The Master's Blog: Week Five
Halfway point: Michaelmas 2016
Week 5: and more than halfway through the first term of the year. More firsts and much more to look forward to. Some highlights:
The trees in Wellington Square are really shedding their leaves now. Rosie wants to bring as many as possible home with her:
We have had three introductory dinners for new students and their advisers. Judging by the buzz, they were much appreciated. (We will be looking into whether there are cost-effective ways of introducing acoustic improvements – particularly important when we have a full Hall).
Professor Stanley Ulijaszek gave the 3rd week St Cross Talk on obesity and inequality and joined us for a beautifully decorated Diwali Hall. Later in 3rd week we had the pleasure of welcoming the Vice-Chancellor to the College for a dinner to mark the visit of guests from the Uehiro Foundation. This followed a remarkable lecture at Merton College by Professor Michael Ignatieff. Thanks to our Fellow Professor Julian Savulescu, Director of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, for making a wonderful evening possible.
The Halloween party for families on 29 October was a great success with happy children enjoying the traditional entertainments on offer. Pass the parcel never fails! The decorations remained in Hall for a few days:
And what a treat to have an impromptu performance at a special dinner by Shun Hioki, a member of the University Orchestra.
I have met a wide range of experts and had discussions with the SRC on the welfare provision in the wider University and College. There are many different models and it is clear that this is an important and topical issue.
I have been enjoying getting to know first-year students over the past few weeks and am excited by the passion which they bring to their subjects and their time at Oxford. We hope that St Cross provides a welcome home base and a place to return to on future visits.
A frustrating hiatus in building work was due to the financial difficulties of our main contractor. The position is now clear and work is pressing ahead. We expect more students to move into the 3rd floor of the building on 14 November. The main focus will then switch to the ground floor spaces. We are still on track to have the whole building available by the beginning of next term. The removal of the external builders’ gear will make a huge difference and I’m really looking forward to a clean site in the New Year.
I am delighted to become Chair of the Board of Visitors of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. I have loved the museum for years and this role is a great fit with my background.
Today’s St Cross Talk by Professor Alexander Betts on The Economic and Political Lives of Refugees is now fully booked. Tomorrow afternoon is Open Day for prospective graduate students. In the evening my guest at dinner will be Dame Jenny Abramsky who, after a glass-ceiling-busting career at the BBC, has now moved on to governance roles in a number of public and voluntary sector bodies – previously the Heritage Lottery Fund and the University of London, now the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Ballet.
Next week’s St Cross Talk by Professor Jan Toporowski - Europe learns to live with debt and Brexit -will be particularly topical.
On 18 November my dinner guests will be Sir Clive and Lady Margaret Booth, and Nick and Sue Way. Sir Clive took Oxford Brookes from Polytechnic to University, is a previous Chair of the Big Lottery Fund and a neighbour of the College. Nick was previously Director General of the Historic Houses Association. (I know both Clive and Nick better than their wives, so apologies for apparent sexism).
And, of course, on 19 November, we host the full day HAPP conference on the History of the Moon.
Much to look forward to!
PS: And finally: gown-gate. Red faces all round at the suppliers, but I am now appropriately gowned at dinner and other formal occasions.