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An Evening of Celebrations: Christchurch 2018

Thursday 19 April 2018 2:32pm

Alumni and guests joined University of Otago staff at the Christchurch campus on 19 April for an event outlining the highlights of next year’s University of Otago 150th anniversary celebrations.

About 120 alumni and partners were warmly welcomed by Christchurch campus Deputy Dean Professor Vicky Cameron and heard about the 150th celebrations timeline from Chancellor Dr Royden Somerville.

Dr Somerville discussed being at the 1969 Queen’s Birthday celebrations, and his expectation that all of next year’s celebrations would eclipse centenary events.

He also thanked alumni for their ongoing generosity, and drew their attention to fundraising projects associated with the 150th, which would provide further opportunities to support their alma mater to continue producing outstanding graduates and research in future.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne discussed Otago’s proud history of progressing the “path of excellence” over the past 149 years.

Otago had steadily increased its teaching and research outputs; it now had 17,405 full-time equivalent students and in 2017 External Research Income exceeded $100million for the first time.

Professor Hayne said the Christchurch campus remained Otago’s most research intensive, and acknowledged its staff’s efforts to produce high volumes of internationally significant work.

Otago staff had gained more teaching awards than any other New Zealand university; in 2015, for instance, Professor Hayne Associate Professor said Christchurch-based academic Dr Suzanne Pitama (Associate Dean Māori, Director of MIHI (Māori/Indigenous Health Institute) received the 2015 Prime Ministers Supreme Award for tertiary teaching excellence.

Professor Cameron donned an Otago scarf for the event but joked about her loyalty not extending to rugby; she sported red and black when the Crusaders played the Highlanders.

She précised the campus’ evolution. It was founded 45 years ago as the Christchurch Medical School and has since grown to teach more than 1,000 students, including 320 medical students in their three clinical years. Annually, it also hosts around 500 postgraduate health sciences students, undertaking a range of programmes to PhD level.

It was also a “powerhouse” of health research, contributing more than 20 per cent of all Otago publications, and hosting three Health Research Council Programme grants and two of Otago’s flagship Research Centres.

One of the Christchurch campus’s key strengths was its “collaboration and co-location.”

“Crucial to our research success is the close collaboration that academics have between departments; we share research equipment, and staff and students from diverse disciplines spark off each other to gain ideas and inspiration.

“Staff at the University of Otago, Christchurch also work closely with the Christchurch Hospital and Canterbury District Health Board. Our relationships with the CDHB have never been better. In practice this means that much of the Christchurch campus’s research is inter-disciplinary, and is readily translatable to clinical care and other aspects of health science.”

Other features of the evening included a video screen showing past and present images of Otago, and highlights of students’ community contributions, as well as achievements of staff. Musician Graham Wardrop entertained on acoustic guitar.