Category Archives: Staff stories

Creative Problem Solving ↔ Constructive Culture Whiria te Taura Tangata #17

Design Thinking

Back in August last year we highlighted the use of Problem Solving Circles to promote and grow a constructive culture. A number of you attended the advertised Blue CLUES sessions about this topic.

I hope you’ve been able to make use of this excellent tool and a number of the other tools in UC’s Ideation and Innovation Toolset.

A tool in that Toolset that I’d like to highlight today is Design Thinking.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success”. —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

Design thinking solutions are desirable from a human point of view but also technologically feasible and economically viable. It is not a methodology for every problem but in the right situations, it is very powerful. This is a good overview article and here are the resources we have gathered for you.

Many of us perhaps desire to attend the at Stanford University (I know I do) but that probably isn’t a feasible or viable proposition! The great news is – you can study Design Thinking here at UC.

I’ve just completed this paper myself and (apart from thoroughly enjoying myself) I learnt about the theory behind the Design Thinking methodology, when it is appropriate to use it, and how to practically apply it.

photo of design thinking
At the CDHB Design Lab

If you are interested you can take this paper as part of UC’s MBA or our Postgraduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership or, as a one-off.

Culture resurvey after three years – College of Education, Health and Human Development

Congratulations to the College of Education, Health and Human Development on their recent retest results – an increase in the number of staff responding to the survey and noticeable growth in the constructive styles! I look forward to you sharing some stories once you’ve had time to reflect on your results within the College.

Finding Out More

Ngā manaakitanga (with best wishes),

Karen Mather
Organisational Development

New digital tools make collaboration easier

The Student First Programme is helping prepare UC for the future, and putting students at the heart of our business. As we approach the second half of the year, the Student First Programme continues to help transform student administration and make life easier for staff and students with better systems, processes and tools.

On 16 May we launched the latest of these digital tools, which was designed by staff (including lecturers and academic managers) in order to collaborate and give feedback on new course proposals.  Click here to access the new Course Creation form >

Manual data entry, paper forms and long email trails are replaced with an interactive workflow and a central repository to track feedback. This will make course creation faster, easier and more accurate for everyone involved. Watch a short video on why we’re doing this:

We are excited to launch this new digital tool for academic staff as part of our journey to become a more efficient and agile University. Thanks to Academic Managers, Senior Student Advisors and Deans who have been instrumental to this project – they are your key contacts within Colleges for any questions or training requirements.

Introducing ourUC – a new system for student administration

The new Course Creation form is the latest feature in our new staff portal, ourUC.

ourUC will become the main system staff will use to complete student administration work. It’s built on the same platform as our student and agent portals, myUC and connectUC, as part of our new technology environment for student administration. We’ll be sharing more detail about our technology approach at our next Community Update on 5 June, so look out for the highlights video.

ourUC is still early in development and we’ll be releasing new features throughout the year, and making it available to more teams. Like any software product, it will continue to evolve and so it may look slightly different each time there’s an update. If you’re required to use ourUC in your role, you’ll receive appropriate training and support.

More information

For more information about the work we’re doing for UC staff this year, watch our recent Community Update.

Look out for more details about new features in ourUC coming soon. If you have questions about the Student First Programme ask your manager in the first instance, or contact

Teaching Month is coming

Want to hear some new ideas about teaching at UC? Have a quick look at what’s coming up this year in UC’s Teaching Month in July.

Come for a coffee, stay to hear:

– the Vice-Chancellor’s thoughts on the future of teaching at UC;

– how teaching can help you get promoted;

– how you can contribute to teaching leadership at UC;

– opportunities for funding your teaching ideas;

– technology-enabled learning possibilities

and much more.

2019 Update Day | Rongo o te Wā Auckland

The Auckland Liaison team were a busy bunch as they hosted 23 international directors and high school careers advisors at the recent Update Day | Rongo o te Wā in Auckland.

