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Category Archives: Alumni

Giving back – one international student’s remarkable journey

Growing up in an academic family, in Yangon, Myanmar, with an emphatic value placed on education, my parents always wanted to give me an education abroad.

As I had never been away from home and as parents they wanted somewhere their child would be safe and still be offered the quality education they were after, it is not surprising New Zealand was at the top of their list.

With an interest in biomedical sciences from an early age, together with my parents, I made the decision to study at the University of Otago, New Zealand’s first university with excellence in medical and biomedical research and teaching.

Dr Htin Lin Aung

I started my affiliation with the University of Otago in 2001, firstly completing a foundation studies course before moving onto studying genetics. I received my Bachelor of Science Degree, with first class honours in Genetics in 2005, after which I worked as a research assistant both at the University of Otago and Massey University in order to have the skills to pursue my PhD in 2010. I was awarded a PhD in Microbiology in 2013.

Immediately after my BSc (Hons) graduation and my PhD graduation, I started my employment at the University of Otago. I am currently leading an international research programme combating tuberculosis (TB) in New Zealand and my home country Myanmar through a prestigious Sir Charles Hercus Research Fellowship awarded to me by the New Zealand Health Research Council.

How did you find the learning/teaching environment at Otago?  Do you think it gave you the skills and knowledge to enable you to find employment?

I would say that my experience at Otago gave me a chance to discover myself and my purpose in life. I have always wanted to make a difference and to contribute back to the community. Therefore, I selected the health sector as my way of doing so, particularly TB, which daily claims 5,000 lives mainly from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

What was your experience with your lecturers/supervisors like?  Were they approachable and helpful?

Lecturers and teaching fellows were so helpful and supportive. Some of them are my longstanding mentors, and I can proudly call them my lifetime friends.

How have you found the ‘culture’ of the students, staff, and people that work at the University of Otago?

The culture of the students and staff at the University is that we courageously keep on tackling big challenges, which is the reflection of the University’s motto “Dare to Be Wise”.

How would you describe the University of Otago to somebody who was thinking of studying as an international student at Otago?

Truly home away from home – when I first arrived here I felt homesickness. But people here at the University and in Dunedin are amicable  and welcoming, so Dunedin quickly became my home away from home.

Did Otago met your expectations?

Exceeded.

How does it feel to be an Otago alumni?

I am a proud scarfie and a true University of Otago product (from Foundation Studies to PhD and now an employee of the University).

What is the best memory you have from your time at the University of Otago?

Unforgettable student experience – some of my best memories include my time at Cumberland College, a residential college I lived in first as a student and later as a residential assistant supporting other students. I am now a College Fellow at Cumberland, providing mentor ship to students within and beyond their academic life.

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, both from Otago, she is passionate about education, and the places it can take you.

Inspiration for women who want to be the boss.

Otago alumna Bhavneet Chahal

E-learning company GoSkills’ co-founder Bhavneet Chahal says her experiences at the University of Otago kick-started a career helping others learn about IT and realise their potential.

Bhavneet completed a Bachelor of Applied Science with first-class honours, majoring in molecular biology in 2006. She later gained a Master of Entrepreneurship.

While working for Groupon in Sydney, Bhavneet realised that online courses were a growth area but that they were not always providing the quality content required by professionals looking to expand their skills.

Since being founded in New Zealand in 2013 – with input from Otago Professor Paul Hansen – more than 104,000 users have signed up to access GoSkills’ 50+ online learning courses.

Bhavneet backs up her advice for young women wanting to start their own business with practical assistance; she proudly supports two $2,000 scholarships each year. The title of these awards leaves little room for misinterpretation: they are called the Scholarship for Women Who Want to be the Boss.

question Q  How did Otago help to shape your life and career success?

I studied Applied Science as an undergraduate and, while I always enjoyed science, I couldn’t see myself pursuing a career as a researcher or scientist.

During the last year of that degree I found a student business competition on campus called Kickstart. I entered the competition with a business idea and I was a winner in the first round and a finalist in the competition’s second round.

This opened up my eyes to a totally different world of business and entrepreneurship. I then completed a Master of Entrepreneurship to learn practical skills to start and grow a business.

This degree was right up my alley, I learned the fundamentals of business and felt prepared to one day start my own company.

question Q  Highlights and interesting memories of your university days?

Definitely the residential colleges; when I first arrived at Otago I stayed at St Margaret’s College. I later worked as a Residential Assistant (RA) at Cumberland College, which was known at the time as being a bit of a party Hall. It was then that I realised what being an undergraduate at Otago was truly like! I was glad I started off at a relatively tame place and could ease into uni life. Some of my best friends today are people I met at both St Margaret’s and Cumberland!

question Q  Recollections of favourite or standout lecturers?

