Over the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to speak to many wonderful Old Collegians. Despite the many different ages, outlooks, and experiences of our College, it has been heartening to observe a persistent and resilient theme amongst Old Colls. A theme which binds and unifies.
That theme is gratitude for the place, its culture and, in particular, the incredible people that made our experience. Gratitude for those who contributed, in ways big and small, to making that period of our lives meaningful and something to be cherished. Though, for each cohort and each Old Coll, the understanding or recollection of the place, its culture and its people is different. Each Old Coll brings their own interpretation to the concepts of Mannix College, its culture and its people. Often, that is an interpretation based upon a snapshot – a wistful reminiscence of a point frozen in time. Those snapshots differ, but when aggregated across the generations they layer and lie together to create a mosaic of what Mannix represents.
To my mind, that mosaic of our collective experience depicts gratitude. Gratitude for educational opportunities, for welcoming accommodation, for community, for friendship. But that mosaic also starkly represents that, like any social institution, our college has evolved and will continue to do so.
Those themes of gratitude and change attracted me to serving on the MOCA Committee. The gratitude I felt, and feel, compelled me to want to in some way serve the place and community which did so much for me. To try and ensure that others, who are just like I was, can benefit as I did. But the prospect of change and seizing a new and timely opportunity for MOCA also thrilled me. Due to the immense energy and talents of Andrew Swann and Tamra Keating and the outstanding work of the Mannix Foundation, MOCA had and has an opportunity to expand its operations and form a meaningful part of a coherent strategy to build and steward alumni networks, foster community, and improve the student experience for generations to come. There has never been a better time to be involved with MOCA.
Though my time working with MOCA has also demonstrated challenges in engaging with alumni. Two are salient. The first is that some alumni tend to accept that their period frozen in time, their nostalgic moments at functions, formal dinners and balls, are all that Mannix will ever be able to offer. That nothing close to those peak experiences will ever again be attained and it is hardly worth expecting that Mannix could offer something remotely similar in the future. I hope and believe this is changing – especially in light of the College’s renewed focus on reunions and meaningful and ongoing alumni engagement.
Secondly, and relatedly, alumni organisations such as MOCA must insist that, despite the sweetness of the nostalgia one may feel for their own college experience, we can do better for the next generation. It is not sufficient that we allow unfortunate aspects of the Mannix College experience to persist due to a resolute contention that “we put up with it”. More can be done and should be done. We can enhance access, opportunity, diversity, and services. We can provide new mentoring pathways, greater support systems and a truly world-class residential accommodation community. That work is being undertaken by the College and it is constant. I have faith in the College to do it with honest commitment and rigour.
However, MOCA too has an important role in catalysing this progress. As we approach the MOCA Annual General Meeting (see details below) I encourage each of you to consider whether you would like to join the MOCA Committee: to give back, to develop MOCA in a period of new opportunities and to help craft the mosaic of what Mannix represents for students now and the countless many to come.
It has been a pleasure to work with my Co-President Eva Scopelliti, the MOCA Committee and Mannix College this year. Sadly, I will be stepping back from the MOCA Committee as I will be pursuing a PhD in the United Kingdom and will be out of the jurisdiction for a few years. But if you are interested in being involved with MOCA, do not hesitate to contact me if that would help you.
All the best,