Another successful GRM for Otago

October 2012


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Tweet your Thesis, Chamber Debate, Supervisor of the Year and 3 Minute Thesis – it all happened at Otago University’s annual Graduate Research Month.

August is a wonderful month for thesis candidates at the University of Otago. This year, Otago celebrated the third Graduate Research Month (GRM). This annual fixture in the University’s calendar is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of thesis candidates to Otago and to highlight the ups and support through the downs of the thesis journey.

This year, GRM began with the OUSA Supervisor of the Year Awards. The awards are a tangible way for thesis students to thank their supervisors for all the support they receive from them. Over 90 supervisors were nominated, and the numerous stories about them going the extra mile for their students were impressive.

Graduate Research Services Manager and GRM organiser, Claire Gallop, says, “These awards are always lovely. Supervisors are particularly thrilled to receive an award that comes from their students.”

This year’s overall winner, Associate Professor Poia Rewi from Te Tumu, was an extremely popular choice.

The Supervisor of the Year Awards is an exemplar of what GRM is all about. It illustrates how writing a thesis differs from any other kind of study and offers an opportunity to get thesis candidates together to socialise. Writing a thesis can be an isolating experience, so efforts are made to provide opportunities for networking and socialising with people who are in the same boat.

But not all interaction goes on in person during GRM. Otago ran its second Thesis Twitter Conference and participants from as far away as India tweeted about their research in six tweets. The novelty factor of the Twitter Conference makes the event fun, but what really makes it successful is the fact that students get to talk about their research with each other in a low-cost and non-threatening environment.

“The scope for support for research candidates via social media is enormous. An event like Tweet Your Thesis is the tip of the iceberg for engagement with thesis students,” says Gallop.

Workshops are put on by the Library, Careers Development, the Student Learning Centre, and Graduate Research Services. Again, research skills and transferable skills are enhanced whilst providing opportunities for networking amongst thesis candidates. The peer support that can arise from a chance encounter at a workshop about Endnote cannot be underestimated and is in the forefront of the minds of workshop providers.

Distance postgraduate students enjoyed a Postgraduate Support Day in Auckland. During the day, information skills, issues around publishing, and making the most out of supervision were among the topics discussed in a mixture of workshop presentations and one-on-one consultations. Director of the Distance Learning Office, Dr Bill Anderson, was delighted at how this initiative had been received.

The University of Otago’s annual Chamber Debate was run as a GRM event this year. The moot that “Doctoral Candidates Never had it So Good” provided a fun opportunity for academics to go head-to-head with current PhD candidates. Amidst stories about how tough it was to have Karl Popper as a supervisor and concerns that a PhD is the new School Cert, the audience decided the students were right and that doctoral candidates currently had it tougher than ever. After gleefully winning, the PhD candidates conceded that they were all sure doctoral candidates had, in fact, never had it so good.

The social highlight of GRM is the Graduate Research Gala Ball. Held at Larnach Castle, with more Robbie Burns and haggis in one evening than most of the thesis candidates will have experienced in their entire lives, the ball was a wonderful opportunity for the students to get dressed up and have some fun – and in a castle, no less!

GRM ended with the 3 Minute Thesis Finals. This is a fitting way to close a month of celebration of the thesis student and the valuable research they do. Eight finalists from across three University of Otago campuses competed for a chance to reach the Australasian 3 Minute Thesis Final in Brisbane later this year. The competition featured everything from socks to whale watching, with the winner, Andrew Filmer (PhD candidate in Music), wowing the audience with a presentation about musical tuning.

With an audience comprising of staff and students from across the university, school pupils, and members of the public, the 3 Minute Thesis competition sums up the essence of Graduate Research Month. GRM is about bringing thesis candidates together to communicate their important research in a supportive and engaged environment. Celebrating thesis candidates’ individual research journeys makes for a busy and exciting August at the University of Otago.