I had two standout lecturers. The first was Richard Higham – he was about 79 when I took his class during the Master of Entrepreneurship. I was inspired by his sharp intellect, boundless energy and superior Excel spreadsheet skills! He was able to bring our class together and teach us how to grow a business in a fun and dynamic environment.

The other standout lecture is Professor Paul Hansen – an economics lecturer and part-time surfer. I was drawn to Paul’s energy and passion for his craft – economics and business. It’s no wonder he’s won student popularity awards and it’s also no coincidence that he’s now my business partner at GoSkills.

question Q  What are your career or personal highlights?

Starting a company from scratch, pulling together people and resources and growing it into a global business. Our team can work from anywhere in the world and we sell to customers the world over. Building a business that pushes the boundaries of being in a global and connected world has been extremely fulfilling.

question Q  What are your future goals?

Keep building businesses, help others build and grow businesses, and world peace – naturally!

question Q  What advice do you have for current students or students considering studying at Otago?

Make the most of every opportunity. There are so many facets to university life – try them all. Join random clubs, try sports you might not have ever considered, enjoy the unexpected friendships you will form along the way. It’s only when you try loads of different things that you discover what you truly like and figure out who you are. University is a time to try things in a safe environment and set yourself up for a future that most aligns to who you are and where you want to be.

Many thanks to the team at the University of Otago Alumni & Friends for providing the content for this blog!

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, both from Otago, she is passionate about education, and the places it can take you.

Further your knowledge and your career – study for a Master of Finance at the University of Otago.

For previous generations the completion of an undergraduate degree would provide a direct pathway to secure employment.  But in 2019, with the advent of globalisation, world travel is now affordable and accessible,  the global population is increasing and living longer, so naturally competition for employment has subsequently increased. 

So, as much as an undergraduate degree is an achievement and a sign to a potential employer that you have the tenacity to commit to a period of study, it may no longer be enough to give you the edge over another candidate/student, and that’s where postgraduate study comes in. 

The University of Otago has a range of postgraduate study options, and today we will focus on the Master of Finance (MFinc), and associated scholarship opportunities offered by the Otago Business School’s Department of Accountancy & Finance.

Where to from here?

So, you’ve completed an undergraduate degree – congratulations!  Or, perhaps you’ve been working for a number of years and you feel that there are gaps in your knowledge base/skill set that are holding you back from moving forward in your chosen career path?  If you are seeking/currently in a career in the finance industry or for financial specialists in non-financial firms the Master of Finance (MFinc) is the qualification for you. The study options within the degree are designed to offer a number of pathways for you depending on your academic background and career aspirations. The primary pathway is for strong graduates of mathematically-oriented degrees such as mathematics and statistics, physics and economics.

Key information about the Master of Finance (MFinc):

  • 12 month (February to February) full time study
  • Seven taught papers plus either an applied or research project
  • Applicants with a mathematically oriented degree and normally with an average grade of B+ in the papers satisfying the final year major subject requirement for that degree are encouraged to apply
  • Applicants with relevant practical experience may also be considered if the B+ average is not met

If you complete the Applied Project (FINC501) option you will have a wide range of career opportunities in commercial and investment banks, brokerage and investment firms, insurance companies, treasury departments of non-financial corporations, regulatory agencies, consulting and accounting firms. If on the other hand you complete the Research Project (FINC580) you will also have the ability to design and pursue a large project of independent research and consider a Master of Commerce (MCom) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Finance.

The Master of Finance (MFinc) will equip you to be either:

  • Professional practitioners in the field of Finance; or
  • Academic researchers in the discipline of Finance

Internationally renowned lecturers

Professor Jin Zhang is Professor of Finance at the University of Otago. Jin was previously Associate Professor at the School of Economics and Finance, the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Jin Zhang received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Tsinghua University in 1985 and 1988, respectively. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1996. After spending one-year as an associate at Morgan Stanley in New York, he went to Hong Kong to teach Financial Engineering at City University Hong Kong from 1997 to 2001, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from 2001 to 2004, and then HKU from 2004 to 2012. He has served as the Director of Master of Finance program and Associate Director, Center for Financial Innovation and Risk Management (CFIRM) at University of Hong Kong from 2009.  PLUS on top of all of these academic achievements Jin was awarded the OUSA 2018 supervisor of the year award for the Accountancy and Finance Department!

Advice from a former Master of Finance (MFinc) student

Long Bui graduated with a Master of Finance (MFinc) in May 2019 and he had this to say about his experience:

“Completing the MFINC degree at the University of Otago has given me an opportunity to take a step forward in my finance career, i.e. to become a portfolio manager. As I moved on to management level in the asset management industry, I realised that having a solid background in financial analysis and fluent asset pricing technique is just not enough. You also need to be confident when encountering and discussing different advanced topics with your management colleagues and other specialists in this industry.

