A readership survey we issued way back in January 2018 showed that alumnae wish to read more about the lives and achievements of fellow alumnae in Europe. Below is our fourth feature interview, focusing on Corinne Morgan Class of ’13.
Please get in touch if you feel your story would be of interest, or would like to recommend a fellow alum!
Spotlight on… Corinne Morgan Class of ’13
In late March 2020, when most European countries started to embrace more and more social distancing measure, Corinne Morgan ‘13, President of the Mount Holyoke Club of Britain thought it would be nice to set up a weekly virtual Milk and Cookies to help stay connected to one another and share thoughts and experiences in the difficult times. As Corinne says:
“The inspiration came from my memories of MHC and how I valued the short break I would get popping down to the common room to get some milk and cookies as well as have discussions with fellow residents and how that would be wonderful to have again.”
Name: Corinne Morgan
Class Year: 2013
Major: Double in Biological Sciences and Dance
1) How did you come up with the idea of Virtual M&Cs? What inspired you?
In reality, I’m not a particularly social person, but back in March my work had just announced that we would be working from home for at least the next 3 weeks (which turned out to be a permanent change) and losing that social contact was making me feel a bit isolated. I thought back to the last time when my time at home was mostly about work (MHC) and how I valued that short break that I would get popping down to the common room to get some milk and cookies as well as to have discussions with fellow residents and how that would be wonderful to have again. I asked the Mount Holyoke Club of Britain what they thought about hosting a weekly virtual M&Cs and received a lot of support from the group. That was the Tuesday before our first virtual M&Cs and by Sunday we were already up and running!
2) Can you tell us a bit more about how it progressed over quarantine?
At first the conversations were much more about people sharing what quarantine is like in their countries and decompressing by being able to talk to like-minded individuals in a safe space. However, as quarantine has progressed these discussions have moved far beyond this into people’s histories, experiences with current global affairs, cooking, future plans in education, etc. Each week has a very different feel depending on who joins, and it’s wonderful to see the depth and breadth of subjects that we have discussed over the past few months.
3) How did it grow so vastly?
Initially this was meant to be just for UK residents, but we had a fairly low turnout for our first meeting so in an attempt to get some more people to join, I posted about the ongoing meeting on the European Alumnae Facebook page, and we did get a last minute European alum to join.
After discussion with Silvia Maulini, the chair of the European Alumnae Council, we realised that this was an endeavour that might be better to open up to all European alumnae. Silvia kindly helped with getting the announcement out on all of the individual European alumnae pages, and we’ve continued announcing sessions every week. Each announcement comes with a cookie recipe and this has also created a group of people who can’t necessarily attend the sessions every week but participate by making the cookies.
4) How does participation look like in generations?
We’ve had everything from recent grads to those who graduated in the 1960’s join. It’s great to see a wide variety of people joining and connecting cross-generationally, which has led to several interesting discussions about the changes in both Mount Holyoke and society over the years.
5) How does participation look like in countries?
We’ve had people join from the UK, Spain, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, Georgia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Italy, and the US. Those who join from the US have often either lived in Europe at one point or are planning to move here in the near future. Apologies if I’ve left out any countries that have attended!
6) What’s your favorite part of the Virtual M&C’s sessions?
My favourite part is when new people join. This happens almost every week, and having that new person with different thoughts, ideas and energy come into the room keeps everyone talking and thinking in new ways.
7) What’s one challenge you faced throughout sessions and how did you manage to overcome it?
The biggest challenge was quickly establishing an open and safe space for community members to speak in. Although some of those in the calls had met each other either at MHC or at European Symposia over the years, there were many who knew nobody (or just 1 or 2) who joined the call.
Those who join the call are always invited to introduce themselves immediately when they join and other members always have lots of questions for them. This immediate engagement in conversation helps to establish a sense of rapport with one another that carries through for the rest of the session.
8) Did you expect the overwhelming response of the community?
I expected a fairly good response while quarantine was in full swing. What I didn’t expect was the enthusiasm with which it has carried on as quarantine has lifted! Although with the change in lockdowns, we have now moved into a time where people attend when they are free or want to connect with others instead of something to do during quarantine, which fits in perfectly with the intended purpose of the Virtual M&Cs.
9) Can you tell us a few words about yourself?
I entered Mount Holyoke as a member of the class of 2014, but graduated in 2013 with a double major in Biological Sciences and Dance. After MHC I performed professionally as an actress and dancer in live works and was a high school biology, chemistry and forensics teacher.
I moved to London, UK, about 5 years ago to get my Masters in Fine Arts at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance where I wrote my dissertation on ‘teaching science through creative movement to high school students’. I now work for Kaplan Test Prep, International, where I do teacher training, curriculum development and manage our international programs around the world, which has let me teach in places such as Korea and Saudi Arabia.
In addition, I am currently embarking on my doctoral studies at University College London to continue my Master’s Research on a larger scale. In my spare time I am a keen baker, cat lover, reader and enjoy exploring London (and the rest of the world) with my partner.
10) What’s your fondest memory of your time back at MHC?
It’s so hard to choose!
At MHC, I think it is the two classes about evolution I had with Prof. Stan Rachootin. The booking system for classes unexpectedly shut down for me when I was registering for classes in Autumn of my first year. Because of this, by the time I got back into the system all of the Biology Freshman Seminars I was interested in were taken, and I ended up in Stan’s class. In all honesty, I was not that excited to be in this class, but in reality it was one of the best teaching experiences I have ever had. Stan didn’t make you learn Biology, but think through Biology. You were never asked basic concepts on the exam but instead were asked to apply these concepts in unexpected ways, resolve paradoxes, and a variety of other tasks.
His two classes were probably the most mentally engaging classes I took at Mount Holyoke, and I’ve incorporated many of his teaching strategies into my own practice.
11) What do you expect post-Corona/post lockdown? How do you expect the community to respond? How do you expect to keep up the momentum?
This is a question that has been at the forefront of my mind. During Virtual M&Cs sessions, I have broached this topic with attendees, but at the moment everyone seems fully on board with continuing our weekly meetings even with lockdowns lifting.
What I am hoping is that the friendships that have been made in this group will continue in a post-covid world, and that we will all make an effort to reach out to our MHC siblings more often in the future. Many of us attended MHC for very similar reasons: to attend an intellectual and empowering school that encourages us to effect change in our world. From our discussions during meetings, I can see these characteristics present in every single alumn’s goals no matter what their circumstances, and I feel that emphasising and taking advantage of this shared connection will help continue the momentum of our calls.
12) How do you see the community evolving in the future? What is the wish you have?
My wish is to maintain and grow these virtual connections and support networks that have already started to become established. The physical distance between us as MHC international alumnae will not change (although visiting one another should become a lot easier), so it is important that we continue to make space for these interactions in our lives in a virtual way.
I’d also like to grow our events offering for international alumnae to capture the wide variety of interests and skills present within our community so we can maintain our connection between the European Alumnae Symposia, which are a fantastic place to join together in person.
Weekly Virtual M&Cs are held every Sunday evening, please join our Mount Holyoke European Alumnae Facebook page for details on how to participate!
Interview conducted June 2020 by Dimitra China ’16