Tag Archives: Academic Staff

Nominations open for the Royal Society of New Zealand Council

Nominations are now open for three positions on the Royal Society of New Zealand Council, the governing body of Royal Society Te Apārangi.

The positions are as follows:

  • Vice-President (Biological and Life Sciences) for a three-year term
  • One elected Councillor for a three-year term
  • One elected Councillor for a two-year term

Please click here for nomination forms and more information. Nominations close 29 March. 

Introducing UC Classics guests

We’ve been delighted to host Oxford Fellows, Dr. Bill Allan and Dr. Laura Swift, over the course of summer. They have been such great company to have around the department and have offered our students a chance to learn from international academics. We are sad to see them leave! We thought we’d have a chat with them so you can get to know a bit more about what the Oxford Fellowship offers.

 Bill currently teaches at the University of Oxford, Laura teaches at the Open University UK and they have very much enjoyed their sabbatical in Christchurch with their daughter Iona.

  • How did you end up being in New Zealand for the summer?

Bill: The Oxford Fellowship between the University of Oxford and UC works really well because you can go for up to three months – and it could be any time of the year – so obviously we’d prefer to be here in the summer, especially because the last time we were here, was in the North Island in winter. And of course, we also wanted to see the South Island.

Laura: We were thinking about if there was somewhere in Australia or New Zealand that we could go to and then when we saw the Oxford Fellowship scheme, which is administered through the Erskine Programme Office at UC, I thought it would be much nicer to feel like we had a connection to the institution and it would be easier to get to know people and get to know the country a bit.

Bill: Yes, because a part of the Oxford Fellowship is that you’re expected to be contributing which is good, because if you go to a department as a visitor you’re simply just there; you might meet people, you might not.

  • What was your field of study while studying yourselves?

Bill: As an undergraduate in Edinburgh I did Latin, Greek and Celtic studies. The Scottish education system is four years, and then you specialise in 3rd and 4th year, so I narrowed it down to Latin and Greek. I did my doctorate in Oxford on Greek tragedy – not as good as Laura’s – but it passed. And now I do Greek tragedy & Homeric epic.

Laura: I did a Classics degree at Oxford, which is basically the languages, literature, ancient history and philosophy. I then did my doctorate on Greek tragedy and the tragic chorus so now my work is on Greek tragedy and early Greek poetry.

  • Currently what are you researching and teaching in the UK?

Laura: I’ve just finished a commentary on a Greek poet called Archilochus who was composing in the 7th century BC, and he was famous in antiquity for writing abuse poetry. Poetry that attacked named people – possibly not real people, fictional characters. But he was famous for writing attacks and also quite erotic, vulgar poetry; kind of sex scenes and erotic narratives. He actually had a very broad range but later he was famous for being a foul-mouthed abuse poet. I’ve just sent that off to Oxford University Press so it should be coming out at the end of 2018.

Bill: The last thing I was involved in was a new translation of Homer’s Odyssey, for Oxford World’s Classics by Oxford University Press, where I did the introduction and notes. I’m now working on an edition for the Green and Yellow Series (Cambridge University Press), and I’m doing an anthology of early Greek elegy and iambus. That’ll come out in a couple of years’ time.

  • What are your other interests?

Laura: We both like walking, so that’s been great here as there’s so much scenery nearby. We really enjoy going out to the Port Hills; there’s lovely scenery around Oxford in the UK, but it takes a bit longer to get out there. I’m into sewing and knitting so I enjoy making clothes for our three-year-old, knitting stuff for me and everybody else I know.

Bill: I love cycling, it’s a shame I don’t have a bike here, I’ve got withdrawal symptoms. Keeping fit, jogging quite a bit, I’ve been around the Ilam fields and university. We both do yoga in Britain: one of the occupational hazards of being an academic is you sit around a lot and get terrible back pain. We’ve joined a yoga club here, so we go there twice a week. I play the trumpet so I try and toot away for half an hour each day. Of course, there’s always the joy of hanging out with Iona.

Laura: Beaches and playgrounds are good for that. We’ve taken her to the Margaret Mahy playground and it was great. The splash pools in New Brighton and the Botanic Gardens are good too.

  • What differences and similarities have you noticed between teaching here and in the UK or other institutions?

Bill: The main difference for me is that in Oxford I do one formal lecture a week and the rest of my teaching is tutorials, either one on one or groups of two or three students. Summer school is a kind of in between, more seminar style teaching, and you can get more debate going. When studying at Oxford you are a member of an academic individual college, there are about 39 or 40 in Oxford. It’s where you live, where you work, your entire life is based there, so it’s more than just a hall of residence.

