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Victoria: Celebrating our Graduands

9 December 2005

Celebrating our Graduands

Distinguished New Zealanders Frank Corner and Geoff Robinson will be honoured at Victoria University’s December graduation ceremonies next week (13, 14, 16 December).

Mr Corner, a retired diplomat, and Mr Robinson, the co-host of Morning Report, will have their honorary degrees conferred along with more than 1000 graduands at ceremonies on 13 and 14 December.

Te Hui Whakapûmau, the marae graduation ceremony, will be held at midday on 16 December at Te Herenga Waka Marae.

During the ceremonies, 28 graduates will have their PhDs conferred. The topics include women’s prison systems, reading recovery for people with dyslexia, and building peace in East Timor. A marine biologist, who is now researching the invasive Didymo algae, will receive his PhD for research into
Wellington’s mussels and the Victoria’s first two PhDs for midwifery will be awarded University (see below for further information).

The traditional street parade of staff and graduands will depart from the Old Government Buildings at the Pipitea Campus at midday on Tuesday, and head along Lambton Quay to end up at Civic Square, where Mayor Kerry Prendergast will welcome the graduating students.

If the parade is cancelled, notification will be given on 91ZM, Channel Z, and the Breeze from 10am on the morning of the parade.

Ceremony Details:

Tuesday 13 December: Michael Fowler Centre
Noon Graduation parade for all ceremonies
Ceremony 1: 1.30pm Faculty of Commerce & Administration
Ceremony 2: 6.30pm Faculties of Architecture & Design, Education, Law, Science
Frank Corner, Honorary Doctor of Laws

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Wednesday 14 December: Michael Fowler Centre
Ceremony 3: 1.30pm Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences
Geoff Robinson, Honorary Doctor of Literature

Friday 16 December: Te Herenga Waka Marae, Kelburn Parade
Ceremony 4: Noon Hui Whakapûmau, All faculties

PhD Details (a selection from the 28 graduands)

Mussels show their muscle

Lukasz Lachowicz, who is now investigating the invasive algae Didymo, researched the ecology of three species of mussels in Wellington Harbour for his PhD research. He found the species either co-exist or compete strongly for survival, depending on environmental factors, such as their location in the harbour. Lukasz, who is an OSH-certified Scientific Diver, was born in Poland and has lived in New Zealand for five years (he received his citizenship last year).

He is now working as a Marine Biologist at New Zealand Diving and Salvage Ltd in Wellington. Lukasz is involved with a number of marine and freshwater biosecurity projects, such as a major study investigating biofouling organisms arriving in New Zealand on hulls of foreign commercial vessels; as well as testing potential solutions to control the infamous freshwater invasive diatom Didymo. Lukasz is a keen swimmer, runner, kayaker and a passionate mountain climber (a hobby his mother introduced him to). He has climbed many mountains in Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and more recently the Southern Alps and the Tararua Mountains.

Second time scientist

Kate McAlpine’s PhD in Ecology marks the start of an second career as a weed ecologist.

After many years working in business administration and human resources, Kate’s lack of job satisfaction spurred her to rethink her career. She decided that she wanted to do “something outdoors involving birds and plants” and decided to undertake a Bachelor of Science at Victoria. Now she has completed her PhD, which focused on Darwin’s barberry, a serious environmental weed in New Zealand.

Kate’s research suggests that to control this weed, adult fruiting plants should be removed wherever possible and seedling control should be focused on sunny sites. Kate now works for the Department of Conservation as a weed ecologist, her ‘dream job’, and is about to start several new research projects, one of which looks at the effect of fire on the seed viability of wilding pines.

First two midwifery PhDs awarded

Victoria’s first ever midwifery PhDs will be awarded to Deborah Harding and Joan Skinner. Deborah’s thesis investigated midwives’ use of complementary and alternative medicine as part of midwifery practice. The study gathered data from midwives acting as lead maternity carers in New Zealand and Canada. The research described the complexities of using traditional therapies, which are often viewed as unproven folkloric medicine, in a health care culture that places value on scientific evidence for credibility.

Joan Skinner’s research examined how midwives make sense of the complex process of managing risk and focused on why midwives consult with obstetricians. Her research reveals that 35 percent of pregnant women will see an obstetrician, but that midwives still continue to be involved in the pregnancy.

Combating Dyslexia

Helen Rowse is a clinical psychologist who compared the effectiveness of two reading training programmes designed to address the key difficulties of two types of dyslexia. Helen completed a BA and a BSc (Honours) at Victoria in 2001 and then completed a diploma in clinical psychology before starting her PhD.

She wanted to focus her PhD on something practical and decided to look at reading difficulties, a common problem for children, and relevant to clinical psychology practice. Previous research has commonly administered a single tailored training programme to an individual case study, but Helen administered both training programmes to a group of individuals from each subtype to compare their effectiveness.

Jail Birds

Anna McKenzie has explored the social, economic and cultural factors involved in women’s prison systems from 1840 to 1974. The development of penal policy was largely based on international trends for men, but for women the situation was markedly different.

Changes in penal policy were based on financial concerns, perceptions about femininity and societal attitudes towards women and these policy differences resulted in significant gender discrepancies in imprisonment and penal governance which have continued to the present day.

Hellenic Explorations

Athena Gavriel, a mental health nurse, has completed an in-depth exploration into the experiences of people of Hellenic (Greek and Cypriot) ethnicity with the health system. Athena has spent 30 years working in mental health nursing and decided to embark on her PhD after noticing that there was a lack of information for clinicians and health care professionals to refer to when dealing with minority groups.

Athena is a senior staff nurse at Wellington Hospital and has been involved in a number of initiatives to better prepare health care workers for interactions with people from different cultures than their own.

Building peace in East Timor
Sukanya Mohan Das investigated peace-building in Timor-Leste (East Timor) for her PhD research. Sukayna, who now works as General Manager, Community Services, for Gore District Council, focused primarily on the external assistance provided to Timor-Leste during its transition to independence, specifically the under-researched social dimensions of peace building. Sukanya’s research highlighted the differences between the rhetoric and practice of peace building, and considered possible ways for improving the practice of, and outcomes from, international peace building efforts.

Sukanya is a lawyer by training, and has an MA in Development Studies. Her work experience has encompassed voluntary work in places as diverse as Croatia and Viet Nam, advocacy work with non-governmental organisations and as a staff member of the United Nations. She lived in East Timor from November 1999 to November 2001.


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