Tag Archives: learning

Smoking on Campus; it’ll take your breath away

Recently, the Canterbury College Survey team looked at a series of artefacts that are in the care of the UC Art Collection. The artefacts included a box of stamps that were used by the Registrar, two academic trenchers, several writing implements, and even of a christening gown, which had supposedly been worn by Professor Jack Erskine when he was a baby. The artefact that piqued our interest, however, was a plain ceramic ashtray, embossed with the University seal.

The University has had a strict ban on smoking on campus since 2013, following in the footsteps of the University of Auckland and Victoria University, who banned it in 2009 and 2012 respectively. As the project technicians, Natalie and Amy, were both undergraduate students as the time of the ban, it is not surprising that the UC embossed ashtray came as a bit of a surprise. It spoke of a very different time in the University’s history. Ashtrays would have been a staple piece of crockery in any university common room up until the 1970s at least, as we can imagine how smoking complemented the socialising and scholarly pontification that took place in such settings.

In 2020, as cultural and social norms continue to shift around us, it is difficult to imagine ashtrays being sold alongside the hoodies and graduation bears that you find in UBS. In fact, fifty years from now, a new team of collection surveyors may stumble upon this ashtray and struggle to identify its use. This kind of artefact reminds us of the importance of our task in cataloguing these items, so that the history they provide can be preserved for the future.

The campus | Life at UC | University of Canterbury | University of Canterbury

We look forward to venturing out to more Departments over the coming weeks, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to provide any information about heritage artefacts that may be of interest.

Amy Boswell-Hore, collection technician.
Natalie Looyer, collection technician.

Postgrad Student Blog: The not-so-obvious choices

Postgraduate study is a lot more than the degree itself: it’s also a chance to understand the universe, and yourself, in your own unique way, says UC postgrad student Dr Sriparna Saha.

It is often said that pursuing a PhD is a matter of choice, and I couldn’t agree more. It has almost been a year since I started my second doctoral degree at the University of Canterbury. Whenever I have been asked how far along I am in my PhD journey and responded with 1st year of my second PhD, I have seen the look of incredulity on peoples’ faces ending with the same question each time, “Why.”

Why indeed?

It indeed is hard to justify choices to people when things are viewed from a lens of social norm, of things that one is expected to do, or career paths one is expected to follow. Even in academia, conformity lies in pursuing a postdoc as an independent researcher immediately after finishing up a postgrad, and keep at it till one lands a tenure track research position.

What, however, is not obvious is that there may be people who want to experiment and pursue careers that lie outside the spectrum of the obvious.

Academia is replete with stories of how the persistence to pursue a non-obvious career choice is seen as a sign of abandonment. But where amidst all this conformity is the space for the self, to bring in our other non-science passions and interests into the research we care so much about?

This is what I tell people.

While I loved cooking rocks in a highly prestigious experimental lab to understand how continents formed about 4 billion years ago, I felt restricted when I couldn’t bring my art, my interests in writing, storytelling and teaching to the lab.

It took me a while to realize that the postgraduate degree is a lot more than the degree itself. Of course you eventually become an expert in your field, but most importantly, it is an opportunity to understand the universe in your own way.

As with most other things in making life choices, the value of the postgrad degree is relative to what you want to do, and what it is that other people use to judge your version of success. It truly is about learning skills that inspire you each day to enquire and understand the world around you in different ways.

When I look back, I feel fortunate to have worked with people who have given me the space to make these not-so-obvious choices, and supported them no matter what.

At the end of the day, it is not about making it easy, but finding the niche, that space where every challenge can make you realize the value of pursuing your dreams.

This article was first published on 7 September 2020, on the UC Science Blog.

Dr Sriparna Saha is a 2nd year postgraduate student in GeoEducation at the University of Canterbury, where she is using Digital Storytelling for Volcano Risk Literacy. She has a PhD (2019) in Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences from Rice University (USA), where she used experiments to understand the origin of continents. She feels strongly for communicating science and art and is continuously looking for innovative ways to blend the two.

Come along to the Change Direction Postgraduate Expo (10-17 September) for a range of information sessions where you can find out more about postgraduate study options and pathways at UC. Check out the timetable and register free here.

Putting the gown in ‘Town and Gown’

After keenly taking on the survey project, our team set out to begin searching for heritage artefacts around the University. Graduate Women Canterbury, an organisation with nearly 100 years of history associated with the University, became the ideal place for us to start.

GWC is widely known these days for tirelessly coordinating the regalia for all Canterbury, Lincoln and Ara graduates every year.  We paid a visit to Jean Sharfe and her team at GWC earlier this month to examine a number of artefacts in their care.

Jean, who is the author of Players, Protestors and Politicians: A History of the University of Canterbury Students’ Association (Canterbury, 2015), was a fount of knowledge on the history of both the University and its historical artefacts.

She provided us with information about two illustrious academic gowns and several trenchers for the survey, as well as a stock of original University of New Zealand regalia hoods and what looks to be an old regalia storage box.

Pictured is an academic gown thought to have been worn by the University Registrar, sometime prior to 1957, for graduation ceremonies. The gown is a rich olive green with dark red and gold trimming, and it was made for someone rather tall.

A similar black gown, thought to be worn by the Vice Chancellor for graduation ceremonies, is about ten centimetres shorter.

We are unsure yet, however, whether these gowns were personally made for the Registrar and Vice Chancellor at the time. Perhaps a study into the height of all Registrars and VCs at Canterbury is next on the cards for our project surveyors!

The University of New Zealand graduate hoods were another point of interest. Within the collection were original bachelor’s degree hoods with a fur trim.

Jean explained that bachelor’s graduates were forced to line up for their ceremonies outside in the cold, and so their hoods were adapted to allow any falling snow to blend in. Master’s graduates, however, could line up under cover.

Jean also revealed that the grey material used for Canterbury graduation hoods today was specifically designed to represent the greywacke stone of the surrounding Canterbury landscape.

The discoveries at Graduate Women Canterbury have been a successful addition to the survey project.

We look forward to venturing out to more Departments over the coming weeks, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to provide any information about heritage artefacts that may be of interest.

Gown image credit: Copyright University of Canterbury
James Logie image credit: courtesy of the Steven Family

Amy Boswell-Hore, collection technician.
Natalie Looyer, collection technician.