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Jennifer Phillips, Operations Director, joins the Fellowship

  • 18 December 2020

The college is delighted to welcome Jennifer Phillips to the Fellowship in virtue of her office as Domestic Bursar, which she has been transferred into after four years fulfilling the function under the title of Operations Director. Her election as a Fellow reflects her Domestic Bursarship, which carries the rights and responsibilities of a concomitant fellowship.  

Jennifer’s connection to Caius spans many years, starting as an English undergraduate in 1996 before defecting to a Part II in History and Philosophy of Science. By this time, Jennifer had discovered that “[her] vocal muscles were ‘Blues quality’ even if none of the others were” and she coxed a triumphant Women’s Blue Boat in 1999 after a long and difficult season when winning sometimes seemed out of the team’s grasp.  ”I learned victory is sweetest when you have to work hard for it,” she commented.

Post University, Jennifer qualified in accountancy and started her career working in insolvency at PwC. She gradually moved into working for commercial businesses, which culminated in the Finance Director role of a group of international schools owned by private equity. She said, “Having managed a successful exit sale and two children in the meantime, a job closer to home with no likely change of Head Office – Operations at Caius – seemed the right step to take next.”

It is her hard work, in-depth knowledge of Caius and business sense that has made her so successful in managing the busy and wide-ranging operations of the college, managing teams from catering and conference to IT and estates management. “Operations,” as Jennifer explained, “is a joyous mix of everything – buildings, people, policies (and politics), strategy, money management, and people again. I have most enjoyed learning about Caius’ buildings from the “other side”, having lived in them as a student. It turns out to be a lot more difficult than I ever realised to keep the lights on and the water running, but I inherited a great team of department heads who know the College backwards and are committed to keeping it running. Covid-19 has just been one more testing situation in a long line, though more extreme than most, and of course we aren’t through it yet.”

In the midst of a pandemic, Jennifer and her team have kept the college running – catering has continued, albeit in a different way, and committee meetings (Zoom based) are still very much full steam ahead, which keeps the college improvements ticking over. The operations team has managed to go above and beyond to keep all Caius students, staff and fellows happy and connected – the latest examples of which have been a “Formal Formal” in a box, providing boardgames for every single resident student household, and organising an array of festive treats as a way to round up the year. Among Jennifer’s many achievements for the College, is the extraordinarily successful completion of the kitchen project this month, on budget and in (Covid-adjusted) time. This means the return to dining in Hall for staff and Fellows this year, and for students from the start of Lent term.

Commenting on the kitchen refurbishment, Jennifer said, “Refurbishing the kitchens as a project goes to the heart of Caius.  A College that so strongly supports Hall as a source of academic community, through the minimum dining requirement for students but also many events for Fellows, was never going to find a year without its kitchens easy.  That said, the crumbling internal fabric and equipment left no option, and we have taken the opportunity to improve the College in many ways – in terms of safety (better fire routes), environmental (heat recovery, reduced gas use, food waste collection), and even the dining experience (better routes and spaces for service flow). I am indebted to too many people to mention for their support in organising this project successfully – from the Kitchen Build Sub Committee, Estates and Catering Managers, through almost every staff team and of course all the members of the College that made the best of our garden-based temporary dining for longer than planned (thank you Covid-19).  We all look forward to the return to Hall!”

Jennifer’s recent appointment recognises her contribution to Caius and the Fellowship warmly welcome her. The Master, Dr Pippa Rogerson, said, “I’m delighted that the College again has a fellow as a Domestic Bursar. I know Jennifer will continue to work for Caius as excellently as before, including the extra fellowship meetings she now has to attend.”

Jennifer commented: “I am grateful to the Fellowship for the trust shown in my appointment as a Fellow after four years as a member of staff.  I suspect I will become a strongly staff-flavoured Fellow having been a Fellow-leaning staff member – and little will change day to day – but the compliment is warmly felt. Thank you!”

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