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Give me Inspiration! the Paradigm Shift with Professor Alison Finch

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Wolfson Lecture Theatre

Churchill College

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Cambridge

CB3 0DS

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Athene Doanld: In Conversation

A series of conversations hosted by Churchill's Master Professor Dame Athene Donald, exploring the individual paths of distinguished professional women who have made it to the top in their own particular ways. How have they found their own solutions to 'life', what tips do they wish they'd been given earlier on, and what might they view, retrospectively, with most pleasure or regret?

Watch previous talks online: www.chu.cam.ac.uk/conversations




March 8 — International Women's Day: Professor Alison Finch

The first of our Conversation events for 2019 coincides with International Women's Day #BalanceforBetter. Churchill Fellow, Professor Alison Finch — one of the first women to hold a Churchill Fellowship.

Alison’s parents came from poor families and had to leave school early, but always supported her academic achievements. She sat the 11+ at age 9, in the teeth of opposition from the local authority, and on the strength of her performance was offered a place at Christ’s Hospital, a boarding school for high-flyers. She turned this down, preferring the local direct grant school. She went to Girton College as a scholar and graduated with a First, doing her PhD at Girton also – this was of course in the days when there were only three women’s colleges in Cambridge. In the first year that any Oxbridge men’s college admitted women, she arrived at Churchill as the teaching Fellow in French, aged 24, and was thus able to witness how this momentous transition worked in its early days.

Although Alison’s career has been in Cambridge and Oxford, she has lectured and examined at many other universities, both in the UK and abroad. She has been active in academic administration as well as in research and teaching. In due course she became Vice-Master of Churchill and, for a period in 2012, Acting Master; she edited the Churchill Review from 2011 to 2015. She ushered in a number of reforms during her career, not only as Vice-Master of Churchill but also – for example – during her ten years at Oxford, where she was a Fellow of Merton College and Chair of the Oxford Sub-faculty of French; at a national level, she initiated other changes in her field, and was awarded the French Government honour of the Palmes Académiques at a higher level (Officier) than is usually bestowed on UK academics.

Alison was married to another French scholar, Malcolm Bowie, who was Master of Christ’s from 2002 to 2006. She has often been asked if they discussed Proust over the cornflakes. (The answer is no.) They had two children, and Alison has always been grateful for the help Churchill gave her as she tried to balance family life with work.

Throughout her career, Alison has encountered encouragement and inspiration, along with some obstacles. Women’s social and educational situation has improved markedly during her lifetime – an improvement in which Churchill College played a key part on the UK stage; she feels lucky to have come to Cambridge at the time she did.

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Wolfson Lecture Theatre

Churchill College

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Cambridge

CB3 0DS

United Kingdom

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