Media Advisory March 4

A joint research programme between Waikato University’s National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA) and Massey University recently received a Gold Award from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The Integration of Immigrants Programme (IIP), a five-year research project that was funded by the MBIE, received the gold standard from the ministry under its new rating system devised to recognise projects that have met and exceeded contract requirements. Director of NIDEA Professor Natalie Jackson is delighted that NIDEA received this award. The IIP project had two linked objectives; objective 1, led by NIDEA’s Professor Jacques Poot, was concerned with the development of econometric models of the integration of immigrant cohorts into the New Zealand labour market and the economy generally; objective 2, led by Massey’s Professor Paul Spoonley, was concerned with policy-relevant successful pathways of economic incorporation of immigrant families and communities in a variety of formal and non-formal ethnic-related settings, including family businesses and unpaid work. Other Waikato-affiliated researchers included Professor Richard Bedford, Dr Elsie Ho, Dr David Mare, Dr Steven Stillman, Jenine Cooper, Joanna Lewin, and PhD students Matt Roskruge and Rob Hodgson.

New Waikato Fulbright Fellow Jennifer Whisler has come to the University of Waikato to study Greenstone – the open-source digital library software produced at the University of Waikato, developed and distributed by UNESCO and Human Info NGO. Whisler, originally from Nebraska in the United States, was in Europe completing her masters degree in digital library learning when she heard about Greenstone - which provides a way of organising information and publishing it on the internet or on CD. It’s being used by organisations all over the world. Whisler is a librarian, keen to ensure she and others like her become familiar with the Greenstone software – so librarians can build their own digital, customised online libraries. She says it’s relatively easy to make a collection. “The difficult part is making it look like your own – it’s certainly manageable, but when you first encounter [the software], it can be overwhelming, so my main goal is to empower users, by building a collection of resources that will make creating and especially customising digital libraries in Greenstone easier”.

This week five University of Waikato students will share their experiences after travelling to Japan in December to see the results of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Japanese language students Murray Bowden, Tracy Lee, Haley de Rijk, Andrew Greed and Christa Row were selected to take part in the Kizuna Project, funded by the Japanese government and designed to promote understanding about the situation and recovery efforts after the earthquake and tsunami. Haley de Rijk remembers only too well the day the tsunami hit. “My aunty and uncle and their two kids live in Ibaraki which is one of the affected areas, and I was in absolute shock watching the images on television.” Thankfully they were fine. Others weren’t so lucky. The Great East Japan earthquake, as it is called, claimed the lives of 15,873 people and 2,768 are still missing today. The students visited Japan for nine days, staying with host families during their visit. They travelled some of the worst affected areas, seeing regional development, visiting schools, talking with disaster sufferers and participating in community activities. They will share their stories during a free and open presentation this Wednesday 6 March, 1-2pm at the University of Waikato in room S.1.01.

A University of Waikato student has spent her summer trying to determine exactly what steampunk is. Steampunk is loosely a sub-genre of science fiction that celebrates 19th Century technology and is set in an alternative history. Fans create their own characters, dress and contraptions to fit their interpretation of steampunk. Larissa Schumacher received a Summer Research Scholarship to consume as much steampunk media as possible, to try and find common traits that could help define the genre. “Primarily it’s a Victorian view of what the future would look like if the industrial revolution never happened. The idea behind steampunk isn’t so much about looking at the past, it’s about looking at the present through a Victorian lens,” says Larissa. Her supervisors Dr Mark Houlahan and Dr Kirstine Moffat are co-authoring an edited collection on the phenomenon and needed help collating material that would help define the growing craze.

The number of unsafe abortions being carried out in Kenya and the Kenyan government’s slack response to the issue prompted Waikato University PhD student Wambui Njagi to study the politics behind abortions in Kenya. She says from the 21,000 abortions carried out each year, more than 2000 women suffer health complications or die after terminations; mostly poor women and those in rural areas. Njagi’s study included interviews with major policy makers, including state and NGO representatives and church leaders. “These are all people who influence policy and I found that politicians do not want to be seen as either pro- or anti-abortion. The Kenyan political elite deploys ‘strategic ambivalence’ to the issue of abortion as politicians try to consolidate political power and popularity. It’s this neo-patrimonial politics – where state resources are used to secure the loyalty of clients in the general population – that is the key impediment to creating policies and institutions that will ensure Kenyan women’s access to safe abortions”.

Seahorses, microscopic sea life, invasive marine species – it will all be on display at the University of Waikato’s Coastal Marine Field Station on Saturday 9 March. As part of Sea Week the Marine Station will hold an open day from 1-4pm. Families are invited to visit and learn more about our thriving marine environment. Activities include a harbour family bike ride, with commentary about the biodiversity and ecology within Tauranga Harbour and historical points of interest. Student researchers will also give five-minute presentations about their projects in Tauranga Harbour and around the Bay of Plenty. The one-hour bike ride leaves the Coastal Marine Field Station, Cross Road, Sulphur Point, at 2pm. To register email Nyree Sherlock,, or phone 07 577 5376. For more information visit the events page.

Mark Pagel, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Reading University in the UK, is touring New Zealand lecturing about the origins of our unique language capability. He’s a guest of the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, with support from the Royal Society of New Zealand, and will be lecturing at the University of Waikato Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts on 6.30pm, Wednesