Moving to a new city in the middle of a global pandemic isn’t particularly easy but when that city offers access to open space in abundance, it certainly has its compensations.
Just before the Christmas lockdown, I moved from Glasgow to Aberdeen, ready to take up the role of secretary and chief operating officer at the University of Aberdeen in the New Year.
I arrived in a very quiet version of Aberdeen and, over the last few months, have been delighted to see the shoots of recovery and the vibrancy of the city which first attracted me begin to return and I am looking forward to a much more festive Christmas this year.
When our students returned to campus in September, they brought with them experiences, insights and perspectives that energise our community and bolster the local economy. Their return symbolised not just a return to life in our classrooms and buildings but also the battle against the pandemic that the city and all of us have been on. I am particularly proud, that student adoption of covid-safe behaviours means that the return to campus in September did not bring any increase in CV19 cases.
The pandemic has also further emphasised the vital role that the University has to play in the North-east of Scotland’s recovery and redevelopment from the pandemic.
To support collaboration with our local and regional partners we have recently appointed a vice principal for regional engagement and regional recovery. This was already a key tenet of the University’s 2040 strategic vision to guide our next two decades but CV19 brought the need for this into sharper focus.
From providing laboratory space to the NHS, undertaking nationally critical and CV19-related research, to delivering food to those in need and sewing scrubs for the NHS, our staff and students came together in support of this region in the most difficult of times.
It is often said that the pandemic has been particularly tough on the younger generation and, as a mother with student daughters, I have experienced the pandemic from a number of perspectives.
Despite the many challenges, we have been impressed by the resilience of our students who continued to achieve last year and many of them took up opportunities created by the move to a more virtual world, engaging in online workshops with experts and finding new and creative ways to study and interact. Many also took up roles as volunteers and in the NHS.
It is now vital that we all do everything we can to support them. They are the future doctors, scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers of all kinds so necessary to navigate our way out of not only this pandemic but other future crises, as the Glasgow COP26 highlighted only too well.
Indeed, one of our former PhD students, Mustapha Bittaye, who came to Aberdeen from Ghana to learn from the expertise in our medical school, has gone on to play a key role in the development of the AstraZeneca CV19 vaccine as part of the Oxford University team.
What better reminder that striving to help our next generation achieve its full potential is for the benefit of every one of us.