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CU Hosts Trip to Oxford Analytica Conference 

By Catherine Elvy, Staff Writer

A group of participants in Christian Union’s ministry for professionals recently ventured to the United Kingdom, where they enjoyed access to the renowned Oxford Analytica Conference.

“It was absolutely fascinating,” said Scott Crosby, director of Christian Union New York. “The conference especially was intriguing in terms of the levels of discussion, connections made, and fellowship.”

Six young professionals joined Crosby for the annual conference on global issues, which was held in September at Oxford University. During the event, about 250 chief executive officers, policymakers, and other leaders gathered to probe the implications of urgent geopolitical and macroeconomic issues.

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In coordination with the founder of Oxford Analytica, Crosby arranged for the emerging professionals to attend the conference, which is typically reserved for select executives. Founded in 1975, Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws upon a network of industry experts and scholars to counsel clients on strategy, performance, and the backstory of complex markets. 

Also joining the Christian Union contingent was Dennis Sweeney (Princeton ’75, Harvard MBA ’81), president of California-based Newport Consulting Partners. In addition, Megan Sweeney, a recent graduate of The New School’s Parsons School of Design, accompanied her father. 

To help process  the conference’s weighty, complex topics, Crosby placed a strong emphasis upon attending ancillary sessions featuring small-group discussions.

Major themes of the 2017 conference centered upon terrorism, cybersecurity, social media, and Brexit, the pending withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. 

Breakout speakers included Lord Stephen Green, a former Minister of State for Trade and former chairman of HSBC Holdings, and Michael Cook, founder, chief executive officer, and chief investment officer of Southern-Sun Asset Management. 

Such sessions resulted in rich, inspiring conversations, all aided by the ambiance of the venues, namely, Blenheim Palace and Christ Church, an ancient college nestled within  Oxford University. 

As well, the professionals accompanying Crosby paused during the supplemental sessions to consider the implications of current events and trends through the prism of Christianity. Gordon College President Michael Lindsay (Princeton Ph.D. ’06), an award-winning sociologist and author, joined with Christian Union New York for some of the breakout sessions. 

Crosby noted the Oxford Analytica conference provides an unparalleled experience. “The environment is very heady,” said Crosby. “You’re hearing from experts – former prime ministers, major policy makers, government officials, and heads of multinational companies.”


Crosby wanted to offer the young professionals distinct opportunities to “think very differently about the world at-large and commit themselves to being part of the redemptive plan,” asking them to consider the role of believers in influencing world affairs and culture. Click to Tweet

 That concept resonated with Seamus Merrigan, an administrator in the healthcare education field. “Engagement in public discourse is a means of caring for neighbors at home and abroad, as well as influencing and inspiring others to advance the common good, regardless of sector,” said Merrigan, who is based in Northern Virginia. 

Andrew Ripley, co-founder and chief executive officer of PurposeMatch, echoed those comments. “If anyone should be involved in social impact, it should be Christians,” said Ripley of New York City. “This is a way to join God in the renewal of all things.”

“To have the opportunity to gain insights from top experts helps you understand the world on a deeper level, so that you can find practical ways to run organizations in a way that makes a difference.”

As importantly, the conference provided invaluable networking opportunities.

Among attendees, Brent Blonkvist of New York City left with a “stronger grasp of truth, a heightened sense of perspective, and actionable ideas to help add value to the sector in which I work and the world which I inhabit.”

Blonkvist, the head of strategic partnerships for social-content platform Odyssey, said the conference provided stimulating interactions, including ones that helped to broaden his worldview. 
The scope of the material at the heart of the Oxford Analytica Conference reminded Blonkvist of the dual roles of Christians in the workplace; Namely, believers are called to educate themselves on “what is happening in the world, so that we may be used as conduits for God’s glory to spread the light of Christ to all parts of the world, both in missionary fields and in the marketplace.”

Ultimately, for Crosby, the trip served as an invaluable tool in Christian Union’s efforts to foster leadership development. The conference was “not designed to be a one-off experience, rather a trajectory of thinking differently about  the world,” he said.