Monday 16 June 2014 2:57pm
Dr Jim Cotter, School of Physical Education,
voted this year’s OUSA Supervisor of the Year.
The simple mantra “do the right thing” is what saw Dr Jim Cotter voted this year’s OUSA Supervisor of the Year by a host of postgraduate students who describe his attributes in tones of near — and actual — reverence.
Dr Cotter is in his tenth year as a Physical Education lecturer specialising in exercise and environment physiology. His style attracted such voter comments as...
“He taught me how to critically think and evaluate research... his patient and accomplished teaching method equipped me with the necessary understanding and expertise to pursue research at an international level. I am incredibly grateful for his supervision and mentorship, and value his active interest in what I am doing and how I am progressing.”
“Jim... is an outstanding role model not only as a supervisor and academic, but as a family man, a sportsman, and a person who contributes to the community in many ways. His ability to do all this is something I truly revere.”
Dr Cotter is typically low-key in his response. “I just generally try to do the right thing as a supervisor. Being interested in what the student is doing and taking enjoyment from that. You try to help and give advice where you can.”
“You never necessarily know best; you do learn from the students. Postgrads do a lot of work and they are a large part of what makes the job so satisfying.”
Dr Cotter is currently primary- or co-supervisor for five PhD candidates, two Masters students and four Honours students.
Although his voters would beg to differ, what really keeps him on his toes is the concern that he’s not doing all he could for them.
“I don’t pretend to be a great supervisor. You’re always aware of so many things you’re not doing enough of; whether it’s passing on technical information such as statistical or data-searching procedures, or more nebulous things like options for employment or pathways for future interaction with other mentors to help them in their academic development.”
“You spend time with the student, you enjoy working with them and you always worry you haven’t set them up enough to get on.”
Dr Cotter finds the award a little embarrassing, while also feeling “pleased and thankful”. He prefers to highlight that many supervisors do great work in assisting their students and acknowledges the contribution of his own role models.
“Various people have been a huge influence. Associate Professor Greg Anson, who has just retired from the University, mentored me recently and when I did my Masters here years ago. I did a lot of co-supervision with Dr Philip Ainslie, who used to work here. His energy, intelligence and commitment to students have always been a great inspiration.”
Dr Cotter’s students certainly appreciate the effect these role models had. One of his voters gets the last word: “Jim invests so much into his students... beyond any job description imaginable. The impact he has on us as students will be with us for life.”