A Term in the life of the Senior Tutor

by Dr Susan Larsen

My first 100 days as Senior Tutor at Wolfson have been packed with new faces and new experiences, committee meetings and College dinners, many opportunities and a few challenges. 

Dr Susan LArsen and Dr Ana Toribio after matriculation at Wolfson College ambridge

What have been the highlights of my first Term at Wolfson? Almost too many to count:

Attending eight different matriculation events within the first few weeks. The six smaller events were a wonderful way to meet the adventurous students enrolled in part-time Master's courses in subjects ranging from genomic medicine to sustainability leadership. Two larger events took place in Lee Hall and we welcomed a stellar group of 50 new undergraduates and 237 new postgraduates to their studies at Wolfson with a little more pomp and ceremony than usual, but without (alas) the bagpiper I’d hoped would lead our procession from matriculation to pre-dinner drinks.

Meeting the class of 2018 undergraduates for the first time and asking each to share ‘one ambition’ and ‘one memorable thing’ about themselves with the rest of the group. Their answers were bold and sometimes hilarious, but I can’t reveal them here for fear of violating the new General Data Protection Regulations!

Getting a few quiz answers right (but only a few) in the start-of-term WCSA Pub Quiz. The students magnanimously invited Fellows to join their teams for the event, vastly overestimating in most cases our abilities to distinguish between ‘meringue’ and ‘royal icing’ or to name the ingredients in Elvis Presley’s favourite sandwich. My note to self for next year is: bring chocolate for my team to eat during the quiz, as we will not be winning any at its end.

Learning that our proposals for new University teaching posts to be based in Wolfson College had been approved. As a result of a funding scheme sponsored by Trinity College, two new Lecturers – one in Artificial Intelligence & Neuroscience and another in 20th-century Central European History – will join the Wolfson Fellowship in 2019. Each will be expected to direct studies and provide supervisions for our students in these fields.

Negotiating with four different University departments to co-fund PhD studentships. These agreements allow the College to make its Student Fund go further, as our part-funding maximises the impact of donors’ gifts to leverage awards that cover full fees and maintenance for exceptional students.

Chatting with students and new colleagues over informal meals in the Dining Hall about their enthusiasms and academic interests. I was touched and impressed by the number of Wolfson members who share my interests in things Russian, from the first-year undergraduate in Natural Sciences with a passion for Tarkovsky to the student of Sanskrit who also reads Russian poetry.   

Boasting to colleagues in other Colleges about Wolfson’s lovely new Coffee Bar, and the superiority of our flat whites to any other coffee on offer in the city. Not to mention the delights of our honey lavender cake on a winter afternoon.

Next term I am looking forward to unpacking a few more of the 40+ boxes of books that still line the walls of my office and to having individual meetings with each of the first-year undergraduates. One of my principal tasks in the new year will be to formulate a long-term education strategy for the College and it seems to me that the best way to learn what mature undergraduates need and want is to ask them directly.

Thank you to everyone at Wolfson who has made me welcome in too many ways to count.

Photo: Dr Larsen leads a group of matriculants from the Lee Hall, accompanied by Dr Ana Toribio.

Dr Susan Larsen joined Wolfson in September 2018 after eight years as a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College where she served as Director of Studies in Modern Languages,Tutor, Fellow Communications Officer and Acting Senior Tutor. She is Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Slavonic Studies.