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Profile: Natalie Matias

Natalie in park wearing a tartan scarf

Natalie Matias, Regular Giving Manager

Natalie came to Univ from Newcastle but has also lived in Durham, Sydney, and Wellington. Alongside her work at Univ, she is doing a PhD in music.

What did you do before coming to Univ?
Before Univ and Oxford, I was based in the northeast of England, firstly in Durham and then in Newcastle. Prior to that, Sydney, Australia, and long, long before that Wellington, New Zealand (where I was born and raised).

After a Masters in Composition, from the Sidney Conservatorium of Music, I decided that I would undertake a PhD, and that’s what brought me to Durham.

Durham, view from the Castle collegeI truly enjoyed my time in Durham, and even lived and worked in Durham Castle for three years. I held down several positions alongside my studies. At one point, I worked as an academic mentor (tutoring PPEists), I taught analysis and musicology in the Music faculty, held the position of Alumni Relations and Development Officer at University College Durham, was SCR Steward (I was the keeper of the auspicious silver napkin rings and had to wind the SCR clock daily!), and ran the Durham Castle Lecture Series. Suffice to say that it was busy but a very pleasant experience.

The most rewarding aspect of it was of course tutoring and mentoring. In terms of the work that I did there, I was lucky enough to share an office with the Curator of Durham Castle, Gemma Lewis. For those of you who may be familiar with Durham Castle, you will likely know that it has an incredible amount of history attached to it, at one stage being the Northern seat of power. The oldest part of the Castle dates as far back as 1072, and with every bishop and prince bishop, different parts of the castle were added on, it really is a rich tapestry of history. So, I mostly focused my efforts on conservation projects for the castle, amongst other things.

During the pandemic, I found myself in Newcastle working for the Royal Grammar School, where we did much-needed work securing funds for means-tested bursaries and raising substantial funds for a pandemic hardship appeal. That point in time highlighted to me the disproportionate levels in education and access to education. In the Northeast, many schools stayed closed for massive lengths of time as they simply did not have the provisions to go to online learning. We did our best to ensure that all members of the school had access to the technology and provisions that they needed to continue learning while in lockdown.

How do you think you changed since you walked through Univ’s doors for the first time?
As I only arrived at Univ in May 2021, it’s still too soon to tell. I am happy to be back in a higher education environment. And I am especially happy to be working for a college that is proactively seeking to make education accessible, such as the Opportunity programme, Beacon and Early Years. These are much needed projects. It’s also great to tick Oxford off my list. I remember visiting Oxford when I was 15, having travelled to the UK from NZ for the first time for a school choir trip (which was a massive deal), and thinking to myself that I wanted to study in the UK. This wish was later fully cemented one evening in my undergraduate years when I watched the film adaptation of The History Boys, and I thought, right I want to study in the UK.

Photo of Development teamWhat roles have you held at Univ? 
Since starting at Univ, I’ve already changed positions. I arrived to take up the position as Development Coordinator, which entailed a heavy role in the Operations team. As interesting as aspects of that role were, when the position of Regular Giving Manager came up, I jumped at the chance to take that on. The RGM role is more outward-facing, and I get the opportunity to work with students more frequently. For example, I recruit them to take part in the telethon. This means training them over an intense two-day period (I didn’t know that I had the capacity to talk for that long!), and managing them during the calling sessions, which is exceptionally fun to take part in. I think the best bit about that process is working with the students, getting to know them as individuals and seeing how they develop along the process. My students were brilliant this year, very committed, and I think they will go on to do brilliant things.

Do you have any favourite moments from your time at Univ?
I think my favourite moment happened very recently during the telethon training. It was the second day of training, the students were sat at their calling desks to get to grips with the technology that they were using, when they suddenly realised that they could call each other’s office phones. There was a bit of chaos in the room as calls started going back and forth, but it was really lovely to see them working together and practicing.

Also, I have to mention Friday night happy hour with my office buddies, Alina and Lynn. And our office coffee addiction.

What do you do outside your work?
Outside of Univ, I’m a part-time PhD candidate with the music faculty at Durham University. I’ve always been very keen on composition and used to write a lot of music for piano, string quartets, orchestra, etc. My thesis focuses on approaches to film and multimedia analysis, specifically on Prokofiev’s music for the Eisenstein films, Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible I and II. It’s a project that marries my love for music, film, and Soviet politics. It’s interesting to study socio-political impacts on art and entertainment and to assess the trends of the time.

When I’m not working on my thesis, I enjoy getting outside and walking for hours while listening to music and the odd podcast. The other advantage to being in Oxford is that it is closer to London. Whenever I’m feeling spontaneous, I enjoy going across to visit the galleries (Tate Modern is my current favourite followed by the National Portrait Gallery), shopping and seeing friends.

Describe Univ in three words.
So much potential.

Published: 4 January 2022

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