STAYING CONNECTED

Alumni groups around the world are coming up with novel ways to stay connected with their communities

Here are some examples we’ve heard about. Do also please send us your ideas to share with the Network.

The Oxford University Society (OUS) of MexicoOUS Ottawa and OUS Washington, D.C have joined forces to organise a series of online webinars for Oxonians across North America. Their first webinar was a talk on the history of the coats of arms of Oxford colleges on 20 August led by Dr John Tepper Marlin (Trinity), author of Oxford College Arms: Intriguing Stories Behind Oxford’s Shields.

Their second webinar - at the end of August - explored the work at Oxford to track the spread of coronavirus and to develop a vaccine against the disease, with Dr Moritz Kraemer, a Research Fellow in Oxford’s Department of Zoology and an Associate of the Oxford Martin Programme on Pandemic Genomics.

The Cambridge Oxford Alumni Club of Hungary (COACH) has adapted its mentoring programme, launched in February, to ensure that these valuable relationships can continue virtually. The group has, so far, matched ten alumni mentors and student mentees, based on areas of joint professional interest.

It was intended that those paired up would meet up during each university holiday, however mentors and mentees are being asked to keep in touch via email, phone or video conferencing instead.

“Responses from mentors and mentees to the programme in general and requests to do online mentoring have been positive,” said Ágnes Szuda.

The group also held its first online event at the start of June - a talk by famous Hungarian mathematician, research psychologist and popular science author Professor László Mérő, on The Psychology and Maths of Crises attended by more than 50 alumni. Listen to the talk here.

Following on from their successful initial virtual Oxbridge vs Harvard/Yale Trivia Challenge match in May and June, The Oxford & Cambridge Society of San Diego arranged a rematch on 20 August, with a further quiz due to be arranged for November. The group also invited alumni to tread the boards virtually and join a special online reading of Shakespeare's Macbeth at the end of July. More than 60 alumni and friends tuned in from Boston to Berkeley to watch the spectacle - which included Elizabethan music between scenes, sound effects and stage directions to bring the reading alive. The group is continuing its readings of some of the Bard's most loved plays with a performance of As You Like It on Friday 30 October. Register here by Friday 23 October for a part in the play.

The Oxford & Cambridge Society of Malaysia held three online talks during June, including a discussion on UK Higher Education: Beyond the Lock Down with Sarah Deverall, Director Malaysia; Matt Durnin, Head of Research and Consultancy, East Asia; and Helen Yang, Senior Marketing Manager, Study UK, East Asia - all from the British Council. The group also hosted an online quiz at the start of July and its AGM and President's cocktails on 23 August at the group's President's residence, with the opportunity for alumni to join the AGM via Zoom. Its last virtual event was an interview with some of the top artists in Malaysia at the start of September, as a preview of the Malaysian virtual arts festival Gerak Angin - an extravaganza of dance, music and theatre. The event was streamed live on the group's YouTube channel.

Meanwhile, OUS Sri Lanka held a Zoom discussion with Oxford DPhil candidate in History Shamara Wettimuny in June on the Rhodes Must Fall movement, with particular emphasis on confronting the legacies of empire.

Oxbridge Muslim Alumni  has joined forces with the Halal Dinner Club to arrange a six part online course with Ustadh Saqib Hussain, re-examining the Qur’an with new insights and a fresh perspective.The sessions will be held over Zoom on the first Saturday of every month, starting in November.
The group also held a virtual 'Singles Mingle' event in July and their book club continued online on 28 June, when they discussed the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahir. More recently, they hosted an online session on Islam and Biomedical Research Ethics on 11 September. The group also held a virtual coffee catch-up on 13 October.

