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Welcome to the Academy

Queen’s Professor Emeritus Art McDonald elected to National Academy of Science in the United States.

Queen’s University Professor Emeritus Art McDonald’s research on neutrino oscillations has garnered widespread acclaim from the scientific community. His work has earned him, amongst other honours, the Killam Prize in the Natural Sciences, the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics and an appointment as a Companion of the Order of Canada. Included in that group is his recent election to the US National Academy of Science (NAS).

Queen's University professor emeritus and Nobel Laureate, Art McDonald, has been elected as a foreign associate to the National Academy of Science in the United States. (University Communications)

“It is a great honor to be elected as a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States,” Dr. McDonald says. “With my graduate work at Caltech, a professorship at Princeton and extensive collaboration with US scientists throughout my research career, particularly in the SNO experiment, this honor is very significant to me. I have really valued my connections to the United States scientific community.”

Dr. McDonald is joined by 20 fellow researchers from 14 countries who were named Foreign Associates of the Academy. Their election to the academy comes in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Of the 465 foreign associates in the Academy, Dr. McDonald is one of only 18 Canadians. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States.

“Dr. McDonald is one of the most distinguished Canadian physicists of his generation,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “Election to the National Academy of Science is a tremendous international honour and a testament to his leadership, and to the fundamental importance and impact of his ground-breaking research on neutrinos.”

Dr. McDonald’s research, conducted at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, determined neutrinos are capable of changing their type – indicating that they have mass. He remains involved in research at SNOLAB, including the DEAP experiment, which has developed one of the most sensitive experiments ever with the goal of direct detection of dark matter. Dr. McDonald is also a collaborator on the SNO+ experiment which will look for a rare radioactivity called neutrinoless double beta decay to provide further information on the basic properties of neutrinos.

The Academy boasts a total number of 2,291 active members.Established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the National Academy of Science recognizes achievement in science and provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the US federal government and other organizations.

To learn more about the US National Academy of Science visit the website.

Asia-Pacific diplomats brought together

Diplomatic representatives, including a number of ambassadors and high commissioners, from the Asia-Pacific Region were hosted by Queen's University during the annual Ambassadors' Forum on Friday, April, 22. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Ambassadors and high commissioners from around the Asia-Pacific Region were welcomed to Queen’s University on Friday, April 22 to take part in the annual Ambassadors' Forum.

Queen's In The World

The event, first held in 2003, brought together diplomatic officials from 16 countries –Indonesia to India, Malaysia to Japan – for a special luncheon as well as a presentation and discussions.

In the afternoon, the guests attended a presentation by Queen’s alumnus Tiff Macklem, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and former Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, entitled “Global Forces, Canada and the Asia-Pacific Region.” 

A key element for Queen’s is that the meeting provides a chance for the university to directly inform the visitors about a range of new and ongoing initiatives, particularly on the international front.

“We have many cross-disciplinary initiatives underway in the Asia-Pacific Region involving teaching, research and student exchanges,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “As Queen’s continues to promote international exchange and cooperation there remains significant potential for growth in all of these areas and establishing trusting diplomatic relations is an important part of creating strong global connections.”

The forum also serves as a chance for the ambassadors to meet in a neutral setting to promote international dialogue and cooperation.

“While it is not a large event the Ambassadors' Forum is important because not only are these national representatives here to learn about Queen’s, Kingston and Canada but they also have the opportunity to make connections and build relationships with each other,” says Professor Emeritus and former Director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning Hok-Lin Leung, the organizer of the event.

Also representing Queen’s at the luncheon were Associate Vice-Principal (International) Kathy O’Brien, Vice Principal (Research) Steven Liss and Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Caroline Davis.

Queen’s unveiled its Comprehensive International Plan in August 2015 with the aim of strengthening the university’s international research engagement and creating more opportunities for student mobility through programs such as academic exchange. The plan also aims to attract high-quality international students to Queen’s and to increase international educational opportunities at Queen’s.