The sun was beaming in Tāmaki-makau-rau as MC Tumama Tu’ulua got the day off to a great start with icebreakers and jokes, and Letitia Fickel delivered the university update with enthusiasm and energy.

Attendees were visibly engaged in the presentations and asked questions throughout the day. The student panel was the highlight of the morning however as it provided an avenue for ‘real talk’ – all those sticky questions were answered honestly by real students in real time.

Kate Pattinson presented the liaison update, with her 30 minute presentation wrapping up 1 hour later (!) showing just how eager our attendees were.

A big thanks to Andrea Schoorl from the Acommodation team and Associate Professor Donald Matheson from the College of Arts | Te Rāngai Toi Tangata, who spoke to the new Bachelor of Communication degree.

Ice creams and sorbets were the lunch highlight as the audience made the most of outdoor seating that overlooked the Eden Park stadium.

Having iPads available saw the team increase their post event response three-fold, and their sticky name badges significantly reduced the waste created by traditional name badge holders.

Our Auckland Update Day | Rongo te Wā helps us engage with the Auckland market and provide updates to local schools both of which, we’re pleased to report, were a success.

Erskine Programme Visitor Profile – Dr Thomas Bennett

Erskine Programme Visitor, Dr Thomas Bennett
Erskine Programme Visitor, Dr Thomas Bennett

Dr Thomas Bennett is visiting UC from Cambridge University and will be teaching in the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences | Te Kura Matū.

Where have you come from, and what do you teach?
I am a Royal Society University Research Fellow, based in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, in the University of Cambridge where I lead a group of around 10 PhD students and Post-Doctoral Researchers.

I am perhaps most well known in the field for my work on glasses, or disordered materials. Prior to 2015, only 3 categories were known:

  • inorganic (window glass)
  • organic (amorphous polymers)
  • metallic (used for surgical instruments and golf clubs).

The group discovered a 4th category, which incorporates elements and molecules from across the periodic table, and much of our research concentrates possible applications in next generation display technologies, protective coatings and communications equipment. A second strand involves looking at the fundamental synthesis, properties and applications of porous materials. These materials can be thought of as tiny ‘sponges’ or ‘sieves’ capable of separating and storing greenhouse gas molecules such as CO2, radioactive substances or drug molecules. They find applications as H2 storage tanks for H2 in cars, as additives in fruit packaging which prevent over-ripening, and as water harvesting devices for desert locations.

 What interested you in the Erskine Programme/why did you want to come to UC?
I am always keen to expand my international experience, and to learn from different institutions in order to transport knowledge on best practice back to the University of Cambridge and to my group there.

I am particularly keen on utilising research skills from across the world to solve truly global problems, and Aotearoa New Zealand in general has a rich history in innovation in fundamental science.

UC has an exchange scheme with Cambridge, hosted by Prof. Paul Kruger, I am really grateful for the opportunity to come here.

 What have you been doing at UC?
I have just started a lecture course on porous materials, and am particularly excited about being able to factor in latest research in the area.

The quality of both undergraduate and graduate students is high, and I am looking forward to working with them to produce an academic review of an unexplored area of the field, which we will aim to publish in an international scientific journal. 

Outside of the 15 hours of the week spent holding face-to-face and group meetings with members of my fantastic team back In the UK, I’ve met numerous students in the broad area of physical sciences here, and discussed some fascinating research taking place. My door is always open and I’m enjoying not only teaching, but also learning from students.

 What have you most enjoyed about your time here at UC/Ōtautahi Christchurch?
Outside of academia, I am an extremely keen tramper – most weekends you will find my partner, Helena and I walking on a mountainside, wading in a river, or in backcountry hut with a packet of squiggles, playing cards and meeting other trampers!

I’ve been to Aotearoa New Zealand several times before, though personal favourites this time around have been the Greenstone Caples track, Salisbury Lodge in the Kahurangi and the Mount Somers circuit. Evidently, working and living in Ōtautahi Christchurch is very different to spending a few weeks in the backcountry, and I am really enjoying learning much more about Kiwi culture whilst here.