OUS Brazil hosted a webinar at the start of June with the British Ambassador to Brazil, Vijay Rangarajan, and the Director of the Brazilian Studies Programme (University of Oxford Latin American Centre) Dr Andreza de Souza Santos. They discussed the role of alumni and the diaspora in the cooperation between UK and Brazil during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The group held a subsequent webinar at the end of August with Nísia Trindade Lima, the President of Fiocruz (Brazil), the most prominent Institution of Science and Technology in Health in Latin America, and the leading clinical researcher for the COVID-19 Oxford vaccine. 

OUS Western Australia is one of many groups to postpone forthcoming events and has also moved its monthly book club online, with members meeting virtually to discuss the latest text. The group also held an online pub quiz at the start of May. Alumni can join the book club by emailing the group.

OUS Victoria is planning an online book club and is also asking members to share how the situation has affected them and any constructive measures they are taking. The group is also holding ‘virtual drinks’ online in place of its regular ‘Tuesday tipple’ catch-ups. It hosted its first virtual lunch online in mid May with speaker Brian Salter-Duke (Queen’s,1957), a computational and theoretical chemist.

It held a virtual lunch in mid June with Kristine Moruzi, author and senior lecturer in Children’s Literature in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University. 

The group was also challenged by the Cambridge alumni group in Victoria to a virtual University Challenge on Zoom on 18 June and hosted a virtual cocktail hour on Zoom with Professor Cameron Hepburn, Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Oxford, on 16 July.

The group's next online event is a virtual lunch on Thursday 22 October with award-winning chemist Professor Emeritus Frances Separovic from the University of Melbourne.

OUS Queensland held its AGM online at the end of April, alongside a virtual wine tasting, trivia quiz and poetry recital (pictured above). Members are also providing help to those in need by, for instance, offering a phone call. 

 

And OUS South Australia's 2020 Oxford Online Lecture on Machine-Made Histories on 5 August with Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Enterprise at the University of South Australia was a huge success, with more than 200 attendees from across Australia. The group is also encouraging members to contact them if they need assistance.

In New Zealand, OUS Auckland held virtual ‘last Thursday drinks’ and a quiz via Zoom at the end of April. It held its final virtual drinks at the end of May, the day before laws limiting people from meeting in person were due to be eased in the country.

The Oxford & Cambridge Society of the Czech Republic has moved its regular discussion and wine events online. The first online event was held at the start of April – a discussion with Oxbridge graduates, molecular biologist Martin Dienstbier and sinologist Jiri Hudecek, on the coronavirus outbreak. The session was attended by around 60 participants and overran as there were so many questions from the audience. 

“According to the feedback received, people appreciated receiving reliable information from two guests who really understood the topic,” said society President Monika Marekova.

Following the success of that event, the group held an online event at the start of June on 'What's Next for our Economy and Politics?' with Cambridge graduate Radek Špicar. Radek discussed the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy and politics, what developments to expect and steps that could be taken to take advantage of and improve the current situation.

Both the Oxford & Cambridge Club of Geneva and the Oxford & Cambridge Club of Zurich have contacted members asking if they need help and have enlisted teams of volunteers to provide any necessary assistance. The Zurich group also held a virtual online pub quiz on Zoom at the end of May.

The Oxford & Cambridge Society of Austria held a Zoom talk on 24 June with group member Gerold Reisinger on The Roots of Atheism and Scientism. The group is also inviting alumni to get in touch and offer to give virtual talks on a subject of their choice. Anyone interested can email the group at: oxford.austriansociety@gmail.com

In Germany, the Oxford University Society of Munich held its first Oxford Online Digital Insights event on Zoom at the end of May on Covid-19: Views from the Continent of Africa, attended by around 40 participants. 

"The event was followed by a very dynamic exchange of questions and views from our participants. The enthusiasm and encouragement from participants is certainly motivating us to host similar 'one topic, two views' events in the future," said group Chairman Marco Janezic. 

The group's last Oxford Online Digital Insights event on 21 July was a discussion on Organisational Resilience – How to Come out of the Crisis Stronger, with guest speakers Mark Spencer Klimmek, a Consultant in Egon Zehnder’s Technology and Private Equity Practice; and Anke Weidling, a Senior Expert in Egon Zehnder’s Leadership Solutions team.