Confidence comes when you get rid of your fear and “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”.

In this regard, the MFINC program enhances my knowledge on various aspects of finance, which were unknown to me before, such as mathematical finance, advanced corporate finance, advanced financial econometrics and energy carbon finance. I also had a chance to learn how to prepare and write academic research. Not to mention that I had hands-on experience in doing real life projects in risk management, electricity trading, stocks momentum effect using Matlab, STATA, and Excel simulation. All of the above fill the missing pieces in my whole picture of the broader finance world.

Besides, the MFINC lecturers are very supportive and dedicated, with their “heavy” and comprehensive course materials. Therefore, I would be more than happy to recommend the MFINC program to not only someone who wants to climb higher in their career ladder but also to those who think of starting their very first journey into the finance world.”

Apply now and receive a $10,000 scholarship

The Department of Accountancy and Finance is currently offering international students, who fit the admission requirements of the Master of Finance (MFinc), and wish to commence study in February 2020, the opportunity to receive (based on academic merit) a NZD $10,000 scholarship.

Further your knowledge and your career with the Master of Finance (MFinc) from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Applications close 31 October 2019.

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, both from Otago, she is passionate about education, and the places it can take you.

Study Abroad at Otago – if you love what you do, you can do it here.

Fox Meyer came to the University of Otago from Washington DC, originally for one semester, but one semester proved not long enough, and he extended his stay for a year.  We caught up with Fox, as he is a bit of an international student super-star, and asked him why he came to Otago?  What he experienced when he was here – the good and the bad, and the combination of factors that make the University of Otago, in Dunedin, New Zealand, located at the very bottom of the world, such a special place.

“Plenty of schools have good geology programmes, and plenty of schools are in wonderful locations, I chose Otago, because it has both.”

The style of learning was different to what Meyer was used to back home, more independent and ultimately down to personal motivation.  If you’re passionate, the academics will do everything they can to help you.

“Academically, the kiwi attitude towards failure was very healthy.  Professors won’t hesitate to fail you if you aren’t making the grade, but that’s not the end of the world.  They don’t sugar-coat anything.  You’re there to learn, and you need to be wrong in order to learn.  I’m glad the staff felt the same way.”

The majority of geology coursework involved fieldwork, plenty of time in tents and streams, resulting in a final product as opposed to an exam, which was perfect for Meyer’s learning style.

Otago has encouraged me to do any sort of project I could conceive of, and point me in the right direction when I’ve needed help.” 

This independence and interest for his subject led to assisting a professor looking at the thermal properties of the Otago harbour.  The data obtained from this is useful in tracking climate change, as well as prospecting potential geothermal taps.  On a whim, Meyer applied for the inaugural ‘Think New Grant,’ from Education New Zealand, and won it!

“I think that part of the reason I won was because I had so much fun applying; enthusiasm for one’s study can often be contagious, so big ups to Otago for fostering that curiosity.”

When asked what a stand out feature of studying at Otago was, Meyer refers to the social lifestyle at Otago as an international student:

“Living in the international community is a wonderful bubble. There’s something going on every night of the week, you’ll meet folks from all over the world, and if you don’t know how to cook, now’s the time to learn!”

And once again, the learning and teaching environment are top of mind:

“I was given a lot of creative freedom and deadline flexibility to produce an end product that I was happy with.  That being said, expectations are very high.  You had to ask for help, you had to explore, and you really had to get your feet wet.  That’s a good way of describing Otago:  it’s very easy to get your feet wet, and if you’d like, you can dive a whole lot deeper.”

Best memory?

“I have a year of best memories.  The most humbling was during field camp when I’d just submitted my first map sheet, and I thought I was really hot stuff.  I felt really big for my boots, was very confident with my lab experience back in the States.  Boy, was I mistaken.  Way off!  My map sheet made no sense at all and the lecturers tore it to shreds.  I asked for advice, listened to their advice, went back out, and got a 98% on my next map.  Otago taught me not to think I know too much.  There’s always room for improvement.”

Worst experience?

“Leaving Otago.  It’s that good.  If you’re someone who likes their independence, who can work hard and play hard, there’s really nowhere else to go.  Definitely not Auckland.” 

Future plans?

“I’ll be back to New Zealand as soon as I can, I’d like to explore jobs in the geothermal sector.  I really believe New Zealand has both the natural potential and the social support to become a geothermal powerhouse.”

Great to catch up with you Fox, congratulations on graduating with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Geology, we wish you all the very best with your future endeavours.