Laura: My university just does distance learning, so there is very limited direct contact with students. The job is more about creating the study materials, which might be a mixture of books but also audio recordings or video or interactive exercises that they’ll then work from. It takes about three years to create a module once it goes through various university committees and the assessment processes have all been agreed. It’s quite a long process, but then the module is supposed to stay the same with some moderating and updating of assessments.

  • What have you enjoyed most about Christchurch so far?

Bill: Flat whites. The coffee is really good!

Laura: It’ll be a shock going back to Britain where the coffee is not as good. You know it’s good in a London café when all the NZ and Australian students go there. I think also the setting of the city is great – it’s so easy to get to the beach, there’s great natural scenery and everything you need in town.

Bill: Everything, no matter how far away, seems to be only a 20-minute drive, it’s great. It’s a lovely city for quality of life, and it obviously helps that we’re here in the summer.

  • What are you looking forward to about going home?

Bill: Not having to take a second mortgage to buy cheese and dairy. It’s so ironic because NZ is huge for dairy export.

Laura: The timing will be nice because we’ve had the summer here and will be returning just as it’s starting to get nice, and spring can be really lovely. It will be nice to get back to our house. Normally my mum comes up to do a day with our daughter, so it will be nice to be back close to family.

  • Any other thoughts on your visit here?

Bill: Culturally what’s been really interesting about Christchurch is seeing how it’s been recovering with all the building works and projects that are going on in town.

Laura: It makes you realise how big the destruction was and how it’s now seven years on and there’s still loads to do, and it makes you think how it would have been a couple of weeks after. I think it’s culturally interesting as well because NZ is such a long way, like the furthest you can go, but there are some many things about it that are so similar. I feel at home more here than in the US for example, where you definitely feel like a foreigner. It seems even just linguistically there are fewer words that are different.

Bill and Laura shared the teaching of ‘Theatre and Performance in the Ancient World’ during their visit here. They also each presented a seminar that was open to the public – and well attended. Laura’s was on ‘What’s new about the newest Sappho poem?’, and Bill presented ‘Solon on Civil War’. Both were also involved in a very lively panel discussion with other academic staff from Humanities on Tyranny and Crises of Democracy: Lessons from Antiquity. Their valuable contributions to the College of Arts and the Department of Classics have been appreciated by staff and students alike.

Sexuality education symposium at UC

On 15-16 March internationally leading sexuality education researchers and local youth workers are convening at UC to engage with the public to consider what else sexuality education could become at State of the Art: New Directions in Sexuality Education/ Current Social Science Theories In Practice Symposium.

Panel presentations and interactive workshops will draw on cutting edge international and Australasian research and local initiatives to explore directions in sexuality education that can better equip diverse young people to engage meaningfully with both the pleasures and challenges of crafting intimate relationships in today’s world.

Topics include:

  • Sexuality Education Beyond the Classroom and Beyond Intervention: Lessons from The Beyond Bullying Project (Panel Presentation)
  • Engaging with diversity in sexuality education – new material and posthumanist provocations  (Professor Louisa Allan and Associate Professor Kathleen Quinlivan)
  • What do unicorns have to do with gender? How can research better inform practice to support gender diverse young people and their families? (Dr Sue Bagshaw)

What more can sexuality and relationships education become in an era of consumption and digital technologies?

Sexuality and relationships education is paradoxically both everywhere and nowhere in today’s world. A  lot of anxiety, and sometimes panic, surrounds learning about sexualities and relationships both within and outside schools.

Research shows that school based sexuality education programmes struggle to engage with contemporary sexualities and relationships issues with children and young people.

As a subject, sexuality education sits somewhat uncomfortably within schools. Programmes are under-resourced and under-valued and research shows that the curriculum struggles to make itself relevant and meaningful to young people in terms of their lived experiences of negotiating intimate relationships and pleasure in a digital world.

Young people feel frustrated with the emphasis on the biological aspects of sexuality, and  want to learn more about gender diversity, violence in relationships, intimacy, sexual pleasure and love.

Parents too, feel out of their depth with knowing how best to educate their children and young people about sexuality and relationships in an era of consumption and digital technologies.

Once framed as private, sexualities, relationships and gender politics are everywhere. Programmes such as Married at First Sight show adults negotiating the complexities of intimate relationships, including in some cases, relationships as commodities to be ‘shopped for’.

Campaigns such as #metoo are in response to sexual harassment (although not without consequences for some young women). Campaigns for sexual and gender diversity call into question heterosexuality and gender normalcy.

