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Alumni Memories: Lisa Scott

Lisa Scott, an English and Film and Media Studies alumna, is a prolific writer, well-known to many. Her work has won several national awards, including a Qantas for Humour/Satire in 2010 and Magazine Publishers' Association Journalist of the Year in 2011. Her first book, Travels With My Economist, was published in 2012 and described by one critic as “eye-wateringly honest and laugh-out-loud funny”. Lisa writes “Tales from the Powder Room” for the Otago Daily Times, “Last Laugh” for NEXT magazine, and features for North & South and NZ Life & Leisure. She is also a regular panelist on Radio New Zealand's Afternoons with Jim Mora.

Lisa's second book, Kindness & Lies – which she describes as “part memoir, part how-to guide” – was launched at the University Book Shop on 16 October.

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Lisa Scott's second time around at Otago was her most successful. After taking time out from study to focus on parenthood, she returned to undertake a BA in English and Film and Media Studies.

“Making the decision to study at Otago,” she says, “saved my sanity and expanded the parameters of my world. Best of all, it fired my ambition. The first time I got an A for something I glowed for a week.”

Of how influential her studies at Otago were, Lisa recalls, “Writing essays for Film and Media and for English helped me find my voice. Plus, doing such a wide variety of literature papers – Old English, New Zealand literature, Shakespeare, 20th Century American – encouraged a book-aholic-ism that stands me in great stead in my career today, especially in broadcasting, where it always pays to be able to toss off a fabulous quote or two.”

Lisa fondly recalls her favourite lecturer from the Department of English: “The late and legendary Bill Dean, a tiny, whip-smart man often found propping up the downstairs bar at the Cook.” Professor Chris Ackerley was another influential lecturer. “He held forth on Under the Volcano with bombastic verve,” she recalls.

“Thierry Jutel's incredibly kinetic, almost surrealist Film and Media lectures” are also an enduring memory. “The idea of applying Marxist or Lacanian mirror theory to movie-watching blew my mind. And we actually made a short film of our own, as a class – but I think I ended up on the cutting-room floor.”

Completing her studies at Otago, Lisa says she felt “unutterably sad at the end of my academic life. University had been a time of endless possibility, a benign shelter, and leaving was an awful wrench.”

The influence of her time at Otago, however, has been profound. “Luckily, a career made up of happy accidents looks cleverly thought out viewed with the distance of time.

"Really, going to Otago was the only thing in my whole life I ever did on purpose. Thank goodness.”

Alumni Notes

Falkland adventure

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While completing her MSc (Surveying and Marine Science) and PhD (Zoology) at the University of Otago, Amélie Augé worked in collaboration with the Department of Conservation, studying the New Zealand sea lions. This included five fieldwork summers in the Auckland Islands.

Following two years in tropical North Queensland, where Amélie had a postdoctoral fellowship at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (James Cook University) working on the Great Barrier Reef coast, she is now back in the sub-Antarctic world of seals and penguins.

She is working at the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) based in Stanley, Falkland Islands, as a marine ecologist. Nathan, her partner, is also an Otago alumnus and there is also a third Marine Science alumnus working in the Falklands.

Amélie's research at SAERI relates to spatial ecology (such as looking at where penguins go to find their food at sea and why they choose particular areas) and spatial planning. She works in collaboration with international scientists, studying and protecting the islands' magnificent and abundant marine life.

On song

Kawiti WaetfordRising young baritone Kawiti Waetford recently moved from Dunedin to Wales, thanks to the support of the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation and the Ngarimu Māori Battalion scholarship, to study at the renowned Cardiff Academy of Voice – under its internationally celebrated director, Dennis O'Neill.

Although he suffered a severe antibiotic reaction in May that stripped his vocal cords, he successfully recovered and achieved his master's degree in Advanced Vocal Studies. Kawiti is extremely grateful for the continued mentorship of Dame Kiri who regularly shares her advice and time – he even visits her home for training and the occasional afternoon of oil painting.

A few other highlights of Kawiti's time in Wales include singing at Dame Kiri's 70th birthday celebration, performing at the UK launch of Eleanor Catton's book The Luminaries, and being presented with the Ngarimu VC and Maori Battalion Masters Award. Kawiti plans to continue his post-master's study in Wales.

