Dr Rachel Thorley joined the College this September as our Community, Outreach and Recruitment for Engineering (CORE) Fellow in a new role generously funded by donors Greg and Rosie Lock. The aim of her role is to develop Churchill’s Engineering community by creating strong and effective links between the College and schools, the alumni network and industrial partnerships.

The community building aspect of her role includes looking for ways to bring together Churchill’s different communities of students, Fellows and alumni. She has launched a joint initiative to get conversations going between MCR (postgraduates) and SCR (Fellows) at the College. The first event was a pottery making session, where everyone created their own clay pinch pot. Afterwards, these were fired, and picked up at the next event.

MCR/SCR conversations is a relaxed bi-weekly affair, with light refreshments. Each event has a short interlude to hear about the role of someone in College.

We caught up with Rachel to find out more about the initiative as well as her other plans for the future.

What is the challenge that this initiative seeks to address?

The College environment naturally lends itself to mixing with other people, but many opportunities tend to be quite formal, like dinners and receptions. I’m trying to create more of an informal space where College members from all backgrounds and career stages can meet, conversations can start naturally, and, people can have fun.

Who can get involved?

My background is interdisciplinary, and I’ve seen huge benefits with connecting with people with different backgrounds and all subject areas. Colleges are the perfect place for this! Anyone in the MCR and SCR can get involved – come along!

Why do you think the concept of using art as an ice-breaker works?

The act of creating something really makes a shared connection between people. Perhaps you’ve tried pottery before… most people won’t have though. It’s a great chance to get outside of your subject area and do something a bit different. We were delighted to have 40 people come along to meet new people at our first event … that’s a lot of bowls to put through the kiln!

What are your other ideas for building community?

So many people have shared great ideas: painting, cooking, crafts, Chinese New Year. It would be amazing to make lots of these happen. It would also be great to make most of our beautiful College grounds and gardens, so learning about the orchards, harvesting and making something with that is on the cards! From what I’ve seen so far, Churchill is a very equal and friendly College – I’d love to see more opportunities for JCR, MCR, SCR and alumni to all connect and learn from each other.

Another pottery themed event is being planned for the Lent term!