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Rebuilding our community

A welcome from Dr Anthony Freeling, President

A very warm welcome to the new academic year. As many of you will know, Hughes Hall is a vibrant and supportive community composed of around 900 students, nearly 100 staff, and 250 fellows and senior members. It is fantastic to see increasing numbers of you all in and around College. My mantra, this year as previously, is that Hughes Hall is an academic community and a community is all about people. Everything we are doing this year is focused on rebuilding this community and on doing so respectfully and responsibly after such a challenging 18 months. We intend to deliver the events, inspiration and opportunities expected of a Cambridge college whilst ensuring the support, responsiveness and patience every member of our community deserves in a ‘new normal’. I hope our students in particular will find the friendship, support and intellectual challenge they seek within and about our ‘walls’.

I’m pleased to introduce you to Dr Tori McKee, Senior Tutor, who joined us recently and is already making a significant contribution to our tutorial team and wider student-orientated activity. Professor Nidhi Singal, whom many of you will already know, has been appointed as Vice-President and Jonathan Newby, currently Chief Operating Officer of the Science Museum Group, has accepted the role of Bursar and will join us later in the year. These key appointments will provide a new energy to the College and a stability to our continuing recovery.

All members of Hughes Hall are once again welcome and encouraged to return to College when they can; and also welcome to bring visitors. Matriculation dinners, induction and welcome events are going ahead for our hundreds of new students with a determined sense of business-as-usual. We are working with the MCR to engage all our students in this rebuilding effort – seeking to find ways to make it possible for them to hold the full spectrum of activities, large and small, that will allow them to build bonds with each other and with us; and appealing to everybody’s mutual engagement in keeping each other safe in a spirit of courtesy and kindness.

This time last year I spoke of crisis planning, safety signs and one-way systems. I also committed (some said optimistically) to “being able to say we weathered the storm in a year’s time”. Well, I think we have done just that, so far. Our students produced the best-ever results earlier in the summer and we have our largest intake of undergraduates this year – double that of five years ago. We didn’t just survive the worst of the pandemic, thanks to the people of Hughes Hall, we have continued to deliver against our educational mission, and are still smiling. And the safety signs have mostly gone. We are nevertheless nowhere near ready to declare victory. This autumn and winter will undoubtedly be challenging once again for the country, so we must do our part to remain vigilant. The pandemic is not over, but we are shifting for now into a mode of ‘living with COVID’.

This resilience is due to everyone who has continued to keep our College clean and well maintained, who produces our fine food, who administers to and supports our students in so many ways, and who provides the oversight and governance that keep us on the right track strategically…and everything in-between. It is also a result of the stoicism and positivity of our student community who have risen to the many new challenges thrown at us by the pandemic, from quarantining and moving social occasions online to supporting isolating friends and regular testing.

We are overwhelmed by the kindness, positivity and fortitude of everyone in our community. Thank you for being part of Hughes Hall. I look forward to seeing you all soon.