“I’m not in Kansas anymore, but I feel at home”

13 October 2014
Amanda Shriwise at the Gaudy Dinner, September 2014

Amanda Shriwise at the Gaudy Dinner, September 2014

Kellogg student Amanda Shriwise is studying for a DPhil in Social Policy. In this article, Amanda shares her experiences of life in Oxford and what it means to her to be a student at Kellogg College.

It was rather hard not to be aware of Oxford’s history  of academic excellence  when I applied to read for an MPhil in Social Policy  over four years ago.  However, I began to realise how truly special this place is when a friend of a friend  at Oxford sent me a book in the post upon hearing that I was offered a place. The book was entitled ‘Oxford: an architectural guide’, which
seemed like a sensible reading suggestion before turning up in the ‘city of dreaming spires’. But the connections run deeper than that. The book was written by Geoffrey Tyack, a fellow of Kellogg College. As fate would have it, Kellogg became my college home for both my MPhil and now my DPhil studies. Further still, I have had the pleasure of meeting Professor Tyack and following him on a tour of both Oxford and Kellogg’s grounds, and the friend of a friend who sent me the volume is now a dear friend of my own. I could not have foreseen any of this when I received the book in the post, but I sensed that my life had changed when I opened the package.

During my time at Oxford, Kellogg has been the point of origin of many such connections. Just a few weeks ago, I reminisced with a fellow Kellogg alum at a conference in San Francisco over the whereabouts of those who attended an American-style Thanksgiving dinner in what
was then my basement flat in Kellogg’s accommodation at No. 7 Bradmore Road. Every time I walk by Christ Church, I remember meeting other Kellogg women (more than one of whom has now rowed for the University) at Tom Gate for an early morning rowing outing. While submitting paperwork at Oriel College last spring, I opened an office door and was pleasantly surprised to find the first person I met at Kellogg upon arrival several years before. Over dinner at Kellogg, I met the Vice-Chancellor, who happened to know a couple of chemistry professors from my undergraduate home in Kansas. Experiences like these have presented opportunities to repeatedly connect my past with the present, which makes me feel at home.
Serving as Kellogg’s MCR President in 2011-12 gave me the opportunity to aid in facilitating these connections, which I believe are at the heart of why Kellogg is such an outstanding community. It was a pleasure and privilege, topped only by how rewarding it has been to watch the student body continue to thrive under strong leadership in the years to follow. While I realise that 25 years amounts to a rather miniscule amount of time in the life of an Oxford college, my experience serving in this capacity made me realise just how much we have to celebrate in this year’s anniversary. Some might be inclined to attribute this overly celebratory (and dare I say emotional) instinct to my American roots. While this may not be an entirely unreasonable assessment, I believe the cause for celebration is based in something more substantial. Since 1990, the College has moved to its current site and has continued to expand, accommodation has been added and refurbished, the number of fellows and students, both full and part-time has increased, research and financial support for students has grown, and it has continued to further its commitment to life-long learning – all while holding seminars, conferences, formal meals, and even an annual ball!

As the college grows in numbers and years, I hope that it continues to deeply value and foster the connections that it facilitates by remaining organised around the notion of home: a place open to all of its family members both past and present; a place where we thrive, make mistakes and continue to learn and grow as individuals; a place that encourages curiosity and an eagerness to make a contribution to something bigger than oneself. I am very grateful for the rich connections, friends as dear as family, and the home I found at Kellogg, and I look forward to seeing how it carries on in the years ahead.

Amanda Shriwise

  • I want to thank Amanda for writing and submitting this piece. I am an American as well, and earlier this year I applied for and was subsequently rejected for the MSt in Literature and Arts, during which course I had hoped to call Kellogg College home. After months of licking my wounds, I have reasoned that perhaps this rejection was not due to my lack of qualifications but due, in part, to the interviewing panel’s correct assessment that I might be better suited for a different course (both my undergraduate and prior graduate studies have been focused in Creative Writing, which is my ultimate goal). Just last night I started to entertain the idea of reapplying to Oxford, thoroughly reading through the course description for the MSt in Creative Writing. However, this morning I was still plagued by doubts, walking through the house, coffee in hand, debating what to do. Then I sat down and Amanda’s post appeared in my email inbox (though not a student, I still follow Kellogg via blog and Facebook posts). Her words reminded me of all the reasons that I applied to Oxford the first time, and have urged me to set aside my doubts and follow through with last night’s idea. I hope this time I have found the right course and will be able to call both Oxford and Kellogg College home, in my own way. Thank you, again.