Our favourite takeaway quote from chatting:

“If you love what you do, you can do it here.”

To find out more about studying at the University of Otago, click the big yellow button below and start your journey!

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, both from Otago, she is passionate about education, and the places it can take you.

Study Accounting at Otago – yeah…..nah?

Accountancy as a subject and a profession can sometimes get a fairly big  ‘yawn’ reaction from people, but how much do you know about studying Accounting at the University of Otago?  Unless you are a current accounting student, or you already know your chosen path and you’re planning to study accounting, maybe you’ve never really delved deeper below the surface of this possibly misjudged and maligned subject?  We are going to take a look at the history of accounting at Otago, the current teaching and department strengths and affiliations and the opportunities a qualification in accounting can bring you career wise, plus current scholarships available.  Let’s see if we can surprise you, who knows, you may change your mind on studying accounting at Otago and go from a yeah nah, to a yeah, yes, absolutely!

The History

The University of Otago has been teaching Accountancy and Commerce since the early twentieth century, so if you look at that from the perspective New Zealand was only settled by Europeans in the mid to late 19th century, 107 years is old in this country.  And although history is wonderful, and can teach us so much, history isn’t what is going to convince you to come and study Accounting at Otago, it is the present and future that really matters.

The Present

The Department of Accountancy and Finance is a member of CFA’s University Affiliation programme, offers a Visiting Executive in Residence programme that provides for a top industry leader in either Accounting or Finance to spend a week presenting seminars and meeting with students and staff.  IRD, ANZ, ACC, NZX and directors of multiple  companies have attended.

However, this picture shows the present and very human face of accounting at Otago – Nicola Beatson, and she is anything but boring. If you want to get enthused about this subject, this is the teacher – she seriously loves it!  Nicola is also one, like so many of our academics who sees each student as an individual, and not just a number.

“Each student is an individual who comes into the lecture with a different set of experiences. I constantly remind myself that although the words I’m saying make perfect sense to me, to students sometimes it can be confusing and hard.”

Nicola joined the Department of Accountancy and Finance at the University of Otago in 2010. Since that time she has had several teaching accolades, including being awarded the prestigious Otago Teaching Excellence Award this year, the Disability Information and Support Appreciation Award in 2016, OUSA’s Top Ten Lecturers teaching award in 2015, Premier Commerce Teaching award in 2017, and the Overall Premier Lecturer award last year.

“I love teaching accounting as I get to share my love of a complex, dynamic discipline, and dispel the myth that accounting is boring.  It’s a wonderful, complex and interesting discipline that is based on human decision making and judgement. If my students can see that accounting is more than just punching numbers into a calculator – although that is fun too – then that would make me very happy.”

The Future

If you choose to study accounting at Otago, rest assured employment prospects for our graduates are exceptional, and global.

Study for the life you want

The Department of Accountancy and Finance offers undergraduate and postgraduate study choices. Gain knowledge and experience that will be an asset in any career.

An understanding of accounting is important for everyone. Accounting takes you places, and can open doors to a range of exciting industries. Looking to practice accounting, work in a business environment, or just wish to be a better informed consumer or shareholder?

Accounting is for you.

Accounting at Otago covers five main areas:

  1. Financial accounting
  2. Management accounting
  3. Financial management
  4. Taxation
  5. Auditing

No experience or background in Accounting?

No worries.  We have the perfect solution, the Master of Professional Accounting (MProfAcct) and we are offering 10 x $10,000 (NZD) scholarships for this programme to international students.

The Master of Professional Accounting (MProfAcct) is a professionally
accredited accounting programme aimed at graduates of any discipline
who want to pursue a career in accounting.

Programme features:

• Designed by both academics and practitioners
• Accredited by professional accounting bodies, CPA Australia and
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ)
• Special focus on developing strong technical and professional
accounting skills, including communication and analytical skills
• Open to graduates of any discipline

Recent graduate of the MProfAcct, Annie Liu from China, had this to say about her experience on the programme:

“I appreciate I could finish my degree at the University of Otago. I am very grateful to all the teachers of the Master of Professional Accounting, thank you for your teaching and help. I also want to thanks to my classmates for helping me during my study. By learning MProfAcct, my accounting expertise has grown, besides, the important thing is the learning process, which has helped me improve my learning ability and expand my knowledge. I found in my work that a lot of the knowledge I have learned can be used. I’m so lucky to know and meet so much kind and lovely people in Dunedin. Thank you all!
I am currently working at Stonewood Homes, a well-known home designs in Auckland following completion of my MProfAcct degree”.

So, there you go, whether you have a commerce background, experience, or not, there are a range of opportunities available for you to study accounting at the University of Otago, Dunedin.  And instead of thinking that accounting and studying accounting is boring, perhaps you can think again?

