Tag Archives: Erskine Fellows

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.

Erskine visitor arrivals this week

The Erskine Programme would like to welcome back to UC three visitors this week – all our Erskine Visitors this week have previously visited UC as Erskine Fellows.

Professor Richard Law from the University of York, UK arrived on the 24  September. Professor Law will be teaching in the School of Mathematics and Statistics.

Professor Ilsa Schwarz from the University of Tennessee, USA will arrive on the 27 September, and will be teaching in the School of Health Sciences.

Also arriving this week on the 29 September, is Associate Professor James Murphy. Professor Murphy is visiting UC from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Australia and will be teaching in the School of Biological Sciences.

We hope all our Visiting Fellows and their families enjoy their time back at UC.


Erskine visitor profile – Dr Carina Fearnley

Dr Carina Fearnley from University College London, UK – Semester 2 2017

Carina 1

Where you have come from and what do you teach?

I work at University College London, in the department of Science and Technology Studies. I teach in two key areas that are interdisciplinary. First in natural hazards, particularly focused on disaster risk reduction and early warning systems for geological hazards, specifically volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. The second area of my teaching is in the field of Science and Technology Studies, which brings together philosophy, history and sociology. My particular area of focus is on science communication and public engagement, and the management and communication of risk and uncertainty.

 What interested you in the Erskine Programme/why did you want to come to UC?

The Erskine Programme provides a fantastic opportunity to share and exchange teaching practices and pedagogy with the Department of Geological Sciences, particularly within the first year Geohazards module, and the Masters of Disaster Risk and Resilience Programme. The Department and hazard team has an extraordinary reputation for running highly successful workshops and real-world simulation exercises, both as an educational tool, but also in a professional and research capacity. The Fellowship provides the opportunity to see how these events are run and will help inform such simulations back in the UK, as part of international teaching exercises I conduct with Bournemouth University Disaster Management Centre. The Programme also provides the opportunity to foster new relationships with Masters, PhD, and staff within the Department, alongside the wonderful additional benefit of developing new research opportunities with staff across the university. Finally, I have developed a number of links, collaborations, and friendships with disaster researchers and practitioners across New Zealand so the opportunity to be able to build on these, and enjoy some breaks to enjoy the stunning New Zealand landscape was too good to ignore!

What have you been doing at UC?

I have been teaching volcanology and volcano risk management on the Geohazards first year undergraduate module, and also running a simulation of a United Nations workshop focused on deciding mitigation strategies for the megacity of Tokyo. I was also involved in an Alpine Fault earthquake simulation workshop as part of this module, covering teaching relating to how the mining sector may be impacted.

I have also taught students on the Masters of Disaster Risk and Resilience programme about my latest research, and contributed to a simulation exercise on a tsunami generated in Chile impacting Christchurch. This was done in collaboration Journalism students at UC.

I have also been involved in a number of supervision meetings for both Masters, MDRR, and PhD students, and in meetings reviewing the Geohazards module and the Master of Disaster Risk and Resilience for future years. I attended the Canterbury University Group for Ashfall Research (CoUGAR) research meetings, giving insights and tips on how to conduct interdisciplinary work. I presented my recent art/science research project titled ‘Walking the Sound: Beside the Ocean of Time’ to the Department of Geography and Geological Sciences, and will be giving a Geological Sciences Departmental seminar titled ‘Why are advanced tsunami mitigation systems more prone to malfunction?’ on 13th September.

During my time at UC I attended a ‘Science in a Post-Truth Era’ workshop in Lincoln organised by The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science, and visited the GNS office in Lower Hutt to discuss the latest research on early warning systems for natural hazards. I also had the wonderful opportunity to partake in a simulation exercise with Selwyn Council focused on an Alpine Fault earthquake, seeing disaster preparedness in the making.

What have you most enjoyed about your time here at UC/Christchurch?

