“How we have missed it!”: Alumni Celebration Weekend is first in-person alumni event for 18 months

The College hosted a fully-booked Alumni Reunion and a vibrant Wolfson Garden Party last weekend, bringing the alumni community together for the first time in over 18 months.

The Wolfson College Garden Party

Wolfson's Alumni Reunion is one of the highlights of the events calendar, with alumni from across the world returning to College to reconnect over a weekend of unique celebration.

It was a welcome return for in-person events, but was nonetheless COVID-secure, with guests encouraged to take a lateral flow test before arrival and social distancing and mask-wearing encouraged in internal spaces.

“It’s the people who change the world”

“This year has emphasised to me just how important community is – and how we have missed it,” said Wolfson President, Professor Jane Clarke, in her welcome speech.

Indeed, it was a celebration, not just of the College, but of its people. As Wolfson Fellow, Professor James Wood OBE, remarked: “One of the things that Wolfson does so well is to provide a space for people to grow and realise their potential. It’s people that change the world. It’s not the huge programmes or the big ideas, it’s the people.”

Several alumni were able to reconnect with friends for the first time in many years, enjoying a welcome brunch, special tours of both the gardens and the College, a champagne reception, and black-tie dinner.

“Genuine inclusion and diversity”

In a highlight of the weekend, a panel of Wolfson members joined the current President, Professor Clarke, and former President, Dr Gordon Johnson, to discuss the distinctive contribution Wolfson has made to Cambridge since its inception, as well as the direction the College is going in now.

The panel included Professor James Wood OBE, Annoa Abekah-Mensah (Current undergraduate, HSPS), James Lai (MSt, Architecture and Engineering, 2004), Ibrahim (Ibz) Mohammed (BA, PBS, 2016), Dr Cezary Kucewicz (JRF), and Dr Karen Alvarenga (PhD, Land Economy, 1999).

Dr Kucewicz and Professor James Wood both highlighted the multi-disciplinary strength of the College and the importance of the Interdisciplinary Research Hubs in fostering that unique approach. For Professor Wood, mixing both experiences and disciplines was “critical to the success of driving genuine inclusion and diversity”.

Ibz agreed: “When I think of Wolfson, I think of diversity and inclusion, and equity,” he said. “The College not only acknowledges that we have diversity of talented students, but looks at what we can do to incorporate equitable measures to ensure their experience is as good as it can be. It’s been four years now, but I wear Wolfson like a badge!”

Annoa, the WCSA BAME Rep and a member of the Let’s Talk About Race and Racism initiative, revealed that it was in fact her fellow panellist, Ibz, who inspired her to apply to Wolfson in the first place: “He represented a broken barrier to me,” she said. “I saw someone who was a person of colour, from London, who didn’t sound what I imagined someone from Cambridge to sound like.”

Dr Alvarenga spoke of the freedom the College gave to her to be herself and her pride in later becoming a mentor for a current Wolfson student: “It is so fantastic being able to share my memories and my knowledge,” she said.  

On the Sunday, steel drums band, The Steel Invaders, played the soundtrack to an excellent Wolfson College Garden Party, with all Wolfson members, alumni and their guests arriving to toast to a first opportunity to catch up in well over a year - and to celebrate the first opportunity for the community to dance together in far too long.