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The Principal’s diary: First impressions

8th September 2017

The Principal's diaryI arrived on Sunday, excited, apprehensive and eager to get into my new role.  So many months had passed since my appointment that I had begun to think that I would never get to Somerville – but I’m here, sitting at my desk in my very beautiful office with a glorious view over the quad, and I love it.

What’s not to love?  I am working with wonderful people in a superb College that is part of Oxford University, ranked number one in the world for the second year running, a centre of global excellence.  I am very fortunate to have taken over from the excellent Alice Prochaska who did such a terrific job.  Somerville is in great shape and my task is now to build on her success.

The summer students have left and our own students have not yet arrived so there is a strange sense of calm but it gives me the opportunity to find my way around and to meet with support staff and Fellows.  I have learnt a little about a lot of departments including the Library, Development, IT, the Treasury, HR, Maintenance, Housekeeping, the Lodge, the Nursery and the Academic Office.  I have had a great introduction to the successes and challenges of our academic colleagues.  I have had the warmest of welcomes from all and I have been truly impressed by the professionalism, the enthusiasm and the sense of community.  Many have said that Somerville is like a family to which they feel great loyalty.  It is a family that I am honoured to join.

The ethos that underpins the College, to include the excluded, shines through.  The culture is friendly and everyone wants to contribute to the wellbeing of the College of which the students, both undergraduate and post graduate, are our raison d’etre.  Together we have the privilege of educating and supporting the brightest young people with the most inquisitive minds.  They are our future.

My diary is filling up fast with meetings, also lunches and dinners.  I am learning that food is an important part of academic life so it is fortunate that we have a fantastic chef at Somerville with a university wide reputation.

My obligations to the College must come first, but I am trying to carve out time each week to enable me to continue to participate in the Lords. These are difficult times for our country and the place of universities is open to question.  I want to continue to help shape the future of our country, our universities and the wider society in which our youngsters must flourish.

When you apply for a job you do due diligence and you have many conversations with people who have done similar jobs or who know the people and the institution with which you might work, but you can never be absolutely sure until you arrive.  Whilst I realise that there will be many challenges to meet and difficult issues to confront from time to time, after five days I know in my bones that I am going to grow to love this place as all Somervillians understandably do.

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