History of the Conference - Dr Maithrie White

Transforming the Mind – The National Christian Postgrad Conference – was an initiative that originated in the University of Nottingham in 2003, and is an independent, self-funding venture.

The vision for a postgraduate conference emerged during my doctoral studies in the University of Nottingham. It arose out of the realisation that a celebration of academic pursuit is a vital aspect of our worship as Christian academics. Our earth, is the Lord's and the fulness thereof. As is our universe. The University, however flawed, is a place where God's truths may be pursued, and our world in all its diversity is investigated. However distorted some of this pursuit might be, it nevertheless acknowledges the possibility of some degree of understanding God's world and our universe. As Christians, we can celebrate this human impulse to discover the nature of our world and our common humanity. The conference also emerged out of dissatisfaction at the divide between faith and academic life in Christian postgraduates lives. We have our Christian life on the one hand, and our Academic existance on the other - the great secular/ sacred divide. There was also the vision to encourage Christian Postgrads to bring Christian thinking or voices into our engagement in the academic world.

In a practical sense, the conference was the outcome of a Graduate Christian Fellowship group in Nottingham. The group was initiated by Dr Debbie Dickson (then International Chaplain) and Rev. Ian Tarrant (then Senior Anglican Chaplain), and was set up together with a few international Christian postgraduates - Alan Dennis (Ghana), Jennifer Mbabazi (Uganda) Dave Sinclair (Australia) and myself (Sri Lanka).

In 2002, I begand to talk with Debbie Dickson and Dr Nishan deMel (who was at Oxford at that time) about the possibility of a National Christian Postgraduate Conference. This led to the forming of a core committee consisting of the two chaplains - Ian and Debbie, a Nottingham academic – Dr Mike Clifford, an American postdoc – Dr Aaron Romanowsky, a Singaporean postgraduate - Chye Foong Yong, and myself. The Conference Vision statement (as well as its title) was drawn up after much deliberation by Dr Nishan deMel, Dr Debbie Dickson, and myself. The outcome was the first conference in June 2003, carrying the theme Transforming the Mind.  

The financial backing for the first two conferences came from the Veritas Forum, Harvard. Dr Aaron Romanowsky and Dr Nishan deMel, both Harvard graduates knew Kelly Monroe (the pioneer of Veritas), and organised a meeting between Kelly and ourselves to discuss possible support and funding for the conference. The vision of Veritas was similar in its desire for holistic engagement with academic life and the world. Kelly agreed to provide financial support for the first two years of the Conference and attended the first two conferences herself as she was also interested in promoting a Veritas type forum in the UK through the Conference. The conference then decided to be self funded (by small donations and conference fees), on the principle that support for the Conference should come from within the UK on an ongoing basis. 
The conference committee, in its first two years had representation and input from Oxford (including Joe Martin and Nishan de Mel who had restarted the Oxford Graduate Christian Union) and Cambridge (including Ard Louis who was involved with Postgrads). Subsequently, the Conference committee consisted of postgraduates, postdocs, chaplains and academics from the University of Nottingham. The Committee now consists of academics from across the UK. The first conference in 2003 was chaired by myself, 2004 by Dr Jennifer Siggers (then a postdoc in Nottingham), 2005 - 2007 by Dr Mike Clifford, and from 2008 once again by myself.
Dr Maithrie White