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Scholarship giving mature students a boost

Wednesday 3 October 2018 2:25pm

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Professor Robinson addresses the recent Benefactors’ Dinner in Dunedin.

A desire to give those who haven’t followed the usual academic path to post-graduate studies a second chance was behind the development of the Robinson Dorsey Scholarship.

Two inaugural scholarships have been recently awarded, and Otago University Professor and Mackenzie Chair of Cancer Medicine Bridget Robinson says it’s wonderful to see another option for those pursuing to further their studies.

Both Professor Robinson’s parents, the late James and Marion Robinson were former professors of the University, and Marion was an alumna. James Robinson was a professor of physiology, and Marion was the first professor of nutrition at the University.

They instilled in their daughter a desire to support those with a passion for further study, especially those who have had a break or not followed the traditional academic route, and therefore not eligible for many of the usual scholarships. They were determined to make sure each of their students reached their full potential.

Rhoda Dorsey was a friend and colleague of Marion Robinson when they both studied at Cambridge University. Professor Dorsey became the first female president of Goucher College in Maryland in the USA, and was keen to support the pursuit of further education. She passed away in 2014, and funding from her charitable trust, along with funding from the Robinson Charitable Trust support the scholarships.

The inaugural scholarship recipients are Leigh O’Brien from Christchurch and Melanie Dubyk from Dunedin. Both are mature students with families, and are studying part-time in nutrition. Leigh is studying a Master of Science, while Melanie is working towards her PhD.

“Students like this bring a broad life experience, which offers another perspective and enriches the university,” says Professor Robinson.

“There is a definite niche out there for this type of scholarship as we received a strong pool of applicants, which is very pleasing.”

Also an Otago alumna and academic, Professor Robinson says universities are built on scholarship and her own work in cancer research would not be possible without the support of the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation.

The Robinson-Dorsey Scholarship is valued at up to $25,000 per year for full-time PhD study, or $13,000 per year for full-time Masters’. It is for a tenure of three years full-time for PhD, and one year full-time for other postgraduate study. It can be held with part-time tenure, and the annual value will be pro-rated. It must be taken up within one year of being awarded unless otherwise agreed by the shortlisting committee.