D’Arcy Williams was raised in Ghana by parents working in global health, before eventually moving to Washington D.C. It was during this time, as a young student in the public school system, that he learned the convening power of listening and empathy. He went on to pursue his education at McGill and graduated in 2015 with an Honors B.A. in International Development Studies and Political Science. D’Arcy was recently selected as a 2019 Gates Cambridge Scholar, an award presented to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. The award was established in October 2000 by a donation of US$210 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The aim of the Gates Cambridge program is to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.
Opportunities that open doors
During his time at McGill, D’Arcy received McGill’s Scarlet Key Society Award for his extensive campus involvement and leadership positions during his time at the university. A member of the McGill Men’s Varsity Soccer team, he was also the Co-President of McGill Students for UNICEF, where he helped raise over $18,000 for UNICEF’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Relief Fund.
Through the Arts Internship Office (AIO), he secured a three-month internship working with a local organization in Nepal to implement a UNICEF micronutrient powder program that fights malnutrition in children. Towards the end of his degree, D’Arcy joined 25 McGill students and partook in the McGill Canadian Field Studies in Africa program, a four-month field study during which they explored issues of conservation, development, environmental management, geography, and anthropology in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
“My experience at McGill shaped both my life and career. I was drawn to McGill by its international outlook and multicultural student community. I was intellectually stimulated and challenged on a daily basis not only by my courses in International Development Studies and Political Science but also by my passionate and diverse peers from all corners of the globe. I had the privilege to be mentored through my academic development by brilliant and supportive professors such as Professor Thom Meredith and the Honorable Stephen Lewis, one of Canada’s most influential commentators on social affairs, international development and human rights. Attending McGill opened up doors I never knew existed and gave me the tools and networks to prepare me for when those opportunities arose.”
Shaping the future through public policy
Upon graduating in 2015, D’Arcy was awarded the AIO’s Pascale International Fellowship to work with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), supporting their Global Health team in the lead up to the famous CGI 2015 Annual Meeting. He then moved on to a role in External Relations and Communications at Population Services International, founded two non-profit initiatives, and served in the Peace Corps as a Community Health Educator in rural Cameroon, Central Africa.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work at both the policy and community levels of global health. These experiences, ranging from New York to Baré-Bakem, Cameroon, have afforded me valuable insights into issues of health inequality, especially the gap between global policies and their community-level application in low resource settings.”
Through his many experiences and quest to better the lives of those around the globe, D’Arcy’s interest in public policy grew. He realized that many of the changes he hoped to see and contribute towards could happen through well thought-out policies. As a result, he will pursue a postgraduate degree in Public Policy at Cambridge.
“My interest in public policy is rooted in my belief that effective and human-centred policy will play a crucial role in filling this gap. Cameroon taught me the most effective way to improve the lives of others is to build their capacity to empower themselves. I consider this is a truly valuable lesson for the global health programs of tomorrow.”
While he gained technical knowledge on malaria and HIV/AIDS programs in Cameroon, he explains the importance to complement this knowledge with rigorous analytical skills in order to identify the best scenarios that reflect community priorities. Such analysis is critical to inform budgetary allocations given the severe fiscal constraints typically found in resource-limited communities that impede the availability of quality health care for all. He hopes to harness the MPP to influence the global health agenda and put communities at the center of decision-making in the era of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
“In furthering my professional development, the practice-oriented MPhil in Public Policy (MPP) at Cambridge will provide me with a strong foundation in health policy analysis and will expose me to the realities of policy making and implementation practice. Though I have been fortunate to experience global health programs at different levels, I have also been humbled at how much more I have to understand in order to make the impact I wish to see.”
D'Arcy is set to begin his postgraduate degree at Cambridge in October 2019.