I arrived in CREES in September2003 initially on a three year contract to cover for Judy Batt, but have been here ever since, serving most recently as Director of CREES from 2012-14. In that post, it was a pleasure and an honour to initiate and lead the 50th anniversary celebrations (including arranging the 50+ faces of CREES!), particularly the special annual conference which so many CREESniki attended. I was especially delighted that the founding director of CREES, Bob Davies, was able to come to Windsor Great Park and join us for a glass of champagne to toast the golden achievements of CREES in the preceding 50 years.
I was also very pleased that my proposal to rebrand CREES as the Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies (still CREES of course!) was approved by my colleagues and the University authorities. The new name is a better label for the twenty-first century, more attractive to prospective students and more reflective of the expertise in CREES which extends across the European continent into Central Asia.
Life is not always easy for areas studies centres, but I am very pleased that CREES not only survives but goes from strength to strength. The decision to transform CREES from a separate department into a pan-University institute (in part a product of necessity rather than choice) poses risks, but having written a book about the constraints and opportunities of leadership, I’d rather focus on the enhanced opportunities of being able to bring together colleagues from across the University interested in the CREES region without the conflict of loyalties that can come from different departmental affiliations. Opportunities, however, have to be grasped, so I encourage all my colleagues to make the most of the new arrangements to ensure they work for the best interests of CREES.
I have many fond memories of my time in CREES, most of which have been associated with the annual conference in Cumberland Lodge. Going for a swim in one of the lakes in the early hours of Sunday morning of the 40th nniversary conference with a few other members of CREES was a particular highlight. A voluminous amount of potent Russian vodka certainly played a part in convincing us all that swimming in a lily pond was a good idea!
I have been privileged to work alongside some wonderful colleagues, too many to mention by name. I am however, delighted that as my term as director comes to an end, I am passing the baton to Richard Connolly. Richard will work as co-director with Jeremy Morris. Richard was one of my PhD students, whom I had the pleasure of supervising. Richard and Jeremy will bring energy, enthusiasm and a fresh set of ideas to ensure the next chapter in the life of CREES is another golden one.