Ömür Kula Çapan, 2003 alumna of the Sabancı University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Undergraduate Program in Economics and 2006 alumna of the Graduate Program in Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design, has been selected for the “World Fellows” program organized for 20 years by Yale University, one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world.
You can read below our interview with Ömür Kula Çapan, who ranks among the 16 leaders invited to the World Fellows program this year.
Hello, first of all, we would like to congratulate you. Can you tell us a bit about the “World Fellows” program?
Ö.K.Ç: The Yale University, Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows program is an international fellowship program for rising global leaders. The most important eligibility criterion is to prove that you have accumulated considerable expertise in your profession, ang gained sufficient experience, in other words, you have reached sufficient level of maturity in your professional career. That’s because this program promises to offer opportunities for individuals who have reached the top level in their career to move to the next level where they can be more effective, or make a global move or maybe switch to a different career. The most natural question that we should ask ourselves in every stage of life is “what’s next”, I mean, “what should I target now”. However, this is not an easy question to ask after you have certain achievements. Asking this question requires a great deal of courage and the answer to this question is a very difficult one, because if you are good at what you do, it means that your journey to the top is a shortened one. You may be at a stage where you will need to build the career ladder yourself if you are at the top and need to go beyond. At that point in time, there is the need to get enlightened, take a deep breath, stop and think. This program offers you exactly the breath that you need. While doing so, it commits to providing you with the new fields and new ideas that may be your new areas of interest and let you go for new discoveries. This is an intellectual break before you start your second life. It is definitely the case for me. As a professional, I have reached a good position in my sector and set up my own business. I have a great partner, the work we produce is considered of superior quality, and I am where I want to be in terms of professional satisfaction. I have so far considered it my duty to volunteer for non-profit associations and foundations in order to serve this sector. However, there is a risk of repetition at this point. I always think to myself how I can grow my vision from here, grow my business, and transform creative industries. To get there, this program will give me the time, space, means and - most importantly - extraordinary teammates to think with.
What’s the aim of the World Fellows program?
Ö.K.Ç: The aim of this program is to bring together 16 selected leaders as World Fellows from around the world to reside at Yale for 5 months to enable the fellows to establish a strong network, and to make the complete curriculum of the university available to these 16 fellows in line with their dreams and visions for the future. We will determine our own curriculum and study whatever we want. And, more importantly, we will learn from one another. We will be part of a huge network of the World Fellows graduating from this program. The aim of this program to offer the necessary emotional courage, mental capabilities and humanitarian framework to the individuals whom the program builders suspect of having the innermost courage or competence to change the world. I use the word “suspect”, because you never know who can change the world, but there are always the usual suspects among us :)
How about criteria of selection as a World Fellow? Do you make an application yourself or are you nominated?
Ö.K.Ç: Actually, I can say both; in the case that you are nominated, you have to make an application, because you have to prove that you want it, you cannot be forced to be a World Fellow. The application process is all about getting to know you, who you are. Your character matters more than your achievements, or at least, that’s what I felt. At the end of the day, all the candidates are professionals above a certain level, and eliminating some applicants requires looking at some other criteria than professional achievements. I believe creativity, character, life perspective, and passions play a big role in the selection process. The world is full of leaders who pretend. Fake perspectives locked in outdated principles of diplomacy, people abstaining from telling the truth, afraid of everyone, and wanting to keep good relations with every related party are no longer contemporary. Vis-à-vis the world’s problems, and more importantly those who create these problems, there is the need for new generation perspectives to replace those that fail to criticize because of falling into the pits of politeness. I believe this forms the backbone of the selection criteria, that’s what I understand from the questions I was asked. What is needed is courage and freshness.
What will be your mission as a World Fellow?
Ö.K.Ç: I think the most important mission is to stick to the mission discussed in the application process. The rest is directly related to what we can add to it. We are expected to continue to work in an intercultural and international way, with regards to both our current jobs or businesses, and what we will do going forward. There are bureaucrats, politicians, engineers, and activists among us. Another mission that we have is to maintain our network and show strong solidarity, carry what we do to the next level, and do better for the world, for the sectors and the countries we come from.
Last but not least, what’s the importance of being a part of this program for you? What are you planning to do as a 2021 World Fellow?
Ö.K.Ç: For me, that was kind of some big news. I am not an academic, politician or bureaucrat. I am doing a job that serves the system. I worked as an advertising expert, then a banker, and as a consultant for years. I am currently providing management consultancy with a focus on brand and design, which is a rising niche in the world; but still, it is not a field of activity that such programs are used to. That’s why I was extremely surprised and incredibly happy when I received the invitation. I believe this is a huge opportunity. The dilemmas of Turkey must have played an important role in my invitation to this program. The program owners must have considered the profile that I have in this geography and thought that I could make an impact both in the sphere of my profession and beyond. I also think secretly that I can make such an impact. And now, I feel obliged to do so with a different responsibility. I feel they have given me a homework assignment to do what I dream of. I hope to be able to do it, and see I can do more than what I can do today.
Thank you very much for this pleasant interview.