A unique research opportunity

Two Queen’s PhD candidates receive grant to fund research trip of a lifetime.

Queen's In the World

Two Queen’s University PhD candidates have received a one-time $2,000 stipend from the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies (SKHS) to help support a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to further their research.

For Jeremy Walsh, a fourth-year exercise physiology PhD candidate, the stipend means crossing an item off his “bucket list” while providing a chance to further his research on the effects of high-altitude, low-oxygen environments on cognitive functions.

PhD candidate Jeremy Walsh will be climbing to Mt. Everest base camp to study the effect of exercise on brain function in low-oxygen environments.

“Visiting the Himalayas and Mt. Everest is the sort of thing that people at some point in their life would like to do,” says Mr. Walsh. “For me, it’s always been a cool idea but the opportunity has never come up. To have an opportunity to accomplish this goal, and have it align with my research, is really quite extraordinary.”

On May 5, Walsh and his co-researchers from Mount Royal University, University of British Columbia - Okanagan and University of Victoria will begin their 10-day, 62 km hike to Mount Everest base camp, which sits at an elevation of 5,360m. The team will conduct experiments at three different locations and elevations along the way to determine if exercise retains the ability to improve cognitive function of someone who is living in a low-oxygen environment for multiple days.

Prior research has shown that aerobic exercise can improve brain function for up to an hour after the exercise is completed. While hypoxic (low oxygen) environments have been shown to impair cognitive function in healthy adults, research has shown that performing 20 minutes of cycling while breathing low-oxygen air restored cognitive function to the same as sea level. Mr. Walsh and his colleagues hope to determine if the improvement is still noticeable when the subjects are living at altitude for a period of time, rather than simply exposed to short-term hypoxia.

Sarah Barnes, also a PhD candidate whose research focuses on how sleep has come to be seen as a significant ”natural” performance-enhancing strategy in elite sport, will be visiting the famed Harvard Fatigue Laboratory housed in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University.

PhD candidate Sarah Barnes will be visiting the famed Harvard Fatigue Laboratory, examining the lab's archives of unpublished research to chart how 'the athlete' emerged as a special model in exercise science research. 

Operating out of the Harvard Business School from 1927-1947, researchers studied working conditions, industrial fatigue and how subjects adapt to their environments. The lab also conducted a number of experiments on world-class athletes – the first lab to use athletes as subjects for experiments – to determine how exposure to extreme cold and elevation, intense exercise, or combinations of all three effected recovery.

“The Harvard Fatigue Laboratory laid the groundwork for the contemporary scientific management of sporting bodies, especially in relation to ideas and practices connected to fatigue and sleep,” Ms. Barnes says. “Having the opportunity to visit the lab’s archives and review the original research records, grant applications, and notebooks will allow me to chart how ’the athlete’ emerged as special type of human model in exercise science.”

This rare opportunity to access the lab will grant Ms. Barnes the opportunity to review original documents related to the lab’s activities — including professional correspondence and unpublished research records, lab reports, analyses, grant applications, notebooks and other writings. In doing so, she hopes to explore how these scientists studied fatigue and the assumptions that informed their work.

Reversing the curse

Queen’s researcher explores efforts to improve transparency in resource-rich countries.

Nathan Andrews, a Banting Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Studies, has co-authored a paper with researchers in the UK, Germany, Belgium and Denmark, on the effectiveness of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Dr. Nathan Andrews (Political Studies) has co-authored a report on the effectiveness of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in improving transparency surrounding resourse extraction in countries suffering from the "resource curse." 

Started in 2002, the EITI was created with an aim to improve transparency and domestic government in resource rich countries, namely those suffering from the “resource curse.”

“It’s a great initiative to begin with because it brings some of these opaque practices (around) taxes and royalty payments into the public domain,” says Dr. Andrews. “We felt that it’s not just about having the initiative. We needed to test, over the long-term, how it has impacted the countries that have signed on and to what extent. The reports disclose these huge sums of money, trillions of dollars in tax and royalty payments, but does that disclosure have any impact?”

