Reflections: Sughra Ahmed and Gorazd Andrejč
27 July 2016
This week, the Woolf Institute said farewell to two colleagues, Sughra Ahmed and Gorazd Andrejč.
Here, they reflect on their experiences at the Institute.
Sughra Ahmed (Senior Programmes Manager, CPPE)
In April 2013 I encountered a life changing experience. My move to Cambridge and to the Woolf Institute brought many challenges and wonderful opportunities my way. Looking back I can’t quite believe where the time has gone! For over three years now I have worked with some of the most influential people in our country. From government Ministers to civil servants, from CEOs of public health charities to chaplains across the length and breadth of England and beyond; I have worked to enhance and improve our understanding of religion and belief in various public sectors. During this time I have also had the great pleasure of driving forward our public education agenda within and beyond the Woolf Institute to demonstrate how our expertise is rooted in real contexts. We have designed and delivered training programmes and published specialist reports both of which have enabled hundreds of people to work smarter and better on issues of religious literacy and in appreciating – more than tolerating – cultural diversity and its impact on how communities and public services tango together in the public space. Our work in this area has helped to create safe spaces for sensitive discussions, exposed professionals to significant places of worship and what it means to be a person of faith.
Like all journeys, mine will continue as I take a leap of faith and move to Yale University to begin my fellowship as a Yale World Fellow. What lies in waiting remains to be seen but just as I was excited to begin my adventure in Cambridge on that cold April morning in 2013, I relish the idea of continuing to build new bridges and creating safe spaces in a different part of the world, for now.
Gorazd Andrejč (Junior Research Fellow)
I thoroughly enjoyed my three years of Junior Research Fellowship at the Woolf Institute. Neither the Institute nor the University of Cambridge were unknown environments to me, since I had graduated from the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations (the Woolf Institute’s earlier name) and the University of Cambridge seven years ago. But working here on my independent postdoctoral research project was a very different experience than studying. It allowed me to complete my first monograph with great academic freedom and flexibility (very little bureaucracy, I have to say!), and develop it in conversation with excellent scholars at the Woolf Institute and the University of Cambridge.
Because of the Institute’s high standing, I was able to present my work and the work of the Institute at various high profile conferences and meetings nationally and internationally. On the other hand, the Institute’s strong links with religious leaders and interfaith organisations enabled me to engage with interfaith culture both in the UK and abroad. I was able to establish new networks for the Institute with religious leaders and academics in the Balkans. Teaching at the Woolf, too, was a joy, as the Institute caters for a great variety of students, both at the University of Cambridge and beyond, with different kinds of courses, most of which I have contributed to and a few of which I have convened and designed. It was fantastic to see religious leaders, public officers, educators or simply eager learners from around the world gain new understanding through the online course Jews, Christians and Muslims in Europe: Modern Challenges, and in some cases putting this into practice in their professional or personal lives.
As I am embarking on my post-Fellowship academic career for which I feel very well equipped, I will miss many things about the Woolf Institute, especially my colleagues. But I am determined to retain both academic and personal contacts with the Woolf Institute and my friends here.