A nail-biting High Table Cup, Winter Wonderland Ball, stellar speaker events, and more

What a term it has been! Running equal first in the High Table Cup, a visit from the Premier, a fabulous Ball, an awe-inspiring Arts Evening and Marksenfeast arts show, a masterly J C Bannon Oration, community service and wellbeing activities – these are just some of the highlights of the past few months.

After a COVID lockdown-affected start in late July, the term soon burst into life.

Passionate and resolute performances by St Mark’s teams in basketball, volleyball, and rain-drenched soccer over recent weeks – building on the strong performances in Semester I in tennis, swimming, netball, debating, football, and hockey – now see St Mark’s in a three-way tie for equal first place in the High Table Cup with Aquinas and St Ann’s.

The final nail-biting outcome now hinges on table tennis (for which our skills have been honed through an internal College table tennis tournament) and athletics (in which St Mark’s normally more than holds its own), in mid-October.

The July COVID lockdown in South Australia, plus subsequent restrictions, meant that many of the events planned for Welcome Back Week could not go ahead as hoped. The College Club Committee responded brilliantly to this disruption, reshaping and rethinking many of the plans for the week, including our annual Ball which was ultimately held at Adelaide’s InterContinental Hotel in mid-August. The theme of the Ball was Narnia, and – while dancing could not go ahead due to COVID – it was still a scintillating evening, hugely enjoyed by all, and a great credit to the Committee.

The Ball fell on the weekend of university and college Open Days, at which students proudly showed off the College to visitors – contributing to what are currently very strong enrolments for 2022.

While most other planned social events have been able to go ahead in one form or another this term, it was with natural disappointment that the Committee had to make the very difficult decision that, because of the pandemic, it would once again not be possible to hold Marksenfest, our music festival celebrating arts and culture.

Even the Premier’s much-anticipated visit to the College had to be delayed by a month due to pandemic restrictions. On 2 September, Mr Marshall spoke engagingly in Hall on such issues as Indigenous reconciliation, the environment, and the pandemic, as well as the great benefits of being a college student. After speaking further on innovation and South Australia’s economic future, the Premier answered many wide-ranging questions from students in a Q&A session upstairs in the Learning Commons, and spoke one-on-one with many students. There’s more on the Premier’s visit here.

The week of the Premier’s visit also saw – largely online – our landmark annual public academic event, the J C Bannon Oration. This annual Oration is given in memory of Dr John Bannon AO, the seventh Master of St Mark’s College (2000-07), who was earlier the second longest serving Premier of South Australia (1982-92), and who had been a student at St Mark’s in 1962-63.

The J C Bannon Oration was given this year by Dr Bannon’s friend and fellow scholar of the Australian Constitution and federation, Professor John Williams (Acting Provost of the University of Adelaide). Professor Williams spoke on a topic close to John Bannon’s heart – South Australia’s “remarkable” and “disproportionate” contribution to the Constitution. For an overview of the Oration, including video footage of it, click here. The text will be published online and in hard copy later this year.

Alongside these events have been faculty dinners and panel discussions for students studying medicine, nursing, and dentistry; law; education; and arts. We are very grateful to Old Collegians and other professionals in these fields who have generously and helpfully shared their experiences and insights, especially on career preparation, with our students. It has also been terrific to have workshops led by Jeff Duncan, Caroline Govin, and students on such topics as personal finance and interview preparation.

Our comprehensive Tutorial Program has been in full swing, and the Dean and Director of Learning have been meeting with all students in their semesterly Learning & Wellbeing Reviews.

The artistic and creative talents of our students have been spectacularly on display. Our visual arts show by and for students – Marksenfeast – showcased painting, photography, pottery, poetry, crochet, film, and more; and our last Arts Evening of the year saw students again awe-struck and exhilarated by the singing and musical talents of their fellow collegians, including the jaw-droppingly talented musos of our College band.

The commitment of our students to serving the wider community has continued to be shown in various ways, be it through students volunteering for environmental work, or preparing meals for Cafe Outside the Square. The latter assists disadvantaged and vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness, and helping out there has been a new initiative for our students this year, led by the Charitable Foundation. It has been heart-warming to see so many putting their names forward to serve in this way.

Promoting wellbeing within our College community has continued to be a central focus of student and staff leadership this past term. It has been evident in many ways – from a Wellbeing Team Event to kick off the semester, to a barbecue to focus on Men’s Mental Health, to events to mark Wear It Purple Day (to support LGBTI+ youth) and R U OK Day, and regular Charitable Foundation “café clubs” (which also raise funds for charity) in the Junior Common Room.  A springtime afternoon of fun-filled football against the Old Collegians on Father’s Day was a good opportunity for many students to relax and refresh amidst the pressures of mid-semester university assessments.

The term ended with around 50 students actively participating in two days of leadership training for those seeking student leadership positions in the College for next year. This training (involving external experts on topics including ethical bystander intervention, alcohol and drugs, and mental health) was superbly led by the Dean, Mr Stuart Meldrum, and the Director of Learning, Dr Rachel Buxton.

This student leadership training followed hot on the heels of the announcement by the Head of College of a major expansion of student wellbeing support and mentoring at St Mark’s. This sees the current Dean, Stuart Meldrum, a psychologist with a passionate commitment for student wellbeing (including its positive promotion), become our inaugural Director of Wellbeing, and Rachel Buxton – with great experience as an educator, mentor, and strategist – move to a mentoring and advisory role. As part of this significant increase in student support, the College is advertising for a new Dean and a new Director of Learning to succeed Stuart and Rachel in their current roles early in 2022. For more information on this innovative expansion of student support, click here, and for details of the advertised positions, click here. We are all extremely excited by how 2022 is shaping up.

So, after a disrupted start, this past term has been one of energetic participation and inspiring achievement by our students. And we look ahead, after the current mid-semester break, to the final, culminating term of the year, and hopefully more sporting triumph to celebrate, leading in to end-of-year exams – and then a well-earned summer break!

Photos by Kaidy Morgan and others.