Since the 1950s, researchers have noticed, paradoxically, that countries with an abundance of natural resources, specifically non-renewable resources like minerals and fuels, tend to struggle to achieve economic growth, transparency and democratic rule. Programs such as the EITI were launched to bring transparency to the royalty payments countries receive in exchange for resource extraction, with the goal of reversing the resource curse.

Dr. Andrews and his colleagues looked at the first 16 countries that achieved EITI compliance as of 2012 to determine if meeting the requirements of disclosure correlated with improved accountability for local governments, per capita GDP growth and improved standard of living for residents.

Interestingly, the researchers found that EITI countries did not perform better under the scheme and did not perform better than other resource rich countries such as Canada that were not signatories to EITI. Dr. Andrews and his team speculate that the limited scope of the initiative, its voluntary nature and the lack of a strong, independent media in most of the nations profiled prevented the initiative from being as effective as it could have been.

“Even within the framework, one of the challenging aspects is that participation and disclosure are voluntary,” he says. “The countries that really are part of the initiatives are not better off in terms of accountability.”

The full study, titled Energy Governance, Transnational Rules and the Resource Curse: Exploring the Effectiveness of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), has been published as an open source piece in the journal World Development, and is available online.

An expert view

Queen’s professor pens Canadian perspective on road safety panel report.

Queen’s University researcher Alistair MacLean was selected by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) to present a Canadian perspective on an expert panel report on the effects of driver fatigue on commercial vehicle drivers.

Queen's University psychologist Dr. Alistair MacLean has authored a forward for the Royal Society of Canada, providing a Canadian context for a panel report on driver fatigue. (University Communications)

Dr. MacLean, a psychologist at Queen’s University, was selected based on his recent research on sleepiness and performance, in particular driving performance, and on the recommendation of his colleague Queen’s biologist John Smol.

“It's an honour to be asked to provide the Canadian context to this important research," says Dr. MacLean. "I hope that, through research such as this panel report, we can help better educate and inform readers about this crucial safety issue."

The findings were published by the RSC’s sister national academy, the National Academies in the United States. Titled, “Commercial Motor Vehicles Driver Fatigue, Long-Term Health, and Highway Safety: Research Needs,” the report analyzes the body of research on sleep and health and the resulting effects on road safety.

An estimated 20 per cent of vehicle crashes are estimated to be due to sleepiness and fatigue. Commercial vehicle drivers, who make a substantial contribution to the Canadian economy, face the continual pressure of balancing safety and the need to meet deadlines. The role of fatigue is a potentially preventable contributor to death and injury.

Dr. MacLean highlights that the report points to gaps in existing knowledge about the effect of fatigue and other health issues on commercial vehicle drivers. Emphasized throughout the report is the volume of research available on fatigue and automobile safety and the lack of an equivalent amount of research on drivers of commercial vehicles. While some literature suggests that comparisons can be made between non-professional private drivers and professional, highly experienced commercial vehicle operators, more research is needed to confirm this and extend our understanding of the relationship between fatigue, health and safety. The panel offers a substantial number of recommendations for future research.

In developing the Canadian perspective on the report, Dr. MacLean also points out the particular challenges, such as climate and weather, faced by Canadian drivers and the important role of Transport Canada in collaborating on the development of fatigue management programmes.

Dr. Maclean’s full comments can be found in the Reports from Abroad series on the Royal Society of Canada website. The full report from the National Academies Panel on Research Methodologies and Statistical Approaches to Understanding Driver Fatigue Factors in Motor Carrier Safety and Driver Health can be found here.

The world comes to Kingston

Six international students join Queen’s professor Jean Côté in his sport psychology lab

Queen’s professor Jean Côté’s and new colleague Luc Martin are leading the Sport Psychology lab at Queen’s.  The Queen’s University Sport Psychology Lab has a distinctly international flavor, this year, as five students from around the world are working with their research team with a sixth joining the group in August.

