Welcome to UCL Americas!
9 October 2020
Professor Jonathan Bell, Director of the Institute of the Americas would like to welcome all our new and returning students and staff to the new academic year 2020/21
Whether you are a new student joining us for the first time, a returning student, a current PhD student, a member of staff, or part of our wider community of affiliated scholars, I want to send a message of welcome at the end of the first week of what is going to be a challenging - as well as hugely rewarding - term at the UCL Institute of the Americas.
I enjoyed talking to our new first year undergraduates, Master's students, and PhD students during induction week, and had fun at our welcome quiz too. I have taught classes online as well as meeting students in person for face to face teaching on a walking tour. It goes without saying that no one would choose the situation we find ourselves in, but we are an incredibly resilient and committed community at the Institute and have total determination to make the most of every opportunity to connect via teaching or research, even if much of our interactions right now will be online.
As I said to new students last week, all of us teaching and carrying out research at the Institute work on subjects that illuminate the world in which we live and the challenges we face as a global community. The fact that this month is Black History Month is a timely reminder of our discussions as a department earlier in the year over the place of our Institute and the wider university in struggles against racism and racial inequality. You will be hearing very soon about events we will be holding this month around race and racism in the Americas, which will lead into the first of our student-facing forums to discuss how we as a department should engage with these issues in our local practices and ways of working as well as our teaching. We will also be launching our new equality, diversity, and inclusion committee this term to bring together staff and students to embed EDI in everything we do.
We run a huge range of research events relevant to all our interests, so please make sure you come along. One of the outcomes of living more online is the ability to bring together scholars from all over the world, as share the scholarship of our own colleagues, such as our own Nick Witham next Thursday.
I also want to highlight how UCL is managing a balancing act between the strong desire to maintain the physical space of the university as a place to meet and study with the ongoing public health crisis. UCL is currently committed to providing some face to face teaching for students, a policy constantly under review and subject to the changing health situation. I know all students will understand that it will not always be possible to proceed with in person activity, either because of an individual staff member or students needing to isolate or the wider pausing of in person teaching in the face of increasing cases of COVID-19. All of us must play our part in keeping each other safe as far as possible. If you have symptoms of coronavirus, or have been in contact with someone who has, you must register via the NHS track and trace AND UCL's Connect to Protect system, details here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/coronavirus/testing-reporting-and-managing-potential-cases-ucl and must self-isolate and follow UCL guidelines. We must all follow the protocols when coming to campus, including our own building, and follow the instructions of your seminar leader to maintain the safest environment in class we can.
I am always really excited at the start of a new academic year, and this year is no exception despite its challenges. I couldn't hope to work with a more amazing group of colleagues and know all our students will think the same after joining us. I look forward to seeing many of you over the months ahead, whether in one of my classes, in a research event, or in meetings and discussions.
Warmest best wishes to you all,
Head of Department
UCL Institute of the Americas