In an era of social and digital media, it’s not surprising to see diverse young people are increasingly taking sexuality education into their own hands. Sexting has increased amongst teens  in recent years, largely as a consensual activity, it occurs primarily  within the contexts of an intimate relationship.

However a recent Australian survey shows that  young women aged 18-19 in digital spaces are  more likely to be on the receiving end of degrading comments about gender, sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances.

Rather than criminalise sexting, and telling young people not to do it, sexuality education researchers suggest that sexuality education needs to focus more on helping young people to imagine and participate in conversations related to sexualities and relationships both within and outside school.

For more information about speakers and topics, and to register, please click here.

‘The Expatriate Myth’ – a fresh view on the OEs of New Zealand writers

New Zealand writers of the past were stuck in a colonial backwater and forced overseas to gain appreciation and a readership, at least according to conventional literary history.

But in her new book The Expatriate Myth, UC History graduate Helen Bones overturns this traditional view of the literary lives of New Zealand writers in the late 19th and early 20th century.  She questions these assumptions through her own detailed historical and empirical research.

‘Many New Zealand writers of this period travelled extensively or lived overseas for a time. But this was not a rejection of their homeland to advance their careers’, says Helen Bones.  ‘Many of New Zealand’s writers living overseas operated in a transnational way, taking advantage of colonial networks in a way that belies any notion of a single national allegiance.’

Most who left New Zealand, even if they were away for a time, continued to write about and interact with their homeland, and in many cases came back, she says.

This fascinating and clear-sighted book is being launched by Professor Patrick Evans at a function at the University Book Shop, 5pm Thursday, 15 March.  All are welcome.

Dr Helen Bones was raised and educated in Christchurch. 

She is currently living in Australia, where she teaches history and has a research position in Digital Humanities at Western Sydney University.

Professorial Lecture Series – 8 March

Celebrating Fresh Thinking: Professorial Lecture Series

Staff and postgraduate students are invited to join me in celebrating the substantive contribution to academia made by Professor Rien Visser and Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney in the first Professorial Lecture Series for 2018.

Date:               Thursday, 8 March 2018, from 4.30 – 6.00 p.m.
Location:        F3 Forestry Lecture Theatre

I encourage all staff and postgraduate students to attend these lectures, to actively support our new Professors, and take the opportunity to appreciate the fantastic research being undertaken in parts of the university we may be less familiar with.


“The rise of the autonomous machinery; are robots taking over timber harvesting?” – Presented by Professor Rien Visser, School of Forestry

Ever wondered what goes on when our plantation forests are being cut down? It is no longer brute force and grunty chainsaws. A small high-tech revolution is taking place. Without a doubt, forestry plays an important role both in our landscape as well as society. It provides employment for approximately 15,000 mainly rural New Zealanders, protects the environment, and is our third largest export earner. The last decade has seen some great New Zealand-based innovations in harvesting machines and systems. This means we are not just selling logs, but also high-tech equipment and expertise. However, while operating a million dollar high-tech machine in beautiful scenic settings miles away from the big city can be considered a great job, the geographical remoteness of many forests means contractors are struggling to attract or retain suitable employees.

Meanwhile, international competition for forest products requires ever improving efficiency and robotic machinery is a realistic near-future option. They are being developed right now. This presentation provides a visual overview of developments, showcases our UC contribution, but also encourages a robust discussion on the social ramifications of robots ‘taking over the hills’. Do we embrace it, or do we resist?

Unnatural childhoods – growing up in impermanent, statutory care” – Presented by Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney, School of Health Sciences

Children typically enter statutory care with compromised psychological development, as a result of chronic and severe maltreatment through their early years. In particular, many children enter care with impaired attachment systems, manifesting to others as relational difficulties – that is further compromised by developmental trauma.

This child population is thus uniquely primed for ‘felt insecurity’. Their developmental recovery hinges on them acquiring and maintaining felt security through the experience of unconditional love and care.  And yet, statutory care systems evolved over the past century with another purpose in mind – to provide time-limited care and protection to children, with restoration to their parents being the final goal.

Despite this, increasing numbers of children throughout the developed world effectively grow up in legally impermanent alternative care. Therein lies a dilemma. In this lecture, I describe extraordinary developmental risks faced by children growing up in statutory care, involving complex interaction of child welfare practices, caregiver motivation, the child’s experience of impermanence, and children’s and caregivers’ felt security.

I conclude that the state can only meet its duty of care to these children if it addresses their need for relational permanence.


Professor Ian Wright
Deputy Vice-Chancellor | Tumu Tuarua