Emerson Csorba came to Cambridge in 2014 when he was awarded a Cambridge Trust Scholarship to undertake an MPhil in Politics, Development and Democratic Education.
Growing up in Canada as the oldest of three boys in a single-mother family, Emerson recalls the "backyard chats" he would share with his mother about the prospect of one day attending Cambridge, despite being the first in his family to attend university. As a talented and hard-throwing left-handed pitcher growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, however, Emerson originally envisioned playing professional baseball, and so spent his teens balancing studies with an intensive training schedule and travel across Canada and the United States. But persistent injuries turned his attention firmly to education, pursuing a path that would eventually lead to winning the Cambridge Trust Scholarship and the opportunity to channel his competitiveness in education and the business world.
Although Cambridge had long been on Emerson's radar, it was not until he received a surprise e-mail whilst in an Edmonton internet cafe that he knew he would be going. Talking about that day, he said "It was in late May 2014 that I received an e-mail from the Cambridge Trust notifying me that I'd been selected as one of their scholarship recipients. Thankfully I was in the corner of the room, out of most people's eyesight, because I definitely had some tears in my eyes. It was a moment I will never forget, and was completely unexpected."
Now a Cambridge Trust Scholar at Pembroke College, Emerson Csorba is on the verge of completing his Masters degree in the Faculty of Education, where he is working, along with his supervisor Dr. Ian Frowe and Course Co-ordinator Dr. Hilary Cremin, on a thesis on the philosophy of social entrepreneurship in higher education.
In the relatively short period of time he has been in Cambridge, Emerson has made his mark, becoming one of the World Economic Forum's main liaisons in Cambridge through its Global Shapers network, serving as a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph, helping lead Cambridge University Entrepreneurs and, most recently, being one of several global young leaders invited by the Office of Lynn de Rothschild to the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism in London. Participants at the event, which focused on ensuring that capitalism remains an “engine for broadly shared prosperity,” included Bill Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Mark and Diana Carney and the Cambridge Trust’s Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales.
"My work at Cambridge focuses on notions of autonomy, freedom and progress, all of which are relevant to the way in which workplaces, jobs and even cities are changing," Emerson states. Since he arrived in Cambridge, Emerson has written regular commentaries on these topics - ranging from loyalty and obligation to the pursuit of the good life - in the Telegraph Education section.
In addition to his studies here in Cambridge, Emerson has been putting his entrepreneurial skills to good use. Living in Pembroke College, his room has served as the ‘Cambridge office’ for Gen Y Inc., a workplace culture consultancy he has helped grow over the last 18 months, which has rapidly become one of Canada's most influential organisations in the future of work.
Emerson and his co-founder Eric Termuende have worked with universities, multinationals, start-ups, charities and government entities in helping them re-imagine their workplaces, and have assisted companies in understanding how to articulate their cultures through a proprietary product they launched in January 2015. Notably, Emerson and Eric were guest speakers at the Cambridge Judge Business School where they were asked to talk about their entrepreneurial motivations. This opportunity arose after Eric, who was recently named as one of the AMEX Top 100 Under 35 Global Emerging Innovators, was invited to accompany a former Canadian Prime Minister in representing Canada at the Ditchley Foundation, an organisation established in 1958 which brings together leading practitioners and experts from around the world to help shape policy on the major international issues of the day. Following this, the duo then completed a business trip across seven North American cities, which led to Gen Y Inc. winning a contract to service the Canadian forestry sector, which needs 60,000 new workers by 2020.
Laughing about the time zone difference, Emerson acknowledges it has its advantages and disadvantages: "The benefit is that you can extend the working day: 6 am to 3 pm is usually spent on Cambridge studies and London business development; 3 pm and later is focused on calls with clients and leads across North America, followed by more reading and writing in the evening. I usually sleep late, but never does this feel like work.”
Emerson credits much of his success to his mother Marla, who balanced multiple jobs and instilled in him "the self-confidence to take risks, and to be the best version of myself that I can be. Ultimately, your mindset, what you tell yourself you can achieve, dictates what you do in life. My mum would often say ‘We’ll find a way,’ even in very tough situations, and this mentality around making ends meet regardless of the circumstances translates well into business and many other parts of life. You never know what life will throw at you. Sometimes you just need to roll with the punches and turn a negative into a positive.” The results are clear: Emerson has at the age of 23 run four marathons, served as a keynote speaker at the United Nations and helped build an online magazine, The Wanderer Online, which in its first year produced 1200 articles with a 75-person volunteer staff. He has been approached by the World Economic Forum and asked to share his experience on workplace culture and leadership at events like the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism and at the Annual Curators’ Meeting in Geneva.
But in Emerson’s view, “a person’s accomplishments only tell you so much"; instead he considers a sense of humour, friendship and long walks as "the things that really matter at the end of the day”. He says “what matters is what you do with the opportunities you have been given. A good life can only be achieved through the presence, friendship and love of others. It is how you go about your work that matters, and the best experiences are shared with others." He lists his two fondest experiences in his time since coming to Cambridge as covering 120 kilometres hiking on a three-day trip to Ireland with a classmate, and welcoming his mother to England for the first time in January, when they spent two weeks travelling across the UK, Ireland and Italy.
Reflecting on his experiences at Cambridge, Emerson says "They are very hard to describe; the change that has taken place in less than a year is enormous. Cambridge is a magical place and can transform a person's mind-set simply based on the types of people who walk its halls. I am immensely grateful to the Cambridge Trust, and to the Faculty of Education and individuals like Hilary Cremin and Ian Frowe, who have afforded me these opportunities. It has changed my family DNA and I hope will help to provide my children one day with opportunities I could never have imagined until only recently."
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Emerson in business, politics and education as a Cambridge Trust alumnus: we feel sure it will be bright!