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Tēnā koutou and welcome to this Christmas edition

Harlene Hayne.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne

We are now almost at the end of another busy and productive year and I hope you have enjoyed the stories we have brought you in this newsletter. In this edition, we bring you stories about our business students’ international success, a student firefighter, our University rowers, our top law student negotiators and Arana College students giving back to their community – to name just a few examples.

I never cease to be amazed at the effort, ability and good work carried out by Otago students, who are achieving at the highest levels in the worlds of academia, politics, sport and culture. Increasingly, Otago students are becoming more involved using their time and talent to benefit others.

This year alone their efforts have ranged from our medical students knitting clothing for premature babies, to students working to find solutions for poverty. I am particularly proud that we have now established a Volunteer Centre to cater for the increasing demand of this important work; a demand that has been driven by the students themselves, expressing a strong desire to extend their community engagement. This is wonderful to see.

Building upon our increasing role of social responsibility, I’m also proud that we recently became New Zealand’s first free-trade university. This means that, wherever possible, products that are consumed by staff and students at Otago will be sourced ethically from places that embody free trade.

We have continued the tradition of constructing award-winning buildings and facilities, with the Marsh Study Centre now a popular student space. Its design has also just won a national architectural award. The creation of this study hub in the Northern end of the campus, on the boundary with the Botanic Gardens, has been a real bonus for students living in the area, and it is great to see this space so well used. Take a look some time; the coffee there is excellent!

There are two brand new developments that we will launch in early 2014. First, for our Dunedin-based students living at home with parents or caregivers, we have a “Locals” Programme that will include study and mentoring opportunities for first-year Dunedin-based students. We have also established a new lounge space to be set aside for “locals” in the Union building, where most students congregate. This project is designed to give local Dunedin students new opportunities to meet people and get informal academic support. I am personally excited about the Locals Programme; I know that it will help Dunedin-based students get off to a great start here at Otago.

Second, if you visit us next year you will be able to enjoy our new Visitors' Centre at the Cumberland Street entrance to the University. As well as giving a snapshot of our impressive history, the Visitors' Centre will also host tours of the campus precinct, and will stock our new range of University of Otago memorabilia. So please do acquaint yourself with this wonderful new resource designed with you, our wider University community, in mind.

In closing, I would like to thank all of our students and family community for your support of the University of Otago this year, and I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas and New Year wherever you are in the world.

Please take a moment to watch our University Ukulele group’s rendition of the New Zealand Christmas tree in this end-of-year edition of Otago Connection. The members of the group are staff and student volunteers who are increasingly in demand to entertain audiences here in Dunedin. They have made this singing Christmas card especially for you! Meri Kirihimete – Merry Christmas.

Professor Harlene Hayne