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New Vice-Chancellor meets alumni

Professor Louise Richardson, who became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford last month, met alumni and answered their questions at a popular event in London. She described her academic career, Oxford’s strengths, and emphasised the ambassadorial role of alumni during the reception at the Royal Institution. Professor Richardson also met and spoke to former students before her main address.

Baroness Shephard  of Northwold (St Hilda’s, 1958), chair of the University of Oxford’s Alumni Board, welcomed the new Vice-Chancellor at the occasion on 3 February, and praised her ‘glittering academic career’ in the areas of terrorism and international relations.

Professor Richardson, speaking without notes, spoke of her personal journey, including her upbringing and academic career, and voiced her wish to hear from alumni about their views. She began by describing her childhood in rural Ireland as one of seven children. Highlighting ‘the power of education’, Professor Richardson mentioned her convent school, her studies at Trinity College, Dublin, and her gratitude for benefitting from scholarships, which paid for her studies in the United States, where she gained an MA in Political Science from UCLA, and an MA and PhD in Government from Harvard.

Speaking to the 230-strong audience, Professor Richardson explained how she remained at Harvard to teach and research terrorism. From 2001 to 2008 she served as the Executive Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, where she was instrumental in its transformation into an interdisciplinary centre promoting scholarship across academic fields and the creative arts. Professor Richardson then served for seven years as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, Scotland, before being appointed as Vice Chancellor of Oxford.

Reflecting upon her appointment at Oxford, Professor Richardson said: “I feel extraordinarily privileged to have this position. Oxford remains such an extraordinary magnet for talented students and amazing academics. The task for me is to ensure that we stay at the top of the game.”

Addressing questions from the alumni audience, Professor Richardson spoke of the University of Oxford’s ongoing efforts and commitment to improving diversity in the student body. She spoke about Oxford’s £11 million for bursaries and £6 million for outreach activities, as well as society’s need to invest in early childhood education.

Professor Richardson said: “Our alumni have a critical role in the life of the University as advisers and ambassadors. We want you out there explaining Oxford to people. We want you out there advocating for us. If you have spare time and specialist skills, offer time to the University to serve on specialist bodies.”

Baroness Shephard thanked Professor Richardson for her address and reiterated how alumni can contribute to the University of Oxford’s outreach activities.

Find out more about how you can become an alumni volunteer