Thanks to the University of Otago content team for providing a lot of the academic information for this blog.

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, both from Otago, she is passionate about education, and the places it can take you.

International Women’s Day – a look at the past, present and future of women at Otago.

International Women’s Day, the mere idea of this notion would have been considered ridiculous 150 years ago during the early days of Otago University.  I think it is important on a day like today for everybody – men and women, to remember the women that came before.  The women that literally paved the way for the women of today, and opened up doors that had been closed shut and bolted to women for time immortal.  Today’s blog focuses on just a couple of these remarkable women (there are so many to mention), from the past, the present and is a reminder for the future that whilst we are still not yet on an equal playing field, much has been done and the collective attitudes of men and women including perceptions and behaviour can make a difference to future generations.

Caroline Freeman

You just cannot go past a discussion on International Women’s Day at the University of Otago without mentioning Caroline Freeman.   In 1878 Caroline Freeman became the first matriculated woman to enrol at the University of Otago.  At this time she lived in Green Island, which in those days required her to walk 11 kilometres after lectures in a long dress, through muddy wet tracks.  Her health suffered as a result and she was forced to find accommodation in Dunedin.  Her academic environment also proved to be hostile with Professor of Classics G.S. Sale, known to be a ‘veritable ogre’ to female students.  A staff member once commented that had Freeman been a fighting man, rather an a studious woman, she would have been merited for her ‘pluck and perserverance.’  Caroline Freeman graduated in 1885, to a large applause with flowers thrown across the stage, and by the time of her capping 11 more women were enrolled at the university at different levels.   Recognition of her courage, perserverance and passion for education was highlighted when the University of Otago named one of their residential colleges after her – Caroline Freeman College.  

Emily Siedeberg

Next up on our list of those who paved the way is Emily Hancock Siedeberg.  From an early age her father believed she should train as a doctor, she accepted this and the pair went through the process of enrolling her.   Although the university council had already decided that medical training should be open to both women and men, her decision was certainly not celebrated – some showed enthusiasm while others were openly hostile.  The dean of the Otago Medical School Dr John Scott was reluctant, but alongside other staff accepted the university’s decision so that in April 1891 Emily became a medical student, graduating in 1896 as New Zealand’s first woman medical graduate.  During her time as a student she was told not to show her feelings, to keep men at a distance and not be frivolous.  She went on to complete a BSc, and did postgraduate work in obstetrics, gynaecology and children’s diseases.  In 1898 with considerable financial support from her father she registered as a medical practioner and set up private practice in Dunedin, which she maintained for the next 30 years.

Ethel Benjamin

Ethel Benjamin was New Zealand’s first woman lawyer – and we have to mention here that the University of Otago was the first university in Australasia to permit women to pursue a law degree – I don’t know about you, but permit?  Seriously?  It seems crazy now.  This really shows how much these women had to fight for what is taken as a given today.  Benjamin graduated with an Bachelor of Laws (LLB) in July 1897, and at her graduation she made the official reply on behalf of the graduands. This was the first time a current graduand rather than a past graduate had made the speech, and it was also the first occasion any woman had made an official speech at the university.

However the Otago District Law Society did not take kindly to a woman entering their male dominated profession.  Discrimation against her included restricted access to the society’s library, an attempt to propose an alternative dress code to the wig and gown, her complete exclusion from annual bar dinners and whereas young members were usually offered support, she received little.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago – Professor Harlene Hayne

It is 2019 and the year that the university celebrates 150 years of education and achievement.  When it comes to talking about present women at the University of Otago we cannot go past the fact that the Vice-Chancellor of our university is a woman.  Effectively she is at the top of the food chain here, well above my rank and station, so I decided that Professor Hayne could probably address her own thoughts on International Women’s Day herself, in her own words, this excerpt was taken from the VC’s Comment –  Issue 42. of the Otago Magazine:

Since my appointment as Vice-Chancellor in 2011, much has been made about my gender. I was the first woman to lead the Psychology Department at the University of Otago and the first woman to become a Deputy Vice-Chancellor. I am the first woman to be the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Otago and only the second woman to become a Vice-Chancellor in New Zealand.

Every time the issue of my gender is raised, however, it takes me by surprise. In the course of my own academic career, my gender has never been an issue. I have never felt that people have expected less of me because I am a woman, and I never felt that a glass ceiling prevented me from pursuing my goals and aspirations.

When I was growing up, my father used to tell me that girls could do anything. At Otago, I have certainly found that to be true. In this way, my own career has been remarkably gender blind.

But I recognise that the privilege of gender blindness is due, in part, to the historical period in which I live and to the places in which I have been lucky enough to grow up, study and work. I know too that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those women who came before me.

