June 28, 2021, by aczjb1

This time I mean it – Paul Kirkham

This week, Paul Kirkham retires after over a decade of supporting ingenuity and innovation at the Haydn Green Institute.

“HGI will not be the same without Paul’s creativity, generosity and well honed ability to debunk whatever intellectual fashions are being sold as the answer to all our problems”, said HGI Director Professor Simon Mosey. “He will be sadly missed, and I would like to thank him wholeheartedly for his fantastic contribution to the intellectual and collegiate culture of HGI over the years.”

Paul shared his thoughts with us ahead of his final week at HGI.

If all had gone to plan, I would have retired around this time last year. But Covid intervened so I stayed on, for several reasons: first, it was ‘all hands on deck’, then, to be frank, I no longer had anything better to do – but mostly because I wanted to see what would happen. 

We have been delivering experiential modules at all levels for years, some including a strong online element but always on our terms: could we adapt? The pandemic had a pace all of its own. You must remember that the original, almost overnight, move online was a stop-gap – we thought it would be back to normal by Easter. Then we assumed the recruitment events and bootcamps run over the summer were just keeping things ticking over until October. During the autumn it finally dawned that online was here for the duration. All this while dealing with rapidly developing tech on competing platforms: successive steep learning curves, leading to several false summits. A year like no other – now we know what ‘agility’ and ‘resilience’ mean in practice.  

Speaking into the void to screen after screen populated by stark sets of initials, all with their cameras off and microphones off has been challenging, but it’s not all been bad. There have been many instances of: ‘wow, not only is this as good as face-to-face, it’s better’. Postgraduates bouncing ever-more creative blogs off one another, sharing tips and building their networks. Undergraduate videos created on their phones, edited remotely, then uploaded to be graded. I’m thinking of the workshops when thirty or forty post-docs took time out of the lab for an hour or two to engage with problem-solving in four simultaneous chat streams! Finally I remember the teams of MBA students who had only been put together a few days before, who never met in person, who were separated by 11 time zones, delivering presentations worthy of the highest grade. 

Moments when I’ll swear you could detect a collective intake of breath in cyberspace. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Now, where’s that suitcase? 

 – Paul Kirkham


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