Discover how you can keep connected to Cambridge during these unprecedented times.
Whether we graduated a few years ago or a few decades ago, the desire for learning and intellectual curiosity keeps us together.
Trish Mullen (Downing 1998), Cambridge Society of Victoria
In the space of just a few months our lives have changed dramatically. We have all had to adapt to a new reality – one of social distancing, face masks and video calls. Into our conversations have come terms like ‘lockdown’, ‘furlough’ and ‘R value’, and ordinary activities like planning a holiday, going to the cinema or perhaps returning to Cambridge for a punt along the Backs, seem to belong to another time. But what does this ‘new normal’ look like for the University’s alumni programme?
“Just as everyone else has had to adapt, so we too have had to adapt – but our top priority, to help you retain your lifelong connection to Cambridge, remains the same”, says Bruce Mortimer, Director of Alumni Engagement and Events. “In the 2019 Alumni Survey you told us that you wanted more opportunities to connect with Cambridge and we are committed to achieving that, even if these connections have to be made virtually rather than physically.
“That’s why we’ve created a single destination (www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/news/coronavirus) where you can find all the digital resources available to you including podcasts, Departmental webinars, help with home-schooling, journals, virtual tours and ways to connect with your College. This year we also launched a new website for our alumni magazine, CAM, to give you even more ways of learning the latest in Cambridge thinking.”
“Central to the ethos of our programme for alumni is the idea that your time spent studying at Cambridge is just the beginning of a lifelong journey of learning with the Collegiate University,” says Mortimer. “This is why we’re always looking to give alumni the opportunity to hear from leading academics on the most important issues of the day.”
With this in mind the University has launched a brand-new webinar series, Cambridge Conversations, which focuses on the Covid-19 pandemic. Alumni are able to take part in the live discussion by asking questions of the panel. The latest episode which featured statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, has already been viewed 6,832 times. The University will also be continuing the Global Cambridge series online.
Some of the latest editions to the collection of University podcasts include The History of Now which sees the History Faculty putting past and present into dialogue, and the Science & Policy Podcast by the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) whose latest series, Science, Policy and Pandemics has been produced in partnership with the Cambridge Infectious Diseases and the Cambridge Immunology Network.
Margaret Campbell (Newnham 1966), Chair of the Alumni Advisory Board says: “At this moment, when we find ourselves limited to our homes, our towns, or the borders of our country, it is easy to feel that somehow our lives have become more limited, but we must remember that there is no restriction on our imagination and our curiosity. Let us take this opportunity to get a better understanding of the world and be entertained and inspired by the online resources available to alumni.”
A question of time
Individual circumstances mean our experiences of this time of upheaval and change may look very different. While some alumni may be busier than ever juggling childcare alongside their job, others may have much more time on their hands than they would wish.
The University has always aimed to be a place that inspires and engages with everyone – from age three to 93. As such, Departments, Faculties and museums across the University have created a number of a resources to help with home-schooling. You can find all these resources along with advice on home-schooling from the Faculty of Education on the alumni website.
For others, now may be the perfect time to pursue your own research interests or invest in professional development. As alumni you have access to a wide range of journals and can access CAMcard discounts on a number of courses.
In it together
Alumni Groups have long been vital to sustaining the life of the alumni community around the world. Today it is no different, and with many looking to find inventive new ways to keep local alumni connected, they are more important than ever before.
Trish Mullen (Downing 1998) who looks after communications for the Cambridge Society of Victoria, explains how she brought alumni together despite not being able to meet in person: “We sent out a ‘digital care package for the brain’ – the most popular link was to Cambridge Conversations!
“At a time when there are millions of options for online events or activities, it is interesting that we are all drawn back to Cambridge. Whether we graduated a few years ago or a few decades ago, the desire for learning and intellectual curiosity keeps us together.”
You can visit our website to find out what digital activities your local Alumni Group is hosting.
Colleges, museums and more
Colleges have always been key to the Cambridge experience and are often where the firmest of friendships are made. Many Colleges have created a range of online resources to help you stay connected to your College community. These range from updates on College pets, to choir performances, to tours of the gardens.
Matthew Moss (St John's 1990), Director of External Relations and Development at Homerton, describes how they have attempted to “replicate the intellectual breadth and serendipity of a Cambridge College in noughts and ones” through the Homersphere, a new website to keep the dispersed community together.
"Lockdown has tried hard to kill serendipity, but that’s the whole reason Colleges are such brilliant inventions, so we're not taking it lying down,” says Moss. “The Homersphere is a new online-only magazine – articles, audio and video too – by our researchers, written for students and alumni. It offers topics from VE Day to AI via David Foster Wallace, the foundation of Israel, Boris Johnson's Churchillian rhetoric, and the risks of DIY plumbing in a pandemic. Come for the poetry, stay for the mad painting of non-crepuscularity in the tropics. Learn something you didn't intend."
And finally, until the University can welcome you back in person, don’t forget you can still visit Cambridge virtually. Although the days of wandering around the Fitzwilliam Museum or strolling through a college forecourt feel a far cry from our present-day reality, there are plenty of virtual tours of the University, Colleges, museums and gardens online, so you can still take that trip down memory lane wherever you may be in the world.
Browse the online resources available to you as alumni.