Category Archives: Organisational Development

Nuggets of wellbeing wisdom – introduction from the Mentemia launch – blog 1#

We launched Mentemia last month with an online webinar by Mentemia’s psychologist Dr Fiona Crichton. You were invited, but you may have been to busy to  join, which is exactly why you need to make the most of Mentemia’s wellbeing resources!

Just for you, I’ll summarise the Mentemia launch and each of the six pillars of wellbeing in a series of blogs to help you access wellbeing as simply and quickly as possible.

Or you can watch the webinar (45mins) here: University of Canterbury – Mentemia Staff Launch (

What is Mentemia?
• A workplace wellbeing platform/phone-based app
• Evidence-based, effective resources in bite-sized activities that everyone can add into their day
• Proactive tools based on the ‘six pillars of wellbeing’ to help you not just cope with stress, but thrive.

With a background in science and academia, Dr Crichton understands the unique university environment and the pressures on staff.

“You can’t look after others unless you are looking after yourself,” she reminded us.

She recommended that we integrate good habits and actions into our daily routines; not wait until we feel sad, stressed or overwhelmed. Just do one small thing from each pillar every day. It only takes a minute – literally.

Here’s a handy acronym:
Look after you – prioritise your own wellbeing
Experiment – find out what works for you
Adapt – change it up when needed
Develop habits – build small actions into your day

Dr Crichton recapped the physiology of stress, starting with the brain. As many of you will well know, but it’s worth remembering, the amygdala keeps us safe, and constantly scans the environment for danger. However, it has no context so it can’t differentiate between a thought, a memory or a new thing in the environment – they can all be perceived as threats.

The amygdala tells the hypothalamus to send out stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and we all know how that goes – muscles tense for flight, fight or freeze, digestion shuts down, immunity is compromised, etc. All this happens before the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) has a chance to assess the situation and tell the amygdala to stand down.

Good stress/bad stress – some stress enhances performance; chronic stress impairs health and happiness.

What to do?

Dr Crichton says we want to encourage good connections between the PFC and the amygdala. We can train our body to relax following flight or fight, we can soothe an overactive amygdala and we adopt habits that help us stay calm in the first place – techniques that are all covered in the six pillars of wellbeing on the app.

In the next blog, I’ll look at Pillar 1 – Chill. For now, you can check out some ideas for a DOSE of feel good brain chemicals below.

Got something to add? Comments are welcome!

Download Mentemia now

Mentemia is also available to UC students – you might like to point your students towards the 6 Pillar videos on Vimeo.

Stay well,

Breeze from the Communications team. 

Latest from the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)

UC is a member of the ACU. Their latest news (summarised below) is available on their website.

Each month, an individual at a different ACU member institution is invited to write the introduction for this newsletter, providing an opportunity to highlight different perspectives. This month, Philip McGowan, from Newcastle University, UK and Pamela Dube from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, writes for us about higher education and the SDGs.

It’s been nearly six years since the world’s governments agreed the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, and these 17 goals increasingly feature in our universities, in businesses and in local government. This increasing familiarity with the SDGs is critical if we are to make good progress by the 2030 deadline for meeting these environmental, social and development goals…  (see the website for the rest of the article)

Opportunities for members:

  • Martha Farrell Memorial Fellowships – applications now open
  • Register for Going Global 2021
  • Request for proposals: Market analysis of the higher education sector in Bangladesh
  • Request for proposals: Supporting research study
  • ACU Fellowships – deadline extended
  • Speak at the NMIMS-ACU International Conference on STEM Education-2021
  • Attend the Digital University Africa webinar series
  • Research and innovation for climate action – academic and university events in support of COP26
  • Blue Charter Knowledge Exchange Training Programme
  • Routledge/Round Table Commonwealth Studentships
  • Call for papers | Conversations about the journey of change: A ‘new normal’
  • Save the date: ‘Universities of the Future’ event


  • Taking international collaboration online: Virtual mobility projects
  • Climate Resilience Challenge Grants: advancing climate action in the Commonwealth
  • Tackling the taboo of sexual harassment

Noho ora mai

Karen Mather  (she/her)

Pūmanawa Tangata | People and Culture

Outcome of Student Life Services and Communications portfolio review

The resignation of the Executive Director Student Life, Services and Communications (Lynn McClelland) created an opportunity to review the structure of the portfolio. The review was informed by the Strategic Vision, considering the following goals:

  • To be locally engaged and globally networked
  • To provide accessible, flexible and future-focussed education
  • To enable nurturing staff and thriving students

With these in mind, and to further deliver on the aspirations in the Strategic Vision for external engagement at a local, national and international level, it has been decided that a new role of AVC/ Executive Director– Engagement will be advertised, and that the vacant Executive Director Student Life Services and Communications role will not be filled. The new role will report to the Vice-Chancellor and be part of the Senior Leadership Team. The new role’s focus will be to advance the University’s profile, by engaging effectively with external partners and stakeholders. The AVC/ Executive Director – Engagement will ensure that UC’s marketing, communications, recruitment, partnerships, alumni relations and fundraising are consistent with the Strategic Vision.