Giving back

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Blair Hesp is the driving force behind Kainic Medical Communications, an award-winning medical communications company providing overnight medical writing support to clients in the Northern Hemisphere and, more recently, New Zealand-based biotechnology companies wanting to communicate their research internationally.

During his PhD studies, Blair investigated the effects of the neurotoxin kainic acid on the brain and discovered a potential age-related mechanism that impacts a person's ability people to tolerate neurotoxins. After graduating, he studied business and law while working at an international intellectual property law firm, and was then introduced to the world of medical communications during his OE. While in the UK, he worked with multinational pharmaceutical companies and international experts to communicate information about new drugs to key stakeholders – including doctors, funding agencies, patients and internal company audiences.

After returning home, he set up Kainic Medical Communications, which has initiated a programme of giving back to the University of Otago by sponsoring an international travel scholarship to help postgraduate science students take their research onto the global stage at major international conferences.

Première production

Sarah McDougallIn August 2013, alumna Sarah McDougall was conferred with Otago's and New Zealand's first Master of Fine Arts (Theatre Studies). This month, her theatre production Moon at the Bottom of the Garden, written in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree, will première at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery as part of the Arts Festival Dunedin.

Sarah's research began with a photograph of “bodgies” and “widgies” and, as part of her research journey, she learnt how to ethically integrate facts from the 1955 “Jukebox Murder” and depict the consequences of that trauma on a fictional “widgie” at the heart of the killings.

Her work is driven by her interest in women's positioning, memory and whakapapa, and she feels that her degree allowed her to “explore why I write, about whom I write, in the way I write. It has enabled me to fully research and write my best play yet.”

Organic success

Janelle and JacintaJanelle and Jacinta Priest (BCom, BA; and BCom) have joined their mother Carol and their sister Fiona, in launching Plantae Certified Organic Skincare – a family business that is going from strength to strength around the world. Rose, pomegranate, lavender and lemon are among Plantae's nourishing botanicals.

Based on the principles of organics, ethnobotany, sustainability, research and education, the business and its products also use the Linnean classification system to ensure that all of its ingredients are fully identified and understood. With products that cleanse, tone and moisturise every skin type, ingredients are certified organic by BioGro New Zealand.

Read the full story about Plantae Certified Organic Skincare and the Otago alumni behind it, on the Otago alumni website.

Queen's Birthday Honours

Alumni recognised in the 2014 Queens Birthday Honours include:

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM): Professor Graham Le Gros, for services to science and medicine; Dr Paul White, for services to children's health and radiology.

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM): Catherine Fitzgerald, for services to film; Ian Kearney, for services to business and the community; Lynn McKenzie, for services to women; Darren Shand, for services to rugby.

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM): Jennifer Black, for services to health; Dr Virginia Hope, for services to health; Paul Hudson, for services to business and the community; Professor Donald Maurice, for services to music; Rachel Noble, for services to the deaf; Dr Tony Ruakere, for services to Māori health; Dr Grant Williams, for services to science.

Companion of the Queen's Service Order (QSO): Judge Shonagh Kenderdine, for services to the judiciary.

Queen's Service Medal (QSM): Ronald Ballantyne, for services to education; Jane Coughlan, for services to the community; James Mathewson, for services to education; Ailsa Spicer, for services to education and the community; Patrick Sullivan, for services to broadcasting.

Bonedoc giveaway

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Bonedoc is a new iPhone app which allows players to perform virtual orthopaedic surgery. Developed by Otago Medical School lecturer Dr Phil Blythe, the game is designed to improve players' surgical technique, with the opportunity to “practice” orthopaedic procedures and take virtual x-rays – all with real-time feedback.

This game is suitable for:

  • Medical students
  • Theatre staff
  • Anaesthetists
  • Junior trainees/residents
  • Senior trainees/consultants
  • Orthopaedic programmes.s

To learn more about Bonedoc and to see a demo of how the app works, visit

We are giving away the BoneDoc app to 10 lucky alumni. To enter the draw, email with the subject line “Bonedoc”.

Thank you to Phil Blythe and the Otago Innovation Limited team.

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