Changing the world at Somerville…

I knew it had been a while since I last blogged – and was surprised to see that almost three weeks have passed since the last update. The reason for this, though, is a good one, as most of my time has been spent organising two major College events.

The first was last Saturday, when around 100 Year 12s arrived at Somerville for a College study day. This was the second time that we’d run the study day, an initiative of Somerville’s French tutor, Dr Simon Kemp, but the first time that I’d been involved, and I’d already set myself a challenge by doubling the number of places on offer.

The day was all about giving students a taste of university – and particularly Oxford – life. At the centre were seminars with a maximum of 13 participants, run by College tutors in their own specialisms. This year we were able to offer sessions in seven different subjects: archaeology, biology, French, history, philosophy, physics (which ran twice) and zoology/ecology. Eight of our undergraduates generously gave up six hours of their day to help out, leading with tours of the College and some of the main University sites, answering questions about admissions and what it’s like to study here, and generally being extremely helpful.

We had a great response to the event – over 150 applications from 21 different schools. And despite a couple of worried phone calls from students who were unsure about the schedule for the day, everyone arrived unscathed and raring to go. The feedback again was fantastic, especially for the academic taster sessions, and emails keep coming in from visitors who enjoyed the day.

And the fun didn’t stop there! Yesterday saw a truly memorable arrival in the form of Cindy Gallop, Somervillian, advertising guru and internet entrepreneur. Although based in New York, Cindy decided to come back to Somerville especially to speak to our current students about how they, and Somerville, could change the world. Somerville’s Principal hosted last night’s talk in her house over cheese and wine, and Cindy’s presentation was eagerly anticipated – and it didn’t disappoint.

Armed with a hashtag, #Somervilleftw, Cindy is on a mission to help us transform the way we communicate, using new technology to reach out to prospective applicants. It was a fantastic evening, full of revelations about the amazing things that are going on here and ideas for changing peoples’ perceptions of what Oxford’s really about. One of our students later described Cindy as “possibly the most inspiring woman I’ve ever met” – so I expect you’ll be seeing big things happening at Somerville in 2012.

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