GC Society Members Write In and Look Back: David Duvenaud

Green College Staff

David Duvenaud lived at Green College from 2008 to 2010 while doing a Master’s in Computer Science. He then did his PhD at Cambridge University, and is now an Assistant Professor studying machine learning at the University of Toronto.

David writes from Cambridge, England, while visiting his wife’s family there:

“Green College originated as an attempt, in my understanding, to bring some of the best aspects of the Oxbridge college system to a Canadian university. While I was there, Principal Mark Vesseyʼs occasional use of Latin in speeches seemed hilariously old-fashioned to me and a little pretentious. Having since spent time in one of the old Oxbridge colleges like the one Mark went through, I now see that he—like others associated with the College—had taken radical steps towards egalitarianism, stripping away almost all of the pomp, pretension, and silly rules. No porters, no gowns, no high table, and you can even walk on the grass!

When I first arrived at Pembroke College, Cambridge, I did the same thing I had when I got to Green College, which was to eat each meal with new people until I had met everyone. After a few months of this that I realized I was the only one doing so. At one point, I sat across from a woman in her mid-30s eating alone. She told me she was the 24-hour nurse for a physically disabled student at the college, and that in her two years at the college so far, I was the only person to have approached her.

Looking back, I think that Mark Vessey and his predecessors succeeded at having the best of both worlds. I got more, socially and intellectually, out of those two years at Green College than I had in the preceding 4 years of undergraduate studies. I met some peers who became my role models. In particular, Rhoda Sollazzo, Vahid Bazargan, Simon Viel, Ian Runacres and Maciej Chudek had the integrity, openness and independence of thought to not follow the crowd, without isolating themselves from it. I also appreciated the presence of older members, such as Danny Bakan and Ross Jenkins, who provided a sense of perspective and continuity to balance our naturally self-centered and myopic view of things.

I hope that the success of this experiment leads this template to be copied widely at other universities, so that my kids can one day have similar experiences.”


This is an excerpt from the 2018-19 Green College Annual Report. View a copy of the full report here: https://greencollege.ubc.ca/sites/greencollege.ubc.ca/files/2018-19_GCAnnualReport%20WEB_0.pdf