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My Hughes Hall: From student to Vice President

Professor Nidhi Singal tells the story of her time at Hughes Hall, the college at which she has spent more than half her life, in pictures and memories.

Thanks, Hughes Hall, for celebrating the many incredible women who shape this college. We stand on the shoulders of some amazing trail blazers!

This poster celebrating our first principal, Elizabeth Phillips Hughes, says it all. I am proud to be part of this community.

This month (March, 2023) I complete being a Hughesian for more than half my life! This is an appreciation for the college which has shaped me: a chance to celebrate and reflect on “how it started and how it’s going” (and the little things in between).

MPhil matriculation 1999 with friends on the back lawns; PhD graduation 2004 in front of the Margaret Wileman Building (with my dad).

The college estates have expanded significantly over the last few years, but this oldest red brick building remains my firm favourite.

With my supervisor Dr Martyn Rouse in 2004; and attending the Supervisors’ Dinner at Hughes Hall in 2019 (as a supervisor myself).

Some of the remarkable (women) scholars in my research group 2022: Aliya Khalid; Laraib Niaz, Stephanie Nowack, Camilla Chaudhary, Thilanka Wijesinghe, Basirat R-Shuaib, Sophia D’Angelo, Patricia (Pat) Kwok, Nikita Jha, Sakina Jafri, Sabilah Alwani, Seema Nath and (the wonderful men) Surya Pratap Deka, Jwalin Patel.

My students’ journeys are central to my own development.

Hosting my first formal hall as a Duty Fellow on being elected a Research Fellow, 2004; hosting the Commemoration Dinner (the President had COVID) as Vice President, 2022.

Being a Research Fellow taught me invaluable lessons on navigating life as an ethnic minority woman in a very white academic space. I found my purpose (and also learnt what I didn’t wish to become).

Diwali Formals at Hughes: we organised our first dinner in 1999 with (former) fabulous Chef John and the lovely catering team (the kulfi still brings the same joy!). 2002: another Diwali dinner. And, Diwali 20 years later in 2022.

We hand painted Ganeshas on the walls.

Back in the years when the library was in the Council Room, and the dining hall was in the Desmond Hawkins Room.

Christmas formal in 1999 and 2002: the carpet and the curtains have changed but the tree still appears in the same spot every year!

None of the above would have been remotely possible without the scholarship(s) from the Cambridge Trusts. In 1999, at my first dinner organised by the Trust. In 2019, thanking the amazing team (led by the incredible Helen Pennant), as a newly promoted Professor.

Many acts of thoughtfulness have shaped me, while exclusions have spurred me on to bring change.

My eternal gratitude to the many students, staff and fellows who support(ed) and inspire(d) me (and those who talk to my office plants and indulge my endless reflections on life).

Simply, thank you Hughes Hall for what you stand for and seek to be.

May you continue to grow stronger as an inclusive, innovative and impactful college. Arriving as a young woman, far from home, with no links to this University or island and no idea about academia, you have been an enabler!

By Hughes Hall Vice President, Professor Nidhi Singal: www.hughes.cam.ac.uk/about/our-people/seniors-members/nidhi-singal/.