The ‘jewel in the crown’ is how the University of Cumbria’s newly appointed director of the Ambleside campus describes the site in the heart of the Lake District.
But Dr Lois Mansfield is no stranger to the historic centre; for 20 years she has worked in higher education in Cumbria most recently as principal lecturer in forestry, conservation and geography based within sight of Fairfield and a host of other sought after peaks.
A published expert in upland farming Dr Mansfield is a respected voice of authority on farming, the environment and rural management.
“When this job came up it was an ideal opportunity to contribute to the development of the campus based in a UNESCO world heritage site in the heart of the Lake District,” Dr Mansfield said. “The area around Ambleside is a microcosm of all the challenges that face Cumbria and other upland areas; conservation, farming, flood management, a sparse population, the visitor economy, and health and wellbeing – it’s a melting pot of natural and man-made issues.”
From encouraging more students to study the variety of courses taught at the campus to developing links with colleagues on other sites who may be able to help enhance the appeal of Ambleside, Dr Mansfield is already drawing up plans for the future. In her first three to six months she will be working with a range of colleagues to improve the student experience; develop a range of guest lectures, events and activities for students and the public, and broaden the cultural arts offer to include cinematography and literature. Dr Mansfield is also making it her mission to meet with Cumbrian stakeholders (business and community) to explore how the two can work closer together to celebrate all Cumbria has to offer to a wider national and international audience.
A summer school specialising in the area’s rich literature legacy and another working with TV and film colleagues to capture the area on video are in the pipeline. The campus, already home to an extremely lifelike ‘major incident’ exercise where paramedics, police and forensic students and staff combine their skills, also looks forward to hosting a community open day.
A geographer, Dr Mansfield will still be teaching and is keen to gain a wide insight from as many students as possible with a view to developing further the vibrancy of Ambleside Campus for all.
Also high on Dr Mansfield’s list of priorities is encouraging an ‘honest and open dialogue’ with the communities, businesses and organisations that thrive in Cumbria to see how the university can help as a location for debate, host of events and a centre for celebrating the talents of our county.
“I want to hear from, meet and work with people and organisations from all areas of the social, environmental and economic part of the community to see how staff and students can make the most of the location and unique benefits having a university here can bring and how we can help you” Dr Mansfield said. A study carried out by the university in 2011 showed students contributed £7m to the area’s economy in terms of accommodation, shopping spend and employment in Ambleside’s shops.
“This new leadership position is key to delivering our plans for Ambleside and the development our longer term strategy,” Vice Chancellor Prof Julie Mennell said. “Building on the team’s successes, which Lois has facilitated through the Ambleside steering group, she will continue to work with all the university’s head of academic departments to grow academic provision, the research based at Ambleside and maintain and extend strategic partnerships relevant to the delivery and enhancement of the Ambleside campus portfolio and activities.”
With the focus now on using innovative ways to develop the site, the ‘jewel in the crown’ may well be about to shine even more brightly.