Dislocation and relocation: Carol Mutch’s memories of Epsom Campus

With Education and Social Work being welcomed to the City Campus, Professor Carol Mutch reflects on her Epsom Campus workplace.

Black and White image of Professor Carol Mutch looking pensive
Professor Carol Mutch will look back fondly on her Epsom days but is keen to be on the City Campus too.

There is a flurry of activity on the University’s Epsom Campus. From 2024, all our staff, students and programmes will operate from the City Campus, many in the new purpose-built B201, on Symonds Street.

I have often been asked how I feel about the move. The discussions I have had with my colleagues echo my feelings. We are leaving behind many memories; some warm, some sad, many mixed. Some of our staff were on the campus when it was the Auckland College of Education. Some have transferred from other parts of the University. Some were students who stayed on in academic or professional roles. Others, like myself, came from other institutions.

I am relatively new, moving from the University of Canterbury to Epsom in April 2011. I don’t feel I can speak for all my colleagues, but I have been asked to share my story because it might connect with them, as they close their office doors for the last time, to reflect on their days at 74 Epsom Avenue and how the place has become part of their personal and professional histories.

I arrived for an interview for a position in the School of Critical Studies in Education in late 2010. I had come from two traumatic community events – the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake and the November 2010 Pike River Mine disaster. I felt completely dislocated.

I stumbled through the interview and left the room convinced I would not be returning. To gather my thoughts, I went for walk around the campus, along the avenue of pōhutukawa towards Te Aka Matua ki Te Pou Hawaiki marae. I felt enveloped by the trees and comforted by the tūī. It reminded me that while nature may inflict unimaginable damage, she can also provide calm and healing.

I did return, of course, to take up that position and on my first day was greeted by Emeritus Professor Robin Small, a member of the interview panel who said, “I’m so pleased you are here.”

I felt then, despite everything that had happened in the past year, that here was a place I was welcomed and could find solace.

 I will miss the pōhutakawa offering shade in the summer, the profusion of the spring blossom outside my office window, the autumn colours down the driveway to my carpark and the maunga on those misty winter mornings.

Professor Carol Mutch Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland

Autumn leaves on the driveway at Epsom Campus
Carol says the seasons were much appreciated in the environs of Epsom Campus.

People and place are my memories of Epsom. It was not all plain sailing, but the care and compassion of colleagues and the joy of teaching helped me navigate those first few years.

In 2014, I took up the role of Head of School for Critical Studies in Education, in part, because I could continue building a sense of community for the academics, professional staff and students who passed through our doors.

People have come and gone – some through retirement, new positions or untimely deaths – but all have contributed to the woven fabric of the campus.
It is with a little trepidation that I move to the City Campus – how long will it take to feel like I belong and not like the dislocated outsider I felt when I first arrived?

But I am also excited to be part of the vibrancy of the City Campus, to work with colleagues from other faculties, to use the wider range of facilities and to move into new premises – our current buildings are more than a little sad and tired. I will miss the free parking and the proximity to Mt Eden village but hope that I will find other compensations in the new location.

What can’t be replicated, however, is the sense of place. When you are so close to nature, you are keenly aware of the passing of the seasons. I will miss the pōhutakawa offering shade in the summer, the profusion of the spring blossom outside my office window, the autumn colours down the driveway to my carpark and the maunga on those misty winter mornings. I can’t take those with me, but I’ll have the memories and, if nothing else, the photos on my computer desktop for the times I feel nostalgic.

Professor Carol Mutch, Education and Social Work

Pōhutukawa Avenue at Epsom Campus
Pōhutukawa Avenue at Epsom Campus

This story first appeared in UniNews December 2023.