Tough question as it is the range and diversity of experiences that have made the fellowship so much fun, and I have my host Associate Professor Tom Wilson to thank for my amazing time at UC. I have particularly enjoyed engaging with UC staff and students, fostering new ideas and sharing good practices. Scoping out new research opportunities and planning the return trip with collaborators has also been great fun, and I am delighted that a publication I authored with GNS staff on New Zealand’s volcano alert levels was published whilst I was here. I always enjoy visiting the beautiful landscape and people of New Zealand and it has been great to see and learn more about the recovery of Christchurch since 2010 and the enormous progress made since my last visit in 2013. On a personal level I have also become hooked on the fantastic Zumba classes offered at the UC Recreational Centre too! All round a thoroughly rewarding experience, thanks to everyone for making it possible and being so welcoming.


Erskine profile: Sarah Wallace, Duquesne University, USA

Sarah Wallace from Duquesne University, USA is visiting UC during Semester Two 2017.

Sarah hiking near Taylor’s Mistake

Sarah hiking near Taylor’s Mistake

Where you have come from and what do you teach?
I am an Associate Professor at in the Speech-Language Pathology Department at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA. At Duquesne University, I teach four courses in our Master’s Program including Adults with Aphasia, Neurogenic Communication Disorders, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, as well as Capstone in Evidence-Based Practice. I also serve as the Program Director for the Adult Language and Cognitive Clinic and enjoy working with clinical educators and supporting students in that clinic. Outside of the classroom, I enjoy mentoring student research projects.

What interested you in the Erskine Programme/Why did you want to come to UC?
I had heard of the Erskine program through UC instructors and colleagues in the States who had travelled here for this wonderful opportunity. I was really excited about the opportunity to learn from instructors and students at a different university. I was eager for the opportunity to live in another country and learn from the people there – particularly in New Zealand. Additionally, I was drawn to learning more about UC’s program because of the innovative clinical education practices implemented by the instructors here.

Sarah hiking on the snow at Lake Tekapo

Sarah hiking on the snow at Lake Tekapo

What have you been doing at UC?
This term, I am teaching a course called Complex Communication Disorders. It is a problem-based learning course focused on complex clinical cases similar to realistic clinical caseloads. In the course, I have the opportunity to talk about dementia and, traumatic brain injury as well as augmentative and alternative communication – all topics I am really interested in. During the second term, I will teach a Professional Studies course and cover topics related to ethics and interprofessional education. I am really involved with interprofessional education at Duquesne University so it is exciting to share that information with students here. I am also presenting at multiple research and education seminars during my time at UC. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my research and experiences. 

What have you most enjoyed about your time here at UC/Christchurch?
It is really difficult to think of just one thing. I have really enjoyed getting to know the people and have been fortunate that everyone has been so kind and generous. I am training for the Mt Cook Marathon in September so I have been running all around the city and seeing some of the most interesting places during my runs. I love running in Hagley Park and through the City Centre and even ventured up to Bottle Lake Forest. When I am not teaching or running, I have been going hiking most every chance I get. I love the Port Hills and generally exploring the tracks around that area. I got to hike in the snow at Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook a few weeks ago and it was amazing!


10k Race in Sumner with Kate Cook from the Communication Disorders Department

10k Race in Sumner with Kate Cook from the Communication Disorders Department

Erskine and Canterbury Fellow Arrivals – August 2017

The Erskine Programme has welcomed three further visitors to UC during the month of August.

Dr Philip Bremner, a Canterbury Fellow from the University of Sussex, UK arrived on 19 August and will be teaching in the Law Department.

Professor Stephen Hawkins arrived on 21 August and joins us from the University of Southampton, UK. Professor Hawkins will be teaching in the School of Biological Sciences.

Finally, Dr Milton Kiefel arrived on 25 August and will be teaching in the Department of Chemistry. Dr Kiefel joins us from Griffith University, Australia.

We hope that our visitors and their families enjoy their stay.