2023: Principal’s Year in Review

Dear Students, Alumni & families

The opportunity to sit down and collect one’s thoughts at the end of the year seems to come by faster every year! However, it’s a welcome chance to reflect on the many and various goings-on at Emmanuel College that have happened since the beginning of the year. From the relative calm of my office, I get to watch and consider the complexity of life within our college environment, and to admire the intensity and pace of the individual lives of our community members.

The year 2023 has been an extraordinary one for Emmanuel College, filled with growth, challenges, and triumphs. It has been a year where progress from years before has been embraced, and even better outcomes achieved. I think specifically of the work undertaken by the Executive of the Student Club who, having been handed a “work in progress” to transform the Club into a legally incorporated entity, have taken that work from their predecessors, and successfully reached their target. Sincere congratulations to both several generations of the Executive on this huge task and outcome. What I saw in this process was the embodiment of the spirit of Emmanuel College – a spirit of resilience, intellectual curiosity, and unwavering support for one another.

Our vibrant campus life, filled with cultural events, sporting competitions, and numerous student-led initiatives, has continued to thrive. Emmanuel College enjoyed podium finishes in many competitions this year, with premierships in men’s basketball and athletics (plus the Great Court Race, again!) and in women’s badminton. Whatever the result though, the camaraderie and sense of belonging that define our college are a testament to the enduring bonds forged within these walls. Members of staff and I are able to enjoy many of these activities from the sidelines, and for me, the richness of these opportunities for students is a clear point of difference between “student accommodation” and college life.

During the floods of early 2022, we unfortunately lost the use of the common room which was located under our Martin wing. Out of that disaster came two great things; the brilliant 2023 EMC band “Underwater Martin”, (runners up in the 2023 ICC BandFest comp, don’t forget), and the opportunity to create a new common room for the College in the (flood-free) ground floor of our Busch building. Opened officially on 10 October 2023 and named after my predecessor and the first woman Principal of the College, I hope the “Dr Jane Thomson Common Room” will become a hub of activity and community for years to come.

Through its Strategic Directions Statement, the College Board has committed to several key goals, with an overarching emphasis on students’ experience at college. The improvement of student facilities and amenities is a part of that plan, and so for those coming back, I’m happy to tell you that the refurbishment of 320 undergraduate rooms across our campus is well underway as I write. I hope this upgrade to our facilities will positively impact students’ lives at Emmanuel College for many years to come. Even as we undertake these significant works, though, let us remember Emmanuel College is not just a place of residence; it is a community that shapes and enriches the lives of all who are part of it.

In the second half of this year, many of you were able to participate in the Emmanuel College cultural review project, the report from which, written by respected tertiary residential accommodation specialist Cam Bestwick, is available HERE. The report reveals Emmanuel to be a college with many wonderful attributes, but also makes a series of practical recommendations for improvement. We have committed to the actioning of these recommendations and look forward to working with our college community to do so in the coming year.

As we celebrate the achievements of this year, I want to take a few words to bid farewell to those among us who are graduating or moving on from college life. To those students, you stand at the threshold of a new chapter in your lives, and we hope the knowledge and experiences you have gained during your time at Emmanuel College will serve as the foundation upon which you will build your future. I trust that the values of Respect, Integrity, Community, and Equity that you have learned here will go with you. You will be welcome here at Emman, always.

To those of you who will return to Emmanuel College in 2024, I am excited to see the continued growth and transformation that each new year brings. As you prepare to welcome new faces and familiar ones, remember the responsibility we have to foster an inclusive, nurturing, and intellectually stimulating environment.

Every year, especially at Christmas time, I like to remind myself that the name of our College – “Emmanuel” – means “God with us”. This is a reminder of continued blessing, and an encouragement to be confident in and grateful for that blessing. And, for those of you who are at College again next year, we look forward to the next exciting instalment with you and will be delighted to welcome you back.

On behalf of the whole team here at Emmanuel College, best wishes to you all

Stephen Peake
Emmanuel College