Monday, October 30, 2006

Exclusive Membership

(from L-R) Karen,Jenny,Ray,Clare & Julie: The Project Dream Team!
Well, graduation is over for this year. I am now an official member of the university community; a Liverpool Hope Alumnus.

I wonder if anyone listened carefully to what was said at the Graduation ceremony about the degrees we were awarded and what these awards actually mean, or are at least intended to mean?

"...In the name of the Senate, I present to you for admission to the degree of...(title of degree)... in this University... (name of the candidate)"

Graduation was not a "goodbye", it was a welcome; A welcome into membership of the University as one of its alumni.

Being honest, it does surprise me that the University does not already have a thriving alumni community, an extension of itself into the wider community, the wider world. But lets remember we are a new University, born in fact only one year ago. There is no time like the present to fix this problem; To create a community that will last and benefit us all for as long as the University itself exists.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Past That Was Before Our Present. . .

I went to a reunion a few years ago, to my own former college. I was there back in the 1970's from when I was 16 until I was 19. Wray Castle, near Ambleside in the Lake District, is, well was, a Radio Training College for Merchant Navy Radio Officers.
Wray Castle nr Ambleside, Lake District
It was a boarding college. The whole ethos of the place was naval. The dormatories were called 'decks' and we had 'defaulters', punishment for the wild one's amongst us; cleaning the toilets, cleaning up the grounds, scrubbing the showers etc etc. All kinds of dreadful sanctions to help us reflect upon our behaviour! (Never me of course! - Oops, I just bumped my nose against the keyboard). So what was life like before Hope?

Anton's Pool Party!At the reunion this year I was able to meet many of the former students (now grumpy old men and women!) of S.Katherines, Notre Dame, LIHE etc (I suppose that makes me a grumpy old man of Hope then?) All of those dreadful days of discipline and punishment, now descended into their memories as the 'good old days'. One cannot help reflecting that they had that sense of community we so bemoan the passing of in today's world.

There was love in the relationships I witnessed at the reunion. This love has somehow survived the years and the travails of their lives. Those bonds have never weakened nor broken and I was honoured to be able to witness them; Bonds as fresh it seems today as they were in the days they were formed all those years ago; in those days before internet or email were even dreamt of.

Christ's Class of 1965

So what did they have that was so special and what did they create back then? Perhaps they can tell us so that we too can create it anew and experience it for ourselves in our years to come...

Friday, October 20, 2006

We Fellow Graduands

It been quite hectic for the last day or so. Printing this, posting up that, rushing here and rushing there. The whole place is a buzz with activity. It's strange too for me personally being both a helper in the celebrations and a participant as well! Someone said, in response to me saying that I will be graduating next Thursday, "oh so your having a day off then!" Cheek!

They've put a banner up on the side of the library facing out towards Taggart Ave: "Graduation 2006" it says in enormous letters. I've never seen such a big Hope Logo!

This is something special about this place you know. And I'm not just a customer anymore. I suppose I'm part of making that special-ness now. I like it here, I really do. It reminds me a lot of Brockwood Park, near Winchester. Brockwood is a retreat, if you like, but the buildings are very like Hope's and the feel of the place is similar. I'd recommend Brockwood to anyone who wants to really get away from it all. I know of no place quieter, and you meet some amazing people. Check out the link (right >>>) for Kinfonet.

The Count-down to the big day continues. . .

Thursday, October 12, 2006

An Interview with Mike Storey

We went along to interview Mike Storey this morning. For those of you who don't know Mike he was Liberal Democrat leader of Liverpool City Council 1998-2005. He is also a former graduate of S. Katherines College, one of Liverpool Hope's former colleges.

It was interesting to hear how Mike became involved in politics, beginning with becoming Student Union Secretary when he was here back in and around the late 1960's early 70's. We've recorded the interview and with Mikes permission we will maybe include extracts in the next Newsletter and/or some online audio for you to listen to.

One shocking fact that came out of the discussion was that Mike was once Headmaster of a school that I myself attended as a child, St Gabriels in Huyton Quarry! Now that was a shock!

You can read a bit more about Mikes life and work on wikipedia (just click the link attached to the title above)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

So obvious it becomes invisible

Sat on the wall the other day, outside the Chaplaincy, having a cup of tea. Someone I should have recognised sat down next to me. She was on one of the same modules as me in final year Multimedia. I couldn't recognise her, which was strange for me as I don't often forget faces. Names? All the time but rarely if ever faces. Needless to say the conversation had already begun.