Postdoctoral fellow Ian Cowburn (United Kingdom), visiting graduate student Joelle Deventer (Germany), visiting graduate student Marcus Mizoguchi (Brazil), visiting scholar Mauro Sanchez (Spain) and visiting graduate student Ahmet Yapar (Turkey) are working on various projects in the lab. Visiting scholar Niels Rossing (Denmark) arrives in the summer.

Gathering for a photo in the lab are (l to r): Queen's professor Jean Côté, Marcus Mizoguchi, Ahmet Yapar, Ian Cowburn, Joelle Deventer and Queen's professor Luc Martin.

“They are very involved in my research program and are also working closely with my doctoral students,” says Dr. Côté, who is also director of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “They are all involved in the policies of sport in their countries and hosting them is a wonderful opportunity for the sport psychology lab and for Queen’s.”

Many of the students met Dr. Côté while attending research conferences. The international students were intrigued by the opportunity to work with Dr. Côté, one of the leading researchers into the ways in which the interaction of children, parents and coaches impacts the development of talent in sport and how sport contributes to the personal development of young people.

“I met Dr. Côté at a conference in 2013 and, when the government provided me with a scholarship to continue my studies, I applied to complete part of my PhD with Dr. Côté,” explains Mr. Mizoguchi, who is a professor back in Brazil. “It’s an amazing opportunity to study in Canada.”

Mr. Yapar, who moved his entire family to Kingston, explains he met Dr. Côté during a conference in Belgium in 2014 and knew he wanted, one day, to work in his lab in Kingston. “I applied for a scholarship to study in Kingston and received funding for one year. I was already familiar with Dr. Côté’s work as I had used some of his models for my own research.”

“My biggest takeaway from this opportunity is the research skills I have learned,” says Dr. Cowburn. “I’ve headed up a couple of projects during my time in Kingston and that’s provided me with new job skills. It’s an amazing opportunity as I continue my career.”

Ms. Deventer comes from a psychology background and is looking to expand her research by working with Dr. Côté in his sports psychology lab. “Working here has given me unique opportunities. I was able to present some of my work at a sport conference which is a little different for me.”

Dr. Côté adds that the research partnerships speak to the university’s focus on increasing international research collaborations and expanding global engagement.

Japan trip an intensive cross-cultural exchange

Two Queen’s engineering students jumped at the opportunity to spend a week in Nagoya and Tokyo through the JACAC forum.

Two important factors attracted engineering students John Lenz and Victoria Clark to the annual Japan-Canada Student Forum (JACAC): the theme of the week-long event, “Energy and Society,” and the fact that it was being held in Japan.

Engineering students John Lenz and Victoria Clark visited the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo as part of the JACAC forum. Groups of Japanese and Canadian students gave presentations at the embassy to an audience that included Princess Takamado and Ambassador Mackenzie Clugston (MPA'77).

“I felt passionate about the topic,” says Mr. Lenz (Sc’16), who studies electrical and computer engineering, and has worked in the nuclear industry. “I thought I could share some of my experiences in the energy sector. And I’d never been to Japan, and wanted to have that opportunity.”

Ms. Clark echoes those sentiments. She’s worked in the oil and gas industry, and while her family has lived all over the world (Brunei, Syria, the United States, Oman and Canada), she had never travelled to Japan.

“There was definitely a feeling of culture shock when we arrived, especially when we travelled to Tokyo, but everyone was so welcoming, and the forum itself was very well organized,” says Ms. Clark (Sc’17), a third-year chemical engineering student.

The JACAC was held in February in Nagoya, the capital of Japan’s Aichi Prefecture. The forum, which is hosted alternately in Japan and Canada every year, brings together students from member institutions in the two countries for a week of cross-cultural exchange (this year, 28 students from 20 schools). The aim is to provide students with the opportunity to interact with their peers from a different culture, to gain insight into their current areas of academic interest, and to encourage a flow of ideas between Canada and Japan.