And the Oxbridge Society of Hamburg held its first digital speaker event on the issue of Brexit in June, to which it invited Oxford University Society of Munich members.

The Oxford & Cambridge Alumni Group in Saudi Arabia has an active WhatsApp group, which has been providing advice and support.

And OUS Manchester has circulated ideas and tips on how to stay connected to its members, including posting online talks and engaging with online groups such as book clubs.

Neighbouring OUS Liverpool held an online quiz for members on Zoom on 14 July.

In the south of England, OUS Devon hosted a social networking meeting remotely via Zoom on 25 August and 17 September.

In London, Oxford10 - the capital-based alumni group for graduates of the past ten years - hosted a virtual get-together on Zoom in mid May, where participants discussed how they were coping with lockdown. During the session, the group surveyed participants on the pandemic - with 69% saying it had made them learn a new hobby, 56% saying it had caused them to reevaluate life and 44% saying it had helped them to develop their cooking skills. The group also held a virtual movie night at the start of June and a cooking masterclass on 9 July and discussed plans for the year at a virtual meet-up on Google Meet in June.

Its talk by Dr Lennart Brand - Managing Director of the Leadership Excellence Institute Zeppelin on Exponential Technologies and Values – A Tale of Chickens and Eggs - on 14 July, touched on everything from self-driving cars to eugenics, and on writers as diverse as 18th century historian Oswald Spengler and the contemporary science fiction author Leif Randt.

OUS Paris and the Cambridge Society of Paris held their first virtual drinks via Zoom in May and repeated the event in June, following positive feedback. Members of the two societies usually gather in a pub on the first Wednesday of every month.

The Oxford & Cambridge Society of Bangalore held a talk online using Zoom on 'The Process of Polymerisation' on 20 June with Professor Ashok Misra, a NASI (National Academy of Sciences, India) Distinguished Professor at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Meanwhile, the Oxford & Cambridge Society of Nova Scotia has suspended its second Tuesday lunch meetings and is instead organising informal online lunch meetings on Zoom. It held its first online meeting in April and hosted a virtual Boat Race Dinner Dessert event on 1 May, attended by around 13 alumni, with members sharing memories of their time on the river.

Elsewhere in Canada, the Oxford & Cambridge Society of Toronto held a virtual pub night via Zoom at the end of September.

And congratulations to the Oxford quiz team from OUS Alberta (Calgary), who fought off stiff competition from Cambridge and LSE to win the first virtual Alberta UK Alumni 'University Challenge' quiz in June. Special guest, British High Commissioner to Canada, Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque, calling in from Ottawa, acted as Quiz Master.

Elsewhere in Canada, the Oxford & Cambridge Society of Montreal held a fireside chat with Professor Margaret MacMillan, the former Warden of St Antony’s College in mid June, on why states have historically wandered onto the path of civil conflict, and how they have succeeded or failed to find the way to peace.

The Oxford Alumni Association of New York has relaunched its Breakfast Speaker Series as evening online speaker sessions - its last event was on 8 October with Rhodes scholar Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood - one of the largest anti-poverty forces in the nation. Wes - a bestselling author, combat veteran and social entrepreneur - shared his experiences from the armed forces, private sector, non-profit world, and beyond. The group is also offering to pair alumni up for virtual coffee chats by asking them for their interests via an online form and matching them accordingly. 

And the Oxford Entrepreneurs Network (North America) - a group of 1,100 Oxonians focussed on development, education, angel funding and networking among entrepreneurs in all industries - has moved its activities online with much success. At the start of April, its New York chapter held an event on Zoom, followed by the San Francisco chapter, whose event had 50 sign-ups and a waiting list of 150.

Do please let us know what your alumni group is doing to stay connected with and support one another.

Email the Networks Team.