Well we were chatting and I mentioned the fact that I had gone to study in America for a semester, August to December, last year . She graduates this year like me and is now doing a PGCE in IT Secondary (she must be crazy if you ask me!) Anyhow, she said that once she's qualified she'd like to go and teach in the U.S. so I told her a little bit about what a great time I had and about the research I did while I was there. It was on High school students (typically 18 year olds in their final year) and what they thought about IT teaching and technology in general, you know, like how it effects them, how they think the education system presents the material etc etc. She was very interested as of course it related directly to her potential life plans.

"Why don't you post up a message on the Forum and ask if any of the members have any knowledge of working in America etc", I said to her. "What a good idea", she said.

I was like this, still am sometimes, its easy to forget the enormous power to communicate that the internet represents. It's like extending the whole world of people, of commerce, of politics, of art, well, of everything really, into your living room, and you out to it! And we often times forget this. We struggle with problems, agonise over the need for information about a particular thing, rack our brains over where we can find things out, while all the time the internet sits there with the potential to connect us to a mind boggling array of knowledge and experience. We often just sit there lost in our own world, trying to find the information we need in order to take our next step.

This morning I heard on the news that Google has just purchased YouTube. Wait for it. . . for £900 million! YouTube has only been in existance for 18 months and, before that it was no more than an idea for a way to transfer information, in this case digital home movies across an already existing internet network. The best ideas are simple and usually based upon something that has existed in our lives for so long that the inherent obvious-ness of it renders it all but invisible. Think about it, taking your home movies to view at a friends or family members house, what could be more simple than that! All YouTube did was simplify the process and in effect extend the meaning of 'your family and friends' out into the entire world!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

About nothing yet something.

I Went to a really valuable and quite intense discussion group yesterday evening. It was run by John Sullivan from the Theology Department. The question was "what makes Liverpool Hope special, what do we stand for, what gets lived out here that's maybe lacking elswhere?" It's a tough thing to grasp. How to begin discussing it, that some-thing yet no-thing?

It got real philosophical, which of course I love, but not in an airy fairy way. It was as I call it 'practically philosophical', if you see what I mean, delving into the deeper meaning of the question but not ever forgetting that what we were/are talking about was as real as the seat we were each sitting on, or at least must become so if it's to have any value at all.

I came away wondering, even though we had gone pretty far in our discusssion, whether or not we are so special, actually special, not just going around thinking we are? Beyond all the academix stuff, organisation, tutoring, assessment framework, performance standards and the like, which is obviously a feature of all Universities, what does Hope have or think it has that differentiates it from the rest?

Now this is of course my own personal view but I think that what this place certainly does have is the **potential** to be special. The fact that this discussion was even taking place at all seemed to me to be clear evidence of that potential; that we were bothering even to ask questions about uniqueness, about our culture, in effect about our collective state of mind. I do believe this really is an enormously important issue for this place.

The thing is, and what in my view at least lends even more weight to the importance is that it doesn't have to be special. Hope could simply go along like the rest, differentiating itself by the courses it offers, by the fees it charges, the subject areas it focuses on etc etc. Yet even me, a non-believer can see what the true purpose of this place needs to be. I am not a Christian yet the Christian message does not escape me. I know it is good, good at its heart. I think everyone knows that. And I can also percieve the history of this place, its roots, its heritage and its implied mission. Professor Pillay has already said it: it's about this idea of a learning community with a definite accent on community. This is what I myself came looking for when I came to University. I came back into full-time education specifically to find that; to find that community, that place where everyone was learning and assisting each other in that learning. But I didn't always find it here anymore than I suppose I would always have found it elsewhere. Thing is though, once I had been here a while, listened to what was being said, of how different this place should be, it oftentimes made me sad when I didn't find it or when it eluded me. Above all that is what I came to find.

So why is it to my mind just a potential rather than an actual? Well to begin with creating this type of culture is not a question of business objectives or performance targets. It cannot be tackled in a business meeting as an item on an agenda. It runs far deeper than that, it infuses everything that is done and acts like a cloud of 'being' that follows you around. It's a state of mind, a way of being, of acting, of living, it informs the relationship one has with everyone around, with each and every person we come into contact with at each and every moment. You can't simply put this on an agenda, raise it as just another item for discussion, assign it as a task and then ask for regular feedback. Truth is you cannot write this down in any form known to humankind and yet, it is known, and it is felt, by everyone.

So why do I think this uniqueness is only a potential? Well in my view because everyone here is part a part of this culture and there were only 7 people at that meeting, 6 if you don't include John himself! Collectively everyone at Hope assembles this culture at every moment they are here. Either their thoughts, decisions and actions are contributary to that culture or they are distructive of it.

This all sounds so critical doesn't it? And yet I feel like I have the right to do that, to criticise. After all I was once one of Hope's paying customers! Seriously though I do not think this is critical. It is simply something that has to be done. We have to understand what it means to be special, to be different and, I think that level of understanding will change everyone.