“It was interesting to hear the different perspectives – because of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, there is, understandably, no support for nuclear energy in Japan, and all of their reactors are shutting down,” says Mr. Lenz. “I think I was able to shed some light on working at a successful nuclear power plant (Darlington), and the focus on safety.”

Students heard presentations on topics such as energy efficiency and quality of life, and the oil era and its implications for international politics. They also went on several field trips – to Satoyama-Sugenosato, a rural village developed around principles of conservation, biodiversity and efficiency, and to the Toyota Museum of Industry and Technology.

While in Tokyo, students visited the Imperial Palace. From left, Sayjon Ariyarathnam (York University), Tristan Masson (Concordia University), John Lenz (Queen's), and Victoria Clark (Queen's).

Throughout the week, students worked in groups to improve an existing energy policy, or design a new one. The work culminated in each group giving a presentation at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, with several notables in attendance, including Princess Takamado and Ambassador Mackenzie Clugston (MPA’77), a Queen’s alumnus. The Princess is the widow of Prince Takamado, a member of the Japanese royal family who studied at Queen’s from 1978-81. He died in 2002 at the age of 47. Each year Queen’s welcomes an undergraduate student from Japan on a one-year term of study through a scholarship that bears his name.

“It was an incredible experience to present the work we did at the embassy. We put a lot of work into our presentations, and it was great to see it all come together at the end of the week,” says Ms. Clark. “Coming home and giving presentations in engineering classes seems like nothing now that we’ve presented to Princess Takamado and the ambassador!”

This opportunity is available to Queen’s students due to the university’s membership in the Japan-Canada Academic Consortium (JACAC). More information


Building on a strong foundation

  • Principal Daniel Woolf hands out some Queen's gear to Steven Simkovits (MBA'97) and Andrea So (Artsci'14) during an alumni event held in Hong Kong.
    Principal Daniel Woolf hands out some Queen's gear to Steven Simkovits (MBA'97) and Andrea So (Artsci'14) during an alumni event held in Hong Kong.
  • Principal Daniel Woolf receives a gift from David Nesbitt (MBA'70) during a Queen's alumni event held in Hong Kong.
    Principal Daniel Woolf receives a gift from David Nesbitt (MBA'70) during a Queen's alumni event held in Hong Kong.
  • Queen's alumni in Hong Kong gathered to meet with Principal Daniel Woolf, who was part of a delegation to China and Hong Kong.
    Queen's alumni in Hong Kong gathered to meet with Principal Daniel Woolf, who was part of a delegation to China and Hong Kong.

While a recent delegation to China and Hong Kong helped explore new opportunities for learning and collaboration it also allowed Queen’s University to strengthen and build upon existing ties with its partner institutions.

Queen's In the World

The delegation, led by Principal Daniel Woolf and Provost Alan Harrison, travelled to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong from March 13-18 and met with officials from Tongji, Fudan and Beijing Normal universities as well as the Shanghai Municipal Foreign Affairs Office, the Ministry of Education and the China Scholarship Council.

What became clear during the meetings, says Associate Vice-Principal (International) Kathy O'Brien, is that Queen’s and its partners in China have similar interests in deepening existing relationships and increasing the exchange opportunities for students and faculty. The talks emphasized the importance of reciprocity in the partnerships and also highlighted the importance of sharing expertise around the development of learning outcomes, program evaluation/assessment, and teaching methodologies that provide students with an enhanced learning experience.

“Our goal on these trips is to ensure that we have actionable outcomes to advance the key performance indicators in the Comprehensive International Plan.  This can only be accomplished through the dedication and efforts of faculty members in the departments,” Ms. O’Brien says. “Queen’s has created a solid foundation in the region over the past decade and these agreements are building upon that foundation. One of the key goals for the delegation was to strengthen the university’s reputation and all of these meetings went a long way to accomplishing that goal.”

