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Oriel students first co-presidents of Stubbs Society

The Stubbs Society for Foreign Affairs and Defence is the oldest officially affiliated paper-reading and debating society of the University of Oxford. It is the University’s forum for scholarship in international history, grand strategy and foreign affairs. Its alumni include world leaders, home secretaries and Archbishops of Canterbury.

“I was scrolling through the entire list of societies and thought ‘oh that’s a weird name’, let me find out more,” says Collett. The idea of a society focused on both international relations and defence particularly intrigued her so she signed up for the next talk. Tran, coincidentally, had a few free hours and decided to join Collett to listen to Ciaran Martin, former CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre.

Before long, both students were an integral part of the society – forming friendships, organising events and taking up committee roles. “We considered not applying for presidency because it was so very close to finals but at the end we didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity,” says Tran. “The best thing we could do for the society was to split the role. It has been the perfect balance and we couldn’t have done it without each other,” adds Collett.

Throughout their tenure at the Stubbs Society (Hillary term, 2024), both students have listened to some impressive speakers. For Collett, Ciaran Martin remains a standout. “This was the first time I attended a talk outside my studies and he was so interesting. It was mind-blowing,” she says. Tran recalls Dr Edward Howell and his talk on ‘Does Kim Jung Un want war? as one of her favourites. “He has a very eccentric personality and given his high-profile topic, he had lots of stories such as getting hacked by the North Korean government or followed by people who were possibly hired by the North Korean government.”

Both Tran and Collett plan to continue their studies, Collett will be starting her Masters at King’s College in Terrorism Security Studies and Tran hopes to apply for an MPhil in Economics at Oriel in the Autumn.

They encourage others to join the Stubbs Society for its ‘approachable and friendly’ environment. They also highlight the significant role played by the Provost supporting the society, “Neil has been so helpful with the society. It is a very small society without a lot of funds. So even his presence at events helps make it feel like we are doing something quite prestigious,” says Tran.