The role will be advertised imminently.

Following discussions with the current direct reports of the Executive Director Student Life Services and Communications role, the teams have been realigned to new reporting lines as follows:

  • The Director Alumni and Foundation (Jo Dowling), Director Recruitment, Marketing and International Relations (Tracey Wilson), and Director Communications and Engagement (Jayne Austin) will report to the new role of AVC/ Executive Director- Engagement. Teams reporting to the above roles will remain structurally unchanged and will continue to report into existing managers under the new departmental name of Engagement. These named roles will continue to report to the Executive Director People, Culture and Campus (Paul O’Flaherty) until the AVC/ Executive –Engagement role is filled.
  • The Student Services Innovation Manager (Trish Laurenson) will report to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic (Professor Catherine Moran). Student-facing services, Enrolment Support and Training, the Enrolments and Information Desk, the Contact Centre, and Admissions and Scholarships will therefore shift to be located under the DVC Academic team structure. This alignment and integration will enable UC to further focus on its goal of Thriving Students. All teams will remain structurally unchanged and will continue to report into existing managers.
  • The Director Student Wellness (Katherine Yuill Proctor) and the Director Accommodation Services (Greg Scott) will report to the Executive Director People, Culture and Campus (Paul O’Flaherty). These changes bring together the teams – Health Centre, Student Care, Recreation Centre, Accommodation Services, People and Culture, Health and Safety – with responsibility for championing student and staff wellbeing, and many aspects of pastoral care. The teams reporting to the Directors will be structurally unchanged.

Should you have questions about these changes please contact Sarah Groufsky, HR Business Partner on ext 93239 or

Latest news from the Association of Commonwealth Universities

The latest newsletter includes

  1.  A letter about the critical need for climate action and some supporting research opportunities
  2. How you can support a social media campaign #UnisForOurPlanet – download a social media kit to highlight the important work being done to tackle climate change
  3. ACU Fellowship opportunities

    “The fellowships facilitate collaboration at a distance and the creation of valuable new partnerships between member universities in different countries. From climate action to engineering, we have a wide variety of fellowships available in 2021 across different fields for ACU member university staff.”

  4.  Higher Education and the SDGs Challenge Grants – applications now open
  5. Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships – applications now open
  6.  Help evaluate applications for ACU grants – join the selection committees
  7. Take part in the Second Global Survey on the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education
  8. Register for the Climate Exp0 conference
  9. Join the call for participants – a global dialogue about the digital divide in higher education

News Stories

  1. COP26: a research partnership to accelerate climate action
  2. My experience as a female leader in Higher Education
  3. The ACU Review: Dialogues of difference
  4. Climate action for women, by women: Mrs Mavis Akuffobea-Essilfie

I’d welcome knowing if this is helpful to people – do you read this blog? Do let me know.

Noho ora mai

Karen Mather  (she/her)

Pūmanawa Tangata | People and Culture

Professor Jason Tylianakis appointed Director of Food Transitions 2050

Tēnā koutou, 

In August 2020, a regional strategic partnership was established between the University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, Plant & Food Research, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research and AgResearch.

The result was a new postgraduate school focusing on food sustainability, tentatively titled Food Transitions 2050dedicated to supporting the transition of our regional, national and international food systems – the first for postgraduate research in Aotearoa New Zealand.

A range of significant milestones have been achieved since then, and I want to provide an update on some key developments on behalf of the Food Transitions 2050 Working Group.

I am pleased to announce that Professor Jason Tylianakis has been appointed Director of Food Transitions 2050 for 2021, to progress development in the next stage.

Jason is an award-winning Professor of Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences, with particular expertise in biodiversity and sustainable production systems.

PhD projects update
There was a very strong response to the call for project proposals last August, with a total of 57 proposals for the pool of 15 scholarships available at the two universities. The successful projects can be found from the Food Transitions 2050 website

Call for project proposals for the 2022 cohort
A call for project proposals for the next round is expected in the middle of this year, and we are in discussions about a series of externally funded scholarships that have been attracted by the themes of the Food Transitions 2050 initiative.

 If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact either myself or Professor Tylianakis, directly.

Ngā mihi,

Professor Wendy Lawson
Amorangi Pūtaiao | Pro-Vice-Chancellor
Te Rāngai Pūtaiao | College of Science