It was an inspiring start to 2020 at St Mark’s. An Old Collegian was Australian of the Year. New and returning students brought the excitement of the new academic year. New staff leadership included Professor Peter Tregear (a former Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge) as Dean and Dr Rachel Buxton (St Mark’s 1993-97, and more recently Senior Tutor of Merton College, Oxford) as Director of Learning. Sport was off to a great start, with wins for St Mark’s in inter-collegiate tennis and then swimming. The academic programme and social activities were getting into full swing. All seemed rosy.
And then, of course, the sudden arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the College and our students – as it has to all of us – to which College and students alike have been responding strongly.
While observing social distancing and hygiene requirements, and with universities moving to online study, the College has remained in operation and has continued to provide academic and pastoral support to all students. The College also made it possible for students to choose to stay in residence or return home without financial penalty to themselves. Slightly over half our students have remained in residence, and the atmosphere in College is positive and stable.
Many new initiatives – mainly online – have helped to keep students engaged and connected with their studies as well as with each other during this period of national lockdown.
Alarmingly, however, many of our students and their families suddenly lost jobs and income – for example, casual jobs in hospitality or retail on which students depended to pay their College fees and other expenses – and have faced acute hardship. Many were in danger of having to give up their studies or their place in College. To help them through this, the College has created a COVID-19 Pandemic Student Support Fund.
The life-changing impact of this support for our students is reflected in their deeply moving messages of gratitude
contained in the lead story of this e-newsletter. As one wrote, for example, the Support Fund “has been the difference between living in Adelaide and continuing my studies or deferring and moving back to [regional South Australia].”
If you are able to help our students in need through donating
to this Student Support Fund, both our students and the College will be deeply grateful.
As one has written, expressing the sentiment of all: “thank you from the bottom of my heart”.
The great community service-minded spirit of so many of our current Collegians, including many in need themselves, has been reflected in their desire to help others. Our students have been assisting residents of nearby areas, and other vulnerable Old Collegians and friends of the College. As mentioned below, if you live in Adelaide and would like help from our students at this difficult time, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As we mark Anzac Day and Founders’ Day this weekend – not in the usual ways! – we in the St Mark’s community have much for which to be grateful, and much of which to be proud.
Best wishes from the College – and stay safe!
Professor Don Markwell
Head of College