The trip also provided delegation members the opportunity to connect with Queen’s alumni and students currently on exchange in Asia, as well as prospective students and their families. As part of the Beijing alumni reception, Principal Woolf was presented with a cheque from members of the Beijing alumni leadership to endow a fund that will support student mobility between China and Queen’s.

Among the signings were two new agreements to allow undergraduate students from Beijing Normal University to study with the Department of Biology as well as the renewal of the Fudan-Queen’s Semester in Shanghai program and the China Scholarship Council program to fund research by Chinese doctoral students at Queen’s.

Queen’s Comprehensive International Plan identifies China and Hong Kong as a priority region for developing academic and research partnerships, and for student recruitment. In 2007, Queen’s became the first Canadian university to establish an office in China – the Queen’s China Liaison Office located at Fudan University in Shanghai – with the aim of building relations with partner institutions, prospective students and alumni.

Queen’s unveiled its Comprehensive International Plan in August 2015 with the aim of strengthening the university’s international research engagement and creating more opportunities for student mobility through programs like academic exchange programs. The plan also aims to attract high-quality international students to Queen’s and to increase international educational opportunities at Queen’s.

In 2014, Queen’s launched a Chinese webpage to strengthen the university’s connections with prospective students.

Building global health

Queen’s University researchers head to Myanmar to support newborn vaccination program.

A team of Queen’s University researchers recently visited Myanmar as partners in an effort to decrease mother to child transmissions of hepatitis B in the Southeast Asian country. The group is currently implementing a monitoring and evaluation program for hepatitis B vaccinations for newborn babies in Karenni State.

The Queen’s team included Susan Bartels (Emergency Medicine), Eva Purkey (Family Medicine), Colleen Davison (Public Health Sciences), Heather Aldersey (Rehabilitation Therapy), Shruti Sebastian (Family Medicine) and Hugh Guan (Family Medicine).

“Health workers are immunizing babies against hepatitis B but there is no system in place to determine how effective it is,” explains Dr. Purkey. “Karenni State is a rural area of Myanmar where 70 per cent of deliveries happen at home and where immunization programs do not reach everyone. The hepatitis B vaccination is very effective in preventing mother to child transmission, and should be encouraged.”

A monitoring and evaluation training session, led by researchers from Queen's University, takes place in Loikaw, Karenni State, Myanmar.

The transmission rate of hepatitis B between mothers and their babies can be as high as 80 to 90 per cent. Hepatitis B can cause many serious health issues including liver cancer and cirrhosis. The Queen’s team is part of an initiative helping to train rural workers to give the immunizations and collect relevant and on-going data to track the implementation of the intervention.

“The local health system will arrange the vaccine administration, while we are supporting the monitoring and evaluation components.” says Dr. Davison. “After distributing the vaccine, monitoring and evaluation are essential to determine if and how the program is working and whether it should be expanded. As scientists and practitioners we have been able to support this important work of our partners.”

Along with the vaccination program, the team gathered new information that could direct future research projects including creating a Queen’s field office on the border between Myanmar and Thailand.

“I would love for there to be locations around the world where Queen’s students could learn about global health and build their field experience, while contributing meaningfully to the on-going work of local initiatives and partners,” says Dr. Davison. “We are making great strides already with our partners in countries like Myanmar.”

Dr. Bartels also has plans for another important project.

“My biggest takeaway from this time in Myanmar is that the refugees living along the Thai-Burmese border aren’t ready to go back,” she says. “Their old lives are non-existent. I would love to focus my research around repatriation and what aid can be provided to help with the transition.”

The research team is preparing to travel back to Myanmar and currently have funding to send two people through the Department of Family Medicine’s Centre for Studies in Primary Care. The early data should reflect if the vaccination program is helping to reduce vertical transmission of hepatitis B virus from mother to child in Karenni State, Myanmar. This project highlights how members of the Queen’s community are coming together to engage in global health research and development internationally.

