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SIT Research Retreat Expands

Organisers of the annual Southern Institute of Technology | Te Pūkenga research retreat have expanded the event this year to include staff from Otago Polytechnic (OP).

SIT Research Manager, Dr Sally Bodkin-Allen and SIT Research Coordinator, Dr James Savage have been running Whiria te Tangata, SIT’s annual research retreat, since 2019. Previously held at the Colac Bay Marae, the three-day event was moved to Telford in 2022. It provides staff with the opportunity to kick-start the year with designated time to work on their own research projects before teaching begins.

This is the first year the retreat has been open to staff outside SIT. In recent years the SIT Research Office has worked closely with Otago Polytechnic in the research area, including running a joint symposium since 2018. Dr Bodkin-Allen said with Dunedin’s proximity to the Telford Campus, it made sense to extend an invitation to OP and further develop opportunities for research collaboration.

Held at Telford Campus Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th January, the retreat was attended by 11 SIT staff and 4 staff from Otago Polytechnic. Dr Bodkin-Allen noted the benefits of the campus facilities: “Telford is the perfect location as staff can use the student accommodation. There are beautiful grounds to walk around, individual rooms with ensuites, lounges for social events in the evenings, and amazing food provided in the dining room.”

“It is a lovely time to work on self-determined research projects – staff are able to focus on their research away from the distractions of everyday working life, and make new connections,” said Dr Bodkin-Allen.

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Staff attending the retreat represented a variety of fields including nursing, engineering, film, animation and game design, business, environmental management, and veterinary nursing. One retreat attendee commented that the timing was especially useful as the reading and reframing done at the retreat would feed directly into better delivery of teaching in the upcoming year.

Dr Bodkin-Allen said that during the retreat both she and Dr Savage were available for one-on-one mentoring for staff as well. “We do meetings and catch-ups with people on an individual basis to answer questions and provide support. We also ran a session that was an introduction to getting research published,” she added.

One participant summed up the retreat in the final round-up session on the last day, saying “it provided a rare focus on who we really are as educators and researchers.”

The SIT Research Office hopes to grow the number of attendees in the future, and next year plans to invite researchers from Ara (Canterbury) in addition to Otago Polytechnic.

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