Uncertainty, Excitement, Anticipation – UEA! These were the feelings of 50 years ago when setting out for University and starting on a brand new course – 50 years later, coming back for a reunion, they were similar! Due to the excellent organisation by a few from ’68, the Alumni, the great support from current members of faculty in Environmental Science together with the superb Sainsbury Centre staff, the weekend finished with a “warm glow” that was felt by all.
A reception in the ENV School Social Space for 19 students and 12 staff from ’68 together with present staff (providing nearly 2000 years of experience !), made for a very lively introductory discussion about the position of the School today. In 2018, the need to maintain an intake of nearly 150 (just 50 in 1968), a staff of 47, the ever more challenging environmental agenda, the overwhelming importance of funding (for the University and students), the need to undertake research, and the pressure to be ahead of the game in terms of competition from other establishments, dominates planning for the future.
The debate also reflected on how things had changed and what was so special about that first year – and what could be learnt from that experience. The enthusiasm and excitement from ’68 was still with the former students and they hoped the School of Environmental Science would continue to thrive whilst adapting and modifying to fit the times. Some of the group then went on to visit the campus. The “new” buildings meant parts were much altered after 50 years – others – the Ziggurats - had a welcoming familiarity.
An evening meal at the Sainsbury Centre topped off the first day. Conversation and laughter was not a problem! A display of photos from ‘68 and background music from the era set the scene. Some folk had not seen each other since graduating so catching up and filling gaps of memory was uppermost! Recollections of 50 years ago included field trips and exploits, state-of-the-art calculating machines the size of large typewriters - which cost as much as a Mini (car, that is…not skirt), and not having to undertake health and safety assessments were highlighted!
The next morning a group met with Richard Hey on an inspiring field trip to view the River Glaven project he designed to create a 1.2km naturalised channel. This incorporates extensive new river habitats including gravel riffles suitable for fish spawning and habitat for aquatic plants and flow-loving invertebrates.
After the trip all met up again for a buffet lunch and further discussion with the “old lags” (former staff) on the place of Environmental Sciences today. Matters discussed included – how could ENV change the practices of the university to be more environmentally aware and how ENV are influencing the climate change challenge and broader sustainability approach. That 2000 years of experience has had some very positive impacts but the future also holds its challenges for new students and staff. Kevin Hiscock closed the main event with thanks to all.
Several informal meet ups also took place over the weekend around pints, coffees or meals. What a super occasion it was - how those 50 years just melted away with strong friendships, very happy memories and the development of new links.
The field trip was a highlight of the weekend - it reminded us of what enriching experiences field trips are but we also learned that in recent years field course enrolments have fallen. Students have to pay for residential field trips and many find these hard to fund and miss out on this great learning opportunity.
Today's students don't receive the tuition grants that were given in the ‘60s and the group decided it would like to raise funds for an ENV Field Trip Bursary. The Head of School and Faculty will decide which students will receive contributions. If you would like to support the bursary please go to justgiving.com/fundraising/envfieldtrips - any donation, large or small is most welcome!
Here’s to the next 50 years!
Written by the organisers:
Jane Barkell, Andy Green, Jean Lear, Marcelle Speller, Pete Thair, John Usmar and Ann Griffiths.