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Alumni and supporters have say in the Bay (Area)

Friday 27 October 2017 9:55am

Otago PhD candidate and MacGibbon Fellow Jayde Flett discusses her US research with AUOA Treasurer John Crowe. 

If the measure of a good event is that guests don’t want to leave, then last week’s Otago alumni reception in San Francisco was a resounding success.

On Friday 20 October Alumni of the University of Otago in America (AUOA) president Neil Matheson hosted AUOA board members at an informal get together before guests joined senior Otago staff at an alumni event in the Financial District.

AUOA President Neil Matheson

At the Omni Hotel event Neil and Secretary Jono Wong discussed recent AUOA-funded projects, and outlined plans to seek input from US-based graduates on future activities to further strengthen networks and increase support students studying at Otago.

Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne updated guests on recent developments at the University and preparations for Otago’s 2019 sesquicentennial, which would include celebratory events in the US.

Development and Alumni Relations Office stewardship officer Kellie Bain says reception guests enjoyed reconnecting so much they had to be politely ushered out by hotel staff who were preparing the venue for an evening function.

“A highlight in San Francisco was how guests of all ages related to each other because of their common Otago experiences, and their enduring interest in their alma mater. It was a great opportunity to network, but the event also shows that alumni and supporters are really motivated to help future generations access all that Otago has to offer,” Kellie says.

AUOA Secretary Jono Wong

Otago Psychology PhD candidate Jayde Flett – who is studying as a visiting research student at the University of California-Berkeley after receiving an AUOA-funded MacGibbon Fellowship – says the event provided an opportunity to thank those who had funded her US study experience.

“The alumni event was a great chance to see where I could be in 10, 20 or even 50 years time as an Otago alum! It was also a good opportunity to directly thank those who helped me get here; without the generous donations of the Alumni of Otago in America I certainly could not have afforded to visit the Bay Area – and I wouldn’t be conducting this interesting research.”

Receiving the Fellowship had provided an “invaluable opportunity” to build a broader network of international peers, and she has already started collaborations on longer-term projects, some of which involve work outside her current research areas.

Studying at the University of California-Berkeley has allowed her to “delve deeper” into an area of study that Jayde wouldn’t have otherwise had access to, and has been “immensely” culturally rewarding.

“Under the direction of Matthew Smith (a Marine Veteran and current social work and public health student at Cal [UC-Berkeley]), I was also able to provide a small amount of volunteer assistance to the people of Santa Rosa based at the Veteran Memorial Centre’s fire shelter and field hospital.

“Their city was recently ravaged by fire and their courage and resilience in the face of such adversity has truly been awe-inspiring.”

Jayde, whose Otago research project with the Daily Experiences Lab is jointly supervised by Dr Tess Patterson (Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine), Dr Tamlin Connor and Professor Hayne (both of the Department of Psychology), says she will keep her “post-PhD options open.”

“Ultimately, I am good at and enjoy running research trials so I will likely pursue an academic or industry-based postdoctorate. Fortunately for me, this means I could follow an academic career path or pursue something in the private or public sector.”

Before the Saturday reception event Professor Hayne and Otago staff joined the AUOA board’s annual general meeting, at which the service and commitment of retiring member Geoff Nichol was acknowledged. A founding AUOA member, Geoff has also served as president, vice-president and secretary. He will join AUOA stalwarts Sir Murray Brennan, Jenny Schreiber, Bill Lindqvist and Andrew King on the group’s honorary advisory board.

Below: (left) AUOA Board Members Dr Andrew Hamer and Geoff Nichol and (from right) Honorary Board Member Bill Lindqvist, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) Professor Helen Nicholson and AUOA Regional Associate Member Liaison Nigel Bain.