A vibrant semester underway at St Mark’s

Following the stellar start to the 2021 academic year, a lively semester is now well underway at St Mark’s, complete with a calendar jam-packed with academic and career development events, alongside a raft of sporting, arts, community service, and social activities.

One of the most notable additions to the provision for our students this year has been in the area of career preparedness. It’s been terrific to welcome back to St Mark’s Jeff Duncan (St Mark’s 2005-08) who, along with Caroline Govin, has been meeting individually with students to provide career advice, as well as running a series of highly effective and popular seminars on topics such as ‘Getting Your Foot in the Door’ and ‘Managing Your Professional Social Media Presence’.

Alongside this, the College is increasingly seeking to identify and promote job opportunities for students – do let us know if you have any to bring to the attention of current Collegians, whether part-time roles, internships, or graduate opportunities.

This semester’s Faculty Dinners – from allied health to engineering and agriculture – have seen many Old Collegians and other professionals connect with current students in their fields, and an extensive Tutorial Programme is providing academic stimulus and support to students both in their particular subjects and disciplines and in general study-related skills.

This builds on the outstanding academic success of our students in 2020, which was marked at a special Academic Awards Dinner in March. The names of our most outstanding students are now recorded in a Distinguished Scholars book which is on display in the cabinet in the College’s front office.

Soon after the Academic Awards Dinner, we were thrilled to welcome back to St Mark’s the 2020 Australian of the Year – and St Mark’s Distinguished Collegian – Dr James Muecke AM (St Mark’s 1982-87) who spoke compellingly and amusingly to students both in formal hall and then in a Q&A afterwards on the topic ‘Harnessing Your Passion to Change the World’.

Engagement with the creative arts is a key part of College life, and this semester has seen the return of our ever-popular Arts Evenings on the College Green, showcasing performances not only by several super-talented new students alongside our returners, but also by the Dean, Mr Stuart Meldrum, on drums. A recent Saturday afternoon saw thirty-plus students relaxing in Hall for a couple of hours of painting and clay-modelling, and our College reading group has enjoyed meeting over a glass of wine for informal discussions of their latest choice of novel – this semester’s selections have been The Power by Naomi Alderman and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Our College Choir and many other students took part in the Founders’ Day service and other events on Sunday 2 May, including to honour our Founders and members of the College killed in World War II – whom we also remembered on Anzac Day, when over 60 students lined Pennington Terrace at 6am to “light up the dawn”, and many others took part in a student-led commemoration later in the morning.

Founders’ Day also saw warm thanks expressed to Mr Ian Wall AM and Mrs Pamela Wall OAM for funding the recent much-appreciated extension of the College carpark – and marking Ian’s 90th birthday – in addition to the unveiling of a magnificent portrait of the eighth Master of the College, Ms Rose Alwyn, and of photographic portraits of four other St Mark’s women of influence: the late Georgia Blain, Dr Rachel Buxton, Dr Angela Evans AM, and Ms Linda Matthews.

College sporting teams are competing strongly in inter-college competitions, with first place in inter-college Tennis, first place in Swimming, fourth place in women’s and men’s Netball, third place in Debating, and second place in men’s Football and fourth place in women’s Football.

St Mark’s is currently in second place in the race for the Douglas-Irving Cup (aka High Table Cup). After winning the cup in style in 2020, we are extremely keen to retain it, and look forward eagerly to contesting the remaining sports: Hockey on 6 June, followed next semester by Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, and Table Tennis, with the competition culminating as always with Athletics.

Commitment on the sports field has been matched with the enthusiastic participation of dozens of our College students in community service activities, especially through the students’ Charitable Foundation. So far this semester this has seen our students helping with food preparation at Café Outside the Square, which provides food and training support for vulnerable people (including those experiencing homelessness), and helping prepare for an Anglicare “Star Bear” camp for bereaved children and teenagers.

The Charitable Foundation also runs “Café Club” mornings twice a week in the Junior Common Room, which help raise funds for the charities selected by this year’s student community – Zahra Foundation (supporting women and children affected by domestic violence), RuralAid, and Little Heroes (supporting seriously ill children). In addition, 32 of our students have joined together to form a St Mark’s squad running in the May50k in support of MS Research Australia.

With many students keen on volunteering, the Charitable Foundation, Environmental Team, and Gassie Curators have joined forces to organise a beach clean-up at Henley Beach which is planned for later this month.

The Environmental Team has also been hands-on in a range of other areas such as planting our veggie patch (with a poll of students to determine which veggies will be most popular), and in promoting environmental sustainability, including through improved practices such as re-using and recycling in College, sharing sustainability tips, making beeswax wraps to replace plastic, and marking Earth Hour.

With strong enrolments in the College this year (some 30 more students than last year), we are very grateful to those students who are currently helping to promote the College to prospective new students for Semester II and for 2022, including some who have joined our Registrar, Kathy Radoslovich, on this term’s road trips visiting schools and expos across SA and Victoria.

Mutual support of students for other students naturally remains central to College life, and is reflected in countless ways, including activities – from International Women’s Day to Mental Health Awareness Week – organised by the College Club and other student leaders to promote student wellbeing. The College Club’s Equity Officers have taken a lead in much of this, not least through their newly-established podcast series, ‘Real Talk’, which addresses a range of mental health topics such as settling into College life and managing academic pressures.

An important part of our provision takes the form of our twice-yearly Learning & Wellbeing Reviews, which see all students meeting individually with the Dean (Mr Stuart Meldrum) and Director of Learning (Dr Rachel Buxton) to ensure that they are receiving the support they need in their studies and personal welfare.

The creation of the position of Indigenous Student Adviser (Ms Iman Westhead in 2021) helps both to support our six Indigenous students and to promote broader awareness of Indigenous issues. There is now a permanent Acknowledgement of Country in the dining hall, and the addition of two new flagpoles enables the College to fly the Aboriginal as well as Australian and College flags (and other flags on some occasions, such as the RAAF flag on Anzac Day in recognition of the College hosting Air Force personnel during World War II, and the Pride flag on IDAHOBIT Day).

Alongside all of this, of course, hanging out, relaxing, and socialising with friends remains a central part of College life for all our students – a means not only to switch off from the pressures of study, but also of helping make this community feel like a family to so many. Highlights on the social calendar to date have included the annual Garden Party held at the end of last term, and an afternoon of St Mark’s “Hottest 100” music just after the break.

With several events remaining this semester, we look ahead to exams and other university assessments during June – and then to a rich and full second semester beyond!

Photographs by Kaidy Morgan @kd_m_p