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UCOL’s Sister Act Become Doctors

Monday 18 February 2013
UCOL’s Sister Act Become Doctors

Sibling rivalry has given way to healthy competition for sisters Catherine Snell-Siddle and Sarah Snell who have both gained their Doctorates in Science Education within weeks of each other.

Although 13 years separate them, the two UCOL academics have forged a long term career in education, which has spanned two decades with a passion and commitment to research and attainment of higher qualifications. Their common interests in research have been mutually inspiring and have resulted in several collaborative research projects. Their main research focus has developed around learning environments, which they have presented at both national and international conferences.

“It even amazes us that we can work so closely together in the same institution and in related fields,” says Catherine. “We have complementary skills built from different disciplines within ICT and Business.”

Catherine is the Head of the School of Business and Computing and has been at UCOL since 1993. Her thesis examines tertiary students’ perceptions of mobile technology enhanced learning environments and associations with outcomes in New Zealand with a specific focus on online, blended and face-to-face learning.

Sarah is the Associate Head of the School of Business and Computing and joined UCOL a year after her sister in 1994 after returning from living in the UK. Her thesis looks at variations in gender and age perceptions of the use of mobile technologies to support learning in a New Zealand Tertiary Institution.

The eldest and youngest of six girls, the pair are not the first in their family to gain their doctorates. Their sister Helen also has a PhD. “When the three of us had gained our Masters qualifications, we would joke to our mother that after so many years of just females, there were now three ‘masters’ in the family, and now there are three Doctors!” says Catherine. “It’s a shame our late father is not around to share in our family success.”

Both Catherine and Sarah’s new qualifications will be conferred by Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. The pair obtained scholarships through Curtin University to research their theses through an Australian initiative to increase New Zealand and Australia’s research capabilities. Curtin University is one of several institutions that offer a selection of fee exempt studies for New Zealand and Australian citizens.

Their scholarships allowed for study visits to the Perth-based University, visits to UCOL by their supervising Professor, attendance at block courses in New Zealand, and the chance for them to present papers at an international conference in Oman in 2012.

“We are very impressed by the quality of academic support of Curtin University and, also by the fantastic encouragement shown to us by UCOL and our previous Faculty Dean Clive Jones,” says Sarah.

UCOL’s Acting Executive Dean of Humanities and Business Steve Sorsby says, “This very relevant area of research further extends our understanding of the use of technology in learning within the Faculty as well as elsewhere within UCOL and the wider community of tertiary educators.”

Although the demanding roles of the daily management of the School of Business and Computing, curriculum input and the Faculty Management Team takes up most of their time, the pair is keenly involved in continuing to develop and enhance the teaching and learning experience for tertiary students, drawing on their research in learning environments and different delivery methods. “With so many areas of learning that interest us, we are keen to continue researching to contribute to this exciting and ever changing environment,” says Sarah.

Catherine (left) and Sarah – mutually inspiring sisters.


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