The University's 2017 Graduate Research Festival kicked off yesterday, with words of advice from two departments that provide outstanding postgraduate environments.
At a Quality Forum Developing and sustaining a vibrant postgraduate research culture in your department held at Unicol yesterday afternoon, representatives from the departments that won Postgraduate Research Culture Excellence Awards earlier this year shared their strategies.
Dr Caroline Orchiston, the Deputy Director of the Centre for Sustainability (CSAFE), and PhD candidate Karly Burch spoke on behalf of their department – which won the award for a small department (fewer than 30 research students), while Professor Murray Rae of Theology and Religion spoke on behalf of his department – which won the award for a large department (more than 30 research students).
Dr Orchiston says social events which include both staff and research students feature strongly within CSAFE, including a daily morning tea and quiz. In addition staff were always available if students needed them.
“The Centre provides excellent pastoral care to their students, including assisting international students to settle, help with navigating the town, and providing access to a shared bike.”
Dr Orchiston noted the students felt included and respected, and part of the whanau at the Centre.
"Many of these things go beyond the call of duty but they matter a lot in terms of easing the journey for postgraduates and contributing to their positive experience of Otago."
“Social activities include a shared vegetable garden, international food lunches and dinners, and movie and card game nights amongst many other opportunities to spend time together. The Centre also runs an annual Noho Marae at Puketeraki, with regular fortnightly waiata practices with the Centre's Kaiawhina, Mariana te Pou.”
Professor Rae says his department holds an annual postgraduate orientation day in which incoming students get to meet staff, both academic and general, introduce their own projects and aspirations, and get to know each other.
“The day includes an initial orientation to the Department and to the opportunities for engagement in the wider University community, an extended discussion about the research journey and how to approach it, and a session in the Library about how to access and make the most of information services,” he says.
Like CSAFE, Theology and Religion strives to foster a supportive community, including regular meetings for lunch, a Facebook page, drinks after the weekly seminar, and invitations to staff homes for dinner.
"It is a highlight of the year for the University community and provides a wonderful series of events to hear about research and to recognise excellence – both in our research candidates and in supervisors."
“Pastoral care is an important feature of the relationship with postgraduate students. We advise new students on the transition to Dunedin and New Zealand. We sometimes provide assistance in finding housing and furniture, provide practical help like airport pick-ups, loan of a trailer for moving furniture around town, helping spouses find jobs, etc. Many of these things go beyond the call of duty but they matter a lot in terms of easing the journey for postgraduates and contributing to their positive experience of Otago.”
The forum was a wonderful beginning to a busy fortnight, says the Dean of the Graduate Research School, Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith.
The Graduate Research Festival – which runs from 31 July to 11 August – is a time to celebrate and showcase the amazing research done by graduate research candidates at Otago, Professor Spronken-Smith says.
“It is a highlight of the year for the University community and provides a wonderful series of events to hear about research and to recognise excellence – both in our research candidates and in supervisors.”
The other major events include the Three Minute Thesis grand final, to be held this Friday, a University of Otago Student Research Symposium – Te Wānaka Rakahau – Ākoka 2017 – being held at the St David complex this weekend, and the OUSA Supervisor of the Year Awards being held next Thursday.
There will also be a Postgraduate Open Day for prospective students next Tuesday, and a Postgraduate Poster Competition now on in the Link.
The events in detail:
Mon 31 Jul to Wed 2 Aug
There are 32 posters this year, which are now displayed in the Link. The categories that the students will be judged on are: best overall, best poster for a lay audience, and best poster for a research audience. The winners will be announced on Wed 2 Aug at an afternoon tea in the Billiard Room in the Staff Club.
The Three Minute Thesis grand final
Fri 4 Aug, 5pm to 7pm
Castle 2 Lecture Theatre
This is a superb event that showcases postgraduate research, with the Master's winner off to a national final and the PhD winner off to a trans-Tasman competition.
University of Otago Student Research Symposium - Te Wānaka Rakahau – Ākoka 2017
Sat 5 and Sun 6 Aug
St David complex
There has been an amazing student response to this with over 100 submissions including nearly 80 oral presentations, 16 Pecha Kucha and 25 posters. Over 180 people have registered to attend and supervisors are encouraged to come along.
Postgraduate Open Day
Tue 8 Aug, 10am to 2pm
Postgraduate Open Day offers undergraduates an opportunity to learn more about their study options at postgraduate level. Information about postgraduate diplomas, masters' degrees and PhDs are available directly from departments, along with information on scholarships, accommodation options and distance learning courses. Come along and find out what Otago can offer you for the next step in your tertiary education.
Te Rōpū Pūtaiao Wine and Cheese Postgraduate Symposium
Tue 8 Aug, 5.30pm
Otago University Rugby Clubrooms, Logan Park
A range of tauira within the Science Division will share their research in a three-minute presentation. Guest speakers will also talk about internship and scholarship pathways, and there will be a keynote speaker and musical entertainment. Refreshments will also be provided.
The OUSA Supervisor of the Year Awards
Thu 10 Aug, 5pm
This is a special event, co-hosted by OUSA and the Graduate Research School, which recognises and celebrates excellence in postgraduate supervision. As well as Divisional award winners, the New Supervisor of the Year and Overall Supervisor of the Year will be announced.