Network ties growing, getting stronger

[Helen Nicholson]
Helen Nicholson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Division of External Engagement for the University of Otago in New Zealand recently visited Queen’s University to help strengthen ties between the members of the Matariki Network of Universities. (University Communications)

Helen Nicholson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Division of External Engagement for the University of Otago in New Zealand recently visited Queen’s University to further foster ties between the institutions. Otago and Queen’s are members of the Matariki Network of Universities, an international group that focuses on research partnerships and undergraduate teaching. Gazette editor Andrew Carroll spoke with Dr. Nicholson about her trip as well as the relationships being built through the Matariki Network. 

Queen's In the World

Gazette: What are your priorities during your visit to Queen’s?

Helen Nicholson: I decided to visit Queen’s as I’ve heard a lot about it and as part of the Matariki Network it’s good to be here. I also am catching up with Kathy O’Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International), and want to learn more about developing alumni relations because that has come under my portfolio recently and Queen’s has a much stronger history of alumni giving than New Zealand. Also I’m here to meet with some of the health science people and talk about research. I suppose that’s why the Matariki universities were chosen, because they are similar, it has a similar sort of feel here (to the University of Otago) – a small city and a big university. 

Gazette: What has the experience been like for Otago as a member of the Matariki Network of Universities?

HN: It’s interesting. I think the Matariki Network is only just beginning to become something with a life. Over the last couple of years we’ve taken part in the research themes – all seven of the research themes, one per university. For the last two years we’ve been working on an indigenous program, which takes place in June this year, a two-week program where students and staff from across the Matariki Network will come and work together. We’ve also been involved in a global citizenship program and there’s a meeting for that in Uppsala (University in Sweden) in April. We, our students and staff have been working with Uppsala’s students and staff to think about what global citizenship means and, if we can come to a common understanding, what does that then mean for the university and what should we be doing and what could we be doing. 

We’ve been welcoming people from other Matariki universities to Otago and we provide funding for our staff to go to Matariki universities. Until last year that was only for academic faculty but we’re now broadening it out so we fund our senior administrators to travel as well. I think that has been really useful. I think those sort of things are a really tangible benefit of being in a network that trusts each other and is willing to share their data, warts and all, but then to learn from each other as to how we can improve. It has a lot more potential but it is beginning to feel that it is a network. 

Gazette: With Principal Daniel Woolf’s recent visit to Otago and your arrival here there must be a boost for ties between the two universities. How would you describe the relationship?

HN: We’ve just had the meeting of all the executive board of the Matariki Network – the presidents and principals or vice chancellors – and that was preceded by an alumni event for four of the universities – Queen’s, Uppsala, Durham and (Otago). I think going into it there was some skepticism as to why would we do this. But in fact it was a very positive evening and I think particularly being in New Zealand where (Queen’s has) alumni who would rarely see the principal otherwise. It was an opportunity for them to meet the heads of their universities but what was interesting was watching them network with each other. So alumni from a given university who might feel isolated on the other side of the world were able to start networking with people who have gone to Durham or Otago and feel more at home in the community.

The meeting of the heads of the universities was a very positive meeting and under the banner of Partnering for a better World it was good to see that all of the vice-chancellors, presidents and principals got on and were willing to share and, I think, have a much stronger relationship than they had before the event. I think it has strengthened the ties and it has raised the visibility of the Matariki Network. It was a useful meeting. 

Gazette: Can you tell me a bit about the University of Otago’s strengths and what it offers to students potentially looking at taking part in an exchange?

HN: It’s the oldest university in New Zealand and it’s the most research-intensive university as well. It’s research-led and aims for excellence in teaching and research but the other thing we are trying to do is educate young people to become members of a community. It’s the only truly residential university in Australasia. It’s very similar to Queen’s and 80 per cent of our domestic students don’t come from the area. They come from all over the country. So when they come together, and they come to residential colleges, they make friends for life. 

It’s in a small town and we are very close to nice scenery and beaches and skiing. It’s a small town that really has a great town-gown relationship. It’s a multicultural society and it’s safe, it’s fun and it’s student focused.


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