Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Charities Campaign

Race2 1aAt 5:45am on 18 January, 173 students boarded buses that would drop them off across Scotland. Their task: to hitchhike across Europe to Prague as fast as possible as part of the annual Charities Campaign event Race2. Over the next five days, racers worked tirelessly to convince the drivers of trains, planes, lorries, cars, buses and even a limo or two to give them a free lift. I am thrilled to say that all 77 teams that took off from St Salvator’s Quad made it to Prague.

I have been involved with Race2 Safety for the last three years and it has been a wonderful ride. As a charity event, Race2 has been extremely successful – the 2012 Race2 Barcelona raised over £35,000. However, what stays with me are the stories that we hear from racers about their journey. This year, one team was invited to stay the night and join their hosts at a 60th birthday party! Several teams were taken out to dinner, others were offered housing and a man intending to drive to Bulgaria drove the winning team all the way across Europe to the steps of our hostel.

Race2 5

Perhaps the most inspiring story of the race came from Team 1. Their text to the Prague safety team said “Guy bought us 3 train tickets to Prague for €560. His mum died from cancer. There are no words.”

This simple text reminded us all why we get involved in the Charities Campaign – the hours we put in and the crazy events we put on are all to support charities that make a lasting impact on people’s lives.

If you would like to support the racers please donate here. For more information on the Charities Campaign you can check out our website.  Click on the images below to enlarge.

Race2 4 Race2 3 Race2 2a






The University of St Andrews Charities Campaign is a subcommittee of the St Andrews Students’ Association. Proceeds raised by the Campaign will benefit the following six charities in 2012/2013: Médecins Sans Frontières, Families First (St Andrews), Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Macmillan Cancer Support, Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres (Fife and Edinburgh).

Kelsey Gold
Charities Campaign Convenor

In addition to raising funds for these deserving charities, the 2013 Charities Campaign will also support the Students’ Association Bursary — which aims to raise £30,000 this year to endow its own needs-based bursary fund. This fund will provide for prospective students with significant financial need who otherwise might not be able to even have the chance of studying at St Andrews and experiencing traditions like Race2 and the Charities Campaign.  To learn more or show your support for this student-led effort, click here.


Empty chairs at empty tables: What professors do during Winter Break

AkiraAccording to Forbes Magazine, who recently selected ‘university professor’ as their Least Stressful Job of 2013, we academics are currently enjoying a month off between semesters, which themselves are only marred by the occasional hour in the classroom.

This assessment of academia caused a bit of a twitstorm amongst lecturers for whom the winter break is anything but a break (see the #realforbesprofessors twitter hashtag). Here’s why.

While it’s true to say that most of us aren’t currently lecturing, our teaching responsibilities are far from over. Exams don’t mark themselves, nor are module grades conjured out of thin air, so any academic who was lecturing last semester has likely been enjoying the fruits of their labour –  exam scripts – since mid-December.  And that’s before we get anywhere near writing lectures, practicals, seminars and exams for next semester.

In addition, though most of our taught students have left St Andrews by January, many of our research postgraduates remain. For most of our PhD students, it’s business as usual, only with shorter queues for coffee. In the Psychology department January is a time when the absence of participants for experiments provides researchers with the perfect opportunity to take stock.  Those of us who have finished our marking attempt to analyse our data and write and publish scientific reports whilst simultaneously planning projects we will run next semester. All this takes meetings with collaborators (thank goodness for Skype), PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, and plenty of collaborative writing.

Why is this time for writing so precious?  Some documents end up in the hands of charities and funding bodies who support our research. We attempt to convince funders that the experiments we believe will advance our fields should also be priorities for them. The funds we seek to carry out our research provide the time (as research assistance in the form of a project-specific hire or as teaching cover so we can involve ourselves more in the project during term) and the resources (for equipment and access to facilities) specific to each project – the lifeblood of modern scientific research. The funders who do support us help to make the discoveries that advance science now, and train the next generation of scientists to continue this work into the future.

Like you, for academics, January is far from a holiday. The streets and shops of St Andrews may be quiet, but there is plenty happening behind the scenes. If I weren’t so busy, I’d be looking forward to the break Forbes tells me I’ll get when the next semester starts.


Dr Akira O’Connor is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience.  Dr O’Connor is interested in the cognitive and neural processes that support the judgements we make about our memories. As part of our 600th Anniversary Campaign, we aim to help develop both the IBANS vacation scholarships and the Brain and Behaviour Seminars that are run by the Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences.  If you would like to contribute to this project, please make your gift here.

You can take that to the bank!

Lynn Butcher, President of the University of St Andrews American Foundation, reports back on the first ever New York Careers Forum; organised by the Foundation together with the University’s Careers Centre.

Given that the students would be home in January for the first time ever, the American Foundation decided to try to organize a Career Forum in New York City to help give our students and recent graduates a boost in their job search. With full support from Careers, Alumni Relations and Development, and able volunteers in the US we set to work finding a location, a sponsor (always key for our frugal Scottish university), developing a format, identifying and inviting employers, and getting the word out to our community.  Alastair Borthwick ’89, head of Global Commercial Banking for Bank of America Merrill Lynch offered us the Bank of America’s conference center and we were off.

As we began to spread the word through emails and social media, the enthusiasm grew and it was clear that our notion of perhaps 50-60 students and young alumni was way off and, as the day approached, we were at capacity with nearly 190 registered, and had started a waiting list. The St AndrCareer Forum picews community in the US is strong and enthusiastic and jumped at the opportunity to network, learn, and job seek. The format we settled on was an hour of networking, with employers set up around the conference center by field, then an hour or so for a panel discussion with top representatives from industries, then another hour of networking. We asked the registrants to submit their CVs in advance as some of the employers, particularly the Bank of America, wanted to review candidates and set up preliminary interviews. In turn, we provided each registrant with an information package containing job seeking advice and contact information on all employers and registrants and biographies of the panelists. All of the employers were, of course, either parents or alumni, and with volunteers from the NY alumni club helping on the day, there was a strong “family” atmosphere as the young people moved around.

The panel was very impressive with Alastair Borthwick of Bank of America; Sheila Hartnett, CEO of Ogilvy Action North America and JWT Action North America (communications); Satoru Murase, Partner, Bingham McCutchen Murase (law); Neil Smith, CEO Promontory Growth and Innovation (consulting); David Speedie, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Council; and Ruth Streeter, Producer of CBS “60 Minutes.” It is a sign of the enthusiasm and loyalty these top people have for St Andrews as alumni and parents that every person we asked to be on the panel accepted. Their insights and advice were well received by the packed audience and they all stayed on for further networking and some one on one talks.

We cannot thank Bank of America enough for their generosity hosting what turned out to be a “sold out” event. We also want to thank all of the employers who came to support our young people, and of course Alumni Relations, Careers and Development. As the day approached, thanks to a raging flu epidemic, there were a number of cancellations but that allowed us to include some prospects from the waiting list so we still ended up with almost 170 students and recent graduates and representatives from 36 different employers ranging from finance and banking to publishing, social media, non-profit, design, technology, consulting, and on and on. We are currently contacting all attendees and employers, asking how we did, what we did right, what we can do better and of course, next year’s event is already in the works.

Keep up to date with the American Foundation here.


We want to ensure that St Andrews students continue to learn and contribute on an international scale –developing themselves as global citizens. Would you like to help us remove the financial barriers to students expanding their studies in America and beyond to improve their employability, broaden their minds, and help shape the leaders of the future? Find out more about the St Andrews Students Abroad project here.