On Tuesday 25th February, Dr Agnes Kaposi, Holocaust survivor and emeritus professor in electrical engineering, returned to Rockwood Academy to share her life experiences with students at the school, helping to upkeep Rockwood’s CORE values of Collaboration, Opportunity, Respect and Excellence.
Dr Agnes delivered two assemblies, outlining her life as a young girl in which she was subjected to the hatred of Nazi Germany just because she was born Jewish. The professor sought to demonstrate how we can recognise the similarities between herself and the students at Rockwood rather than focusing on the differences, aligning with CORE’s third value, “Respect.” Dr Agnes stressed that as our differences aren’t necessarily based upon who we are, but what we do in life, comparisons were drawn between the successful emeritus professor and the ambitious students at Rockwood; students recognised how they are all granted the same “Opportunity” at the school, despite any differences they may have.
Although we are born with differences, how we live our lives brings us together, as Dr Agnes explains: “Who you are – whether you are a boy or a girl, whether you have blonde hair or brown hair, is an accident. It is out of your control. But what you do control is your achievements. We shouldn’t judge others on who they are, but what they do.” The main message of Dr Agnes’ speech was that “we should be proud – not of who we are, but what we achieve.”
The professor uses this example to demonstrate her success as an electrical engineer, despite the underrepresentation of women in this field. Later in the day, Dr Agnes delivered a STEM workshop in which she had a conversation with pupils about her career in engineering, and what it takes to become an engineer. Dr Agnes explained that as, once again, we shouldn’t judge people on who they are, but what they do, she was determined to overcome the discrimination against women in the profession.
“Somebody once asked me why I had so many women in my department of engineering. I said that I employed them because they were the best at the job, not because they were women,” states Dr Agnes. One student asked whether if women now had an advantage in the field to fix its past bad reputation of discrimination against female employees. Dr Agnes replied that “I don’t agree with discrimination of any kind, and that includes so-called positive discrimination. Men and women have an equal opportunity now as they are judged on their ability, just as everyone should be.” This “Collaboration” with such a special guest was a great chance for students to gain an insight into such an exciting profession, and this unique opportunity is a great example of Rockwood’s “Excellence.”
Many students thanked Agnes for sharing her experiences with them. “Meeting Agnes was a great opportunity to learn about a career in the engineering field, and how to overcome challenges in life. If you really want to achieve something, you can, because it doesn’t matter who you are. You shouldn’t let anything stop you,” one student said. “We’ve learnt about how respecting each other creates equal opportunities for all.”