of the South Asian Cultural Association (SACA), co-president of Oxford Chorale, Ignite Leadership Mentor, the list goes on — but her time on campus can’t be summed up by a record of extracurriculars or academic accomplishments.

As she graduates from Oxford and looks toward the Atlanta campus, she is grateful not just for these experiences, but for what she’s learned from them and the bonds she’s forged with those who have contributed to her successes.

Kasubhai, originally from Tenafly, New Jersey, plans to double major in anthropology and politics, philosophy and law (often referred to as PPL) as she transitions to Emory College. Coming out of high school, she was drawn to Oxford for her first two years at Emory because of its small class sizes, its liberal arts focus and the opportunity to take that experience and transition to a larger university.

“The more I looked into it, I felt like it was a place I could grow as a leader and as a student,” she says.

Finding her voice as a leader

Growth and leadership have been two major focal points of her time at Oxford, where she credits several faculty and staff members with giving her the space to experiment and find her own voice.

She cites Veronica Roman, associate director of student involvement and leadership, as someone who transformed her self-perception. Roman was Kasubhai’s supervisor in her work with the Student Activities Committee, through which she helped plan large-scale campus events designed to bring the entire student body together.

“The Student Activities Committee has played a major role in me learning what type of leader I want to be,” Kasubhai says. “I think every staff member has given me so much grace and acceptance in all that I do, and they have let me lead the way that I want to lead. I never had to go into that stereotypical, more assertive type of role. I made mistakes too, but people have shown me grace and allowed me to make successes out of those failures.”

Roman also advised Kasubhai as a Learning to Lead facilitator, through which Kasubhai taught a seminar course to first-year students that addresses topics of self-development, team dynamics and leadership education, while also highlighting the understanding of diversity and best practices for fostering inclusivity.

“At Oxford, we describe servant leadership as a leader that prioritizes the greater good, which is exactly how Anya approaches her responsibilities,” Roman says. “She has navigated uncertainties with a skillfulness and grace that are unparalleled. She has an impressive ability to prepare for the expected while accounting for the unexpected. She is a truly remarkable individual and has been a joy to advise.”

Community and camaraderie

For Kasubhai, getting involved has been a way to find community and take time away from the stress of her studies.

“The extracurriculars I do give me the energy and relaxation I need in order to handle my academics,” she says. “It’s really important to find places where I feel safe, confident and have work that is my ‘break work.’ Communities like choir, that’s just something I need. Technically these are commitments, but having two hours to sing every week is such a nice break. “

Kasubhai also notes that her meetings with SACA are more like hangouts since the students spend time planning events they care about and will enjoy, and that the camaraderie and lightheartedness of their meetings provide something deeper:

“Just having that kind of community made me realize how much I want to be connected to my culture and how much my culture matters to me,” she says.

‘The ideal philosophy student’

In the classroom, Kasubhai is an accomplished student. She came to Oxford with dreams of becoming a federal District Court judge, and though she still has that in mind, she also now feels free to explore interests as they present themselves.

One professor who has played a major role in broadening her perspective is Joshua Mousie, associate professor of philosophy. Kasubhai has taken two of his courses and says both have been crucial to her intellectual development.

“Dr. Mousie taught me about how philosophy can relate to race, gender and my identities,” she says. “He takes really abstract concepts and helps you see how they have a more pragmatic usage. I feel like he and other professors who have been impactful care about me as a person, not just in my academics.”

The respect between Mousie and Kasubhai is mutual. “Anya is the ideal philosophy student,” he says. “She is not only highly intelligent and curious but also questions her own assumptions and genuinely listens to, and engages with, her peers’ ideas, to strengthen and develop her own views. She is focused and serious while also bringing humor and wit to conversations, demonstrating that philosophical thinking should ultimately be fun and life-affirming.”

Mousie is sure that great things await Kasubhai at Emory.

“I am certain that Anya will continue to thrive as a philosophy student on the Atlanta campus, and that she will immediately become a strong voice and leader in the classroom, just like she was during her time at Oxford,” he says.

As Kasubhai spends her last few weeks at Oxford and prepares for her transition to the Atlanta campus, she has been reflecting on the last two years.

“I’ve been feeling a lot already even though I haven’t left yet,” she says. “A lot of nostalgia and a lot of gratefulness. Looking at old photos and thinking about the things we’ve been able to achieve at Oxford, I’m just really grateful I’ve been given the opportunity to do that. Every time I walk into a building, a rush of memories comes back to me. Oxford will always be home.”

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