Welcoming Dr Sheila Watts as our new Senior Tutor

Newnham is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Sheila Watts as Senior Tutor, effective from the 1 October 2022. Having worked for the College for over 24 years as a Director of Studies and tutor, with around 300 students having benefited from her expertise and guidance in those roles, Sheila is perfectly placed to assume the role she sees as an exciting opportunity to ‘have genuine adult dialogue, understand and share how the whole college best fits together as a mutually supportive scholarly community’. Her hope is to see staff and students ‘all working together to ensure they have a great educational experience and living experience, with mutual understanding.’

Principal Alison Rose warmly welcomes Dr Watts to the role, ‘Having the benefit of Sheila’s diverse and long experience of both the College and the wider University will be of exceptional benefit to Newnham. She brings with her a deep appreciation of what Newnham is about, its ambitions for the future, and is a passionate advocate of its values of collegiality, diversity and opportunity for all. We aim to ‘welcome, inspire and encourage our diverse range of students to succeed both within and beyond Cambridge.’

Dr Sheila Watts is a historical linguist, specializing in language variation and change in the Germanic language family. After studying and working as a lecturer at Trinity College, Dublin, she came to Cambridge in 1998 to take up a lectureship in German and is now University Associate Professor in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics. Dr Watts works on grammatical change in German and older related languages like Gothic and Old Saxon, where she collaborates internationally on the building of annotated corpora.

Indeed, this international focus is key to her ambitions for the role. She explains, ‘As a modern linguist I’m passionate about welcoming people from the international community from around the world. I’m Irish so I self-identify as a foreigner and am interested in what people bring from different cultures and backgrounds. It’s really important that international ethos remains at Newnham’. She continues, ‘There’s been a big change in the growth of graduate student numbers [over the past 24 years] and one of the very welcome effects of that is that it makes the College community more international’. With 125 new postgraduates joining Newnham this year, the number now sees a 50:50 balance with undergraduate freshers.

The sense of wider community and collegiality is important to Dr Watts, who will retain her University role, and sees Newnham’s participation in programmes such as the Foundation Year which launches this year as really exciting. She also supports the outward-looking Margaret Anstee Centre and the Skilliter Centre, as well as the Associate Fellows, who ‘give us a foot into the outside world’. She continues, ‘We want people to have a first-class education and can then help them onto the next stage of their lives.’

As we welcome Dr Watts to the role, she reminds us that she is always available to talk to any member of the Newnham community. Though you may need to find her first – Sheila is currently in Kennedy G06 but will be moving rooms in the near future – we shall keep you informed. Dr Watts will also be arranging a series of welcome events with various groups and will be in touch separately.