Welcome to term, everyone!
Thanks to an enormous amount of work by the Student Representative Committee and staff, this year’s Freshers have arrived, been enrolled, and offered a fortnight of activities to welcome them to Oxford. I am so grateful and impressed by the good humour and creativity which goes into making our Freshers’ Fortnight special.
On Saturday, those same Freshers will be matriculating, so College will again be full of folk wearing sub fusc, having formal photographs taken and subsequently providing entertainment and great photo opportunities for Oxford’s tourists.
Before welcoming Freshers, Victoria Cox and I visited Singapore:
and Hong Kong:
for an exciting week of meetings. In each case we made new connections with and between alumni and College supporters and gathered ideas for how best to maintain and deepen those connections.
We have also had an informal London gathering in what turned out to be one of the loudest venues yet on the night. Great location, but we will try for somewhere a little quieter next time!
We flew back from Hong Kong into Heathrow early – very early - on 24 September and straight into a ‘typical’ day: University Committee meeting, the opening of our café (see below), and, in the evening, a lecture at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies by Tun Dr. Mahathir, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, on ‘The Challenge of Good Governance in the Muslim World’ (after the speech and dinner he was heading off to speak at the UN). The next day saw Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum and a founding director of the Humboldt Forum, lecturing in the Sheldonian on his new book ‘Living with The Gods’. The day after that there was a reception at the Weston Library to thank the University’s out-going Registrar, Professor Ewan McKendrick, for all that he had done in that role. Ewan was extremely helpful to me in finding my way around the University when I arrived, two years ago, and I am very grateful for his warmth and support.
That first week back from our alumni visits really reinforced for me, yet again, the range of opportunities there are in Oxford to meet, and learn from, people making change in every area of life.
At the end of the week we had another very enjoyable Degree Day celebration and I was delighted to attend Green Templeton College’s 10th anniversary Foundation Dinner with David.
Week 0 brought the Introductory meeting with Freshers sitting on windowsills and peering out from behind pillars as the Hall overflows with students. As always, I was grateful to colleagues for being present, and for our College Counsellor, Laura Evers, and College Doctor, Laurence Leaver, for joining us and explaining the range of services available to students.
This week we have also welcomed new Fellows, Junior Research Fellows and Members of Common Room and it has been a great pleasure to see them getting to know new colleagues and generally engaging with College life. Sam Gyimah, the Universities Minister, held an open Q and A session at Somerville College, with a number of very relevant questions about access to postgraduate education at Oxford.
As senior sponsor, I attended the introductory meeting of the OxWiC student society for women interested in a career in consulting: https://www.facebook.com/OxWomenConsulting/
And I was delighted to attend an event at the Old Fire Station to discuss their work and plans, and then see a performance linked to the exhibition The Road Behind, The Road Ahead. The evening of suffragist plays was followed by a panel discussion with academics and performers which highlighted how little is known about this aspect of early 20th century theatre. If you don’t know about this organisation, you should – it really is unique to Oxford and changing lives through art: https://oldfirestation.org.uk/
Whilst I must try not to have too many lattes and bacon rolls, the new St Cross café is a great addition to our catering offer: for those of you in Oxford, it’s open from 8.30 am to 4.00pm , Monday to Friday and has all the good things you’d expect. It’s also a great place to sit and chat or settle down with a laptop – and cheaper than local cafes, so do spread the word and pop in when you need a snack.
Whilst the University was gearing up for a new term, a number of those organisations of which I am a Trustee were preparing for a new year with AwayDays and planning sessions. Historic Royal Palaces discussed new opportunities and the challenges facing the tourism sector at present; the Horniman Museum’s new Director, Nick Merriman, looked to the future having taken over from a great Chief Executive, Janet Vitmayer, who had been with the organisation for many years – a challenge to which he is more than equal; and Salisbury Cathedral (where I am a Lay Canon, rather than Trustee), reflected on how deeply it has been involved in helping the City recover from the double shock of Novichok poisoning incidents.
On a lighter note, it was great fun to join the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London for the launch of his book: the cake was incredible! And did you know that Tim Shaw – whose Raven is currently on display in our West Wing – studied the birds at the Tower before making the piece?
We are looking forward to welcoming supporters to College for the Audrey Blackman lunch on Saturday, 20 October, to be followed by a concert in Pusey House. Our first St Cross talk of term takes place on 23 October when new Knoop Junior Research Fellow Dr Cristina Martinez will talk on 'Curing blindness: gene therapy for X-linked retinitis pigmentosa' (booking here) and there will be a Diwali-based Hall. The first of the twice-termly AfOx Insakas takes place on 26 October which sadly I will be missing (Van Morrison/Robert Plant – pre-booked!) and there are many more talks to come in College throughout the term. Look out for internal, Facebook and Twitter notices.
Dinner guests this term include three new Heads of House and their partners: Neil Mendoza (Oriel) on 19 October, Tim Hitchens (Wolfson) on 7 November, and Helen Mountfield (Mansfield) on 27 November. Elizabeth Kiss, the new Warden of Rhodes House, will be with us for lunch on 22 October. From the City rather than the University, we have Louise Chantal of the Oxford Playhouse with us on 24 October, and Joanna Simons, Chair of Experience Oxford and ex-Chief Executive of Oxfordshire County Council, on 12 December. From outside Oxford, Mervi Kultamaa a Finnish diplomat, on 24 October, John Barnes, the Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces and his partner on 2 November, and Loyd Grossman and Melissa Knatchbull at Founders’ Feast on 23 November. All our visitors are keen to meet students, Fellows and guests, so please, if you are around College, do not be shy in coming and talking to them.
And finally… here’s a St Cross College luggage tag, clashing horribly with my luggage, in Singapore airport en route to Taipei. Where have your luggage tags been recently?