As a university, we have a very proud history when it comes to women.

Dr Carla Meledandri

Dr Carla Meledandri from the Department of Chemistry is an expert in nanoscience, the world’s smallest particles, working at a scale of billionths of a metre.  But don’t be fooled by her tiny content, she and her colleagues are looking to tackle the world’s largest problems – ranging from dental decay to climate change.

“Pushing the boundaries of fundamental research is vital – taking what we have found and applying it to solve problems follows on.”

Her expertise in nanoscience, working at a scale of billionths of a metre, helped win her the 2017 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize, the latest in a series of research awards.

Interdisciplinary collaborations with the Faculty of Dentistry have enabled the development of new materials designed to treat some of the causes of oral disease rather than the symptoms, hopefully leading to reduced costs and improving health worldwide.

The Future?

What about the women of the future?  The young women like the ones pictured above who are exploring the world, educating themselves and finding out what makes them tick?  Well, their future (and those of us who are somewhat further down the life journey) is down to all of us, men and women.  We must learn from the past – celebrate success, challenge stereotypes, support each other, don’t accept pay inequality and not settle for anything less than our male counterparts, and that takes all of us.  It’s all about balance.   Happy International Women’s Day!

Special note to Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand for much of the historical content.

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

Startup Dunedin……..what’s the story?

Dunedin is gaining a reputation for many things; wildlife, culture, food, street art, education and……..entrepreneurshipWe caught up with chief story-teller and Marketing Manager of Startup Dunedin, Angus Pauley about what they do, and where Otago students can get involved.  He’s very passionate about Dunedin and the start up community, so it comes as no surprise to us that this energetic and enthusiastic young man is one of our very  own University of Otago alumni!  Take it away Angus!

Angus Pauley from Startup Dunedin

How to make Dunedin thrive

Every successful startup ecosystem has certain components which help it thrive. We look at successful startup ecosystems to see what we can recreate, improve and support to give Dunedin the same level of success.

Dunedin at night, panoramic view from Signal Hill lookout shortly after sunset.

What does Startup Dunedin do?

Startup Dunedin is a non-profit organization which coordinates the growth of the Dunedin startup ecosystem. We serve Dunedin based founders by providing the connections, resources and support they need to succeed. This includes initiatives we run, and connection to the initiatives other leaders drive in our city.

Students are a key component

Students are a key part of the startups in our city. They might become founders themselves through a programme like Audacious, or work in a startup as a consultant, intern or employee. Although only some students carry on with the ventures they start at University, all of them use the opportunities and entrepreneurial learning as a springboard for their career.  So, how can students get involved?

Audacious

Audacious is a programme for students who want to build the skills and confidence to make a positive impact – whether they’re planning on working in a company, starting their own business or still figuring it out.

Each cohort runs semesterly and consists of a series workshops, culminating in a pitch evening for a cash prize. All the workshops are available online so students can choose to attend as many or as few as they like before pitching with their team at the final event.

Also, students have access to Dunedin’s top business leaders who mentor and judge throughout the programme. This makes it an even more valuable experience, whether the participant wants to start their own startup, or move into employment.

The Distiller

The Distiller is Startup Dunedin’s early stage startup coworking space. It is located on campus next to the executive residence and overlooks the Leith river.

The Distiller provides desk space to early stage startups as well as all amenities including wi-fi and most importantly, coffee. Residents are encouraged to share their experiences as well as the office space. Sharing the good and bad means founders can move past their problems faster and learn from each other’s mistakes.

FoundX

FoundX is Dunedin’s premier startup event. Investors, founders, business professionals, students and local government come together to listen to a fireside-style chat and hear pitches from Dunedin’s emerging startups. The event livestream has an international audience and the evening provides a great networking opportunity with the local business community.

Startup Weekend

Startup Weekends are 54-hour long events where a range of people, including developers, designers, marketers, students, startup enthusiasts, come together to share ideas, build products and launch startups. Teams go from an idea scrawled on a napkin to a working prototype and even paying customers, all within a single weekend. Whether you’re looking for a taste of entrepreneurship, professional development, to join a team long term, or just have some fun – Startup Weekend has something for everyone.

Thanks for explaining to us Angus what Startup Dunedin is all about – we may be a small city size wise in Dunedin, but we are mighty, and there is plenty of fresh thinking and creativity going on behind the scenes.  As our local council advertise ‘Dunedin is NZ’s best kept secret.’

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

Where can an Otago degree take you?

One thing that never ceases to amaze me in my job is the sense of loyalty and pride that the University of Otago imparts on alumni.  International students who have studied at Otago and have integrated into the culture and immersed themselves in all the opportunities have an incredible passion for this university at the bottom of the world.  A passion that continues long after they have left us.

An email sent to our department was forwarded my way last week from a student who graduated with a BSc (Bachelor of Science) in Chemistry in 2012.  From my first glance it was clear that this student wanted to share her story, so I got in touch with Nicole Bravo Castro (nee Wurster) to find out what she had to say about her experiences at Otago.

Nicole exploring the spectacular South Island during her time spent here studying for her undergraduate degree.

Plans change

Nicole Wurster (pictured above) had travelled to NZ from her home in Germany as a high school exchange student.  She never had any intention of staying beyond that time, but plans do change….

“I felt inspired by everyone applying for university and was immediately drawn to the University of Otago –  having been to Dunedin previously on a summer vacation I guess I had already fallen in love with New Zealand’s southern beauty.  Back then, I remember strolling around campus and dreaming about studying at Otago.  I decided to stay for the duration of my entire undergraduate degree.”

Why Otago?

Like many other international students who choose to study here our worldwide reputation and cutting edge research is attractive.  Also, another point that is often mentioned is the welcoming and warm nature of our staff and students, and Dunedin as a whole, Nicole felt immediately at home.  But another reason is the flexibility of our programmes – Otago aims to turn out well rounded graduates who have a broader subject knowledge and skill set than their chosen degree may imply:

Choosing courses at Otago is quite flexible, I could individually select and combine my courses to plan my degree step by step.  I absolutely loved this option as it helped me throughout my studies to develop my strengths – the system allowed me to take a couple of non-scientific subjects in order to give me a broader general knowledge.”

How did you find the learning/teaching environment at Otago?

“I loved it and haven’t come across the same dynamics in any other tertiary educational institution I know.  Otago’s chemistry department put a great focus on teamwork and offered countless opportunities to develop interpersonal skills.  Otago is very modern in both its facilities and its spirit and I developed some core writing skills which I value up to this day.  Lecturers were friendly and felt very authentic, which made every trip to university enjoyable – even the early morning lectures!  The feeling of not being just one of many, but someone individual with something valuable to offer is something I have frequently missed in European universities.”

Nicole (second from left) and friends with the iconic University of Otago clocktower in the background.

What about the student life/culture?

As we have mentioned before the saying ‘one size does not fit all’ is very applicable.  If we are going to be authentic the fact is not every single student that comes to us loves their time here.  But one theme that does come through after all our discussions with international students is that keeping an open mind will allow you to enjoy the culture and the range of experiences more.  “During my entire time as an international student I have felt fully included by my peers and completely immersed into the Otago culture.  I always kept an open mind and am still thrilled about the genuine friendliness of people in Dunedin and their laid back attitude towards life.”

Nicole Bravo Castro today – she credits her time at Otago as a stepping stone to an international mindset and career.

Where are you now?

After completing a Master in Science in Germany and additionally studying for one semester in France, Nicole is now fully employed for the Scottish Company ‘PEAK Scientific’ as territory manager in Northern Germany.

“I love how my job allows me to make use of my chemistry background whilst as the same time giving me the opportunity to speak to a variety of people, using the various languages I speak and benefitting from my international experiences.”

Advice to those thinking of coming here?

“There really is no other place that compares to New Zealand, and Dunedin is particularly gorgeous.  If you love natural beauty, sports and everything else the South Island offers, this is your best choice, it is also a very safe place in the world.  My years at Otago feel like a key stepping stone in my journey towards having a very strong international mind-set, a curiosity for foreign culture and a high level of tolerance towards others.”

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

5 steps to becoming more mentally fit….

What is mental health and fitness?  Is it like physical fitness in that you can gain it or lose it?  What knowledge and support is there when people need to get help?  Or how can people retain their resilience and keep well when life throws its various curveballs?  This is an enormous topic, but we are going to keep it simple. 

Research shows there are five simple things you can do as part of your daily
life – at work and at home – to build resilience, boost your wellbeing and lower
your risk of developing mental illness. These simple actions are known
internationally as the Five Ways to Wellbeing and are actively being promoted by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand – mauri tū mauri ora.

Are mental and physical fitness the same?

Without getting overly complicated or indepth the answer is yes.  You can be mentally fit, or un-fit, just as you can be physically fit or un-fit and both can be gained or lost.  Depending on a variety of factors, you may be more susceptible to suffering from illness due to mental health than another person.  We are all different, and unique and I think it is really important to remember this.  Not one size fits all.  Understanding your own version of ‘normal’ will help you know when things aren’t feeling right for you.  Getting to know ‘you’ is one of the best things that you can do to safeguard and keep yourself mentally and physically well.  Let’s go through the five ways to wellbeing as recommended by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

1.  Connect

Feeling connected to others, and feeling valued and appreciated by those around you, whether in a personal or a professional context is a very important part of mental fitness.  Human beings are not designed to ‘go it alone.’  In saying that, I’m not suggesting you have to be an extrovert and the life and soul of the party, it just means that we all need connection with others.  Strengthening your relationships with your inner circle and your work/study colleagues by talking with them and listening to them are all safe guarding your mental fitness.  Healthy connections with people make us feel good about ourselves and where we fit into the world, they also help others understand our own unique perspective on how we view the world and can help support us in times of need.

2.  Keep learning

Neale Donald Walsch famously quoted “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  And although it is lovely to feel safe and comfortable in a daily routine, it also pays to be aware of new opportunities that come across your path.  Be open to new experiences.  Yes, it may very well be challenging, but that is part of what growing and developing resilience is all about.  It is frightening and stressful to try new things and go outside your normal level of comfort, but once you have overcome these initial fears you may completely surprise yourself – this alongside the feeling of self satisfaction will be totally worth it.

3.  Take notice

We are all guilty at times of worrying about the future and reminiscing about the past, but trying to ‘live in the moment‘ is another step to mental fitness.  Be aware of how you are feeling at any given time, and attempt to understand why.  Most importantly remember that all feelings, both good and bad eventually pass.  So living in the moment and taking time to appreciate the world around you can also help you keep mentally fit and boost your mental well being.

4.  Give

It really is amazing the difference a kind word or gesture can make to your day.  Carrying out random acts of kindness, whether small or large are a win, win situation for both the giver and the receiver.  The person receiving your kindness feels noticed, valued and appreciated, and as a result you feel positive about yourself!  In fact carrying our random acts of kindness can increase happiness, life satisfaction and general well being.

5.  Be active

Looking after your mental fitness is helped greatly by looking after your physical fitness.  Being physically fit and keeping active is known to improve mood, wellbeing and decrease depression, anxiety and stress.  If you are of student at the University of Otago, or the University of Otago Language Centre and Foundation Year programmes you will have unlimited and free access to Unipol Recreation Services.

So whilst this post has been about how to keep, or get mentally fit and improve your wellness, there are times in life where you feel that your version of ‘normal’ is not your usual and that’s when you need to ask for help.

The University of Otago International Office has a specialist team of Student Advisers that are here to help you in a variety of ways, including mental health issues.  There is also a designated Student Health Mental Health & Wellbeing Team offering a free service to help guide you.  There is also an amazing student led initiative called Silverline Otago that actively promote student mental health and wellbeing in the form of events, groups and resources.

So, look after yourself, both physically and mentally and try the five steps to wellbeing above, see if it makes a difference.  You might just surprise yourself……

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

Career Success – what does it mean to you?

When you make the decision to study towards a degree or diploma you are setting yourself a goal to strive towards – but what happens when you reach that goal?  You have your qualification, so what next?  How do you shape your career into what you want it to be?

We caught up with Yvonne Gaut from the University of Otago Career Development Centre to discuss this and she has put forward two simple and wise tips that can help you get where you want to go.

Choice

“When we make choices about our careers, we are making choices that will have implications for our work, our learning, our families and our communities”.

Prof Tristram Hooley

Tristram is one of my favourite career professors and I follow his work as he publishes and presents around the world. He investigates how various aspects of your identity, position in society and background will impact on your chance of career success.

Goal = Success

This is a good time to pause and consider what career success means to you. If you don’t know what that is, then you won’t know if you can achieve it. Once you have an idea of career success this can then be a goal. When you have a goal you are able to develop a strategy to work toward.

Take time to dream

#Tip 1. Take some time to dream, talk or draw about what career success will look like to you. It’s a useful idea to have a career journal either a paper one or within a device. Someplace that you can keep a record of your reflections and can return to whenever you feel the need.

How your career develops is not just an outcome of your choices, personality or your course. How the society in which you live is structure and how other people treat you, all have an impact.

Identify barriers

#Tip 2. Identify some of your future barriers. Considering what might hold you back from achieving your goals enables you to work on them before they leave you powerless.

Careers development works at the interface between the individual and society, between self and opportunity, as well between aspiration and realism.

Ask for help

Make use of the career service while it is freely available to you. If you are not sure what you need to ask, talking with a career development adviser can help to clarify your thoughts around your career and provide some ways to consider your future goals.

You can make a time to talk with a career development adviser through OtagoCareerHub or directly contact yvonne.gaut@otago.ac.nz

Career Development Centre Te Pokapū Umanga  | University of Otago – Te Whare Wananga o Otago

IS Building, Albany Street, PO Box 56, DUNEDIN