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DJ Cuppy on her Cuppy Africa Scholars Fund

Oxford alumna Florence Ifeoluwa ‘Cuppy’ Otedola completed a MSc in African Studies at Lady Margaret Hall in 2022. Writing for Race Equality Week, Cuppy has shared more about her Cuppy Africa Oxford Scholars Fund that supports African graduate students at the University. 

It’s February – where are you and what’s going on for you?

The new year is still in its early stages, which makes me super excited about all that is to come. I have a lot of fresh ideas and plans for philanthropy, so I'm currently concentrating on all the ways I'll be contributing to creating impact in those spaces throughout 2024. My mantra this year is to strengthen my strengths.

It’s been one year since the Cuppy Africa Oxford Scholars Fund was launched. What difference do you feel you have made to the lives of the students it was set up to support?

I am immensely grateful for the support provided by the Cuppy Fund's generous grant through AfOx. In a time of crisis during the outbreak of conflict at home, the funding played a major role in facilitating the evacuation of my family to safety. Beyond the financial assistance, it brought an indescribable sense of relief and helped with my mental wellbeing as I was reassured with my family’s safety. I am truly thankful for the Cuppy Fund's timely and meaningful support.

Making a positive difference in all I do is always my desire, and I'm so chuffed to be able to say  that the fund has made a difference in African students' academic lives. The goal of this has always been to support African academics in reaching their potential, and the fund is able to make a difference by taking away any tension and anxiety about prospective financial difficulties. Born in Nigeria myself, as a young woman I know first-hand how education creates freedom. 

What inspired you to make this commitment to students from African countries who are studying at Oxford? What obstacles are you aiming to support students to overcome?

I know what it's like to go to school overseas after leaving an African nation. Moving from Nigeria to the UK was it for me. There is a difference in cultures and general learning styles, so it might be intimidating and require a lot of adjustment. Paying for everything that comes with relocating across borders can also be highly costly. Combining this with my knowledge and experience of Oxford, I am aware of how demanding the academic programme is, which could result in spending a lot of time alone. I decided to make this commitment to supporting African students at Oxford based on my own experience as well as the experiences of my colleagues.

Our aim with the fund is to assist students in overcoming any non-academic financial barriers they may face while they are pursuing their education, which unfortunately can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as rent, food costs and transportation. I know for me, reaching graduation was due to comfort and support inside and outside the classroom.

What impact did studying at Oxford make on you?

Support from the Cuppy Fund has been a beacon of hope during a pivotal moment in my life. It enabled me to manage my family responsibilities amidst unforeseen challenges, ensuring that I could maintain my focus on academic excellence here at Oxford. Thank you for believing in me, investing in my potential.

As a young black woman and mature student, my experiences and struggles as an Oxford student were unique, but overall, I would say that my time there impacted me in a way that helped me become more resilient in the face of hardship and allowed me to persevere in achieving my goals, which included graduating from Oxford. 

What’s next – both for you and for your philanthropy?

I'm thrilled to expand my partnership with Oxford University through the Cuppy Africa Oxford Scholars Fund, with additional funding. Thanks to Templars' kind donation, we have the honour of adding an extra £20,000 to the fund this year. I'm really appreciative of the assistance and support they offer, this donation will enable additional African students at Oxford University to achieve their full potential. Templars are a Nigerian based law firm who like myself, believe in the lasting change in our communities through education. Every African Oxford student should be given the freedom to flourish and transcend boundaries.

Oxford alumna Florence Ifeoluwa ‘Cuppy’ Otedola completed a MSc in African Studies at Lady Margaret Hall in 2022. After graduation, Cuppy established a gift of £100,000 to the Africa Oxford Initiative, in support of African graduate students at Oxford. The Cuppy Africa Oxford Scholars Fund aims to support future leaders from the continent by enabling them to access the necessary skills, resources and networks to maximise their impact across Africa and beyond. The fund supports African graduate students at the University to meet unexpected and urgent financial needs, and undertake activities that will ensure the pursuit of excellence in their graduate studies. Outside of her educational achievements, Cuppy is a DJ, philanthropist and global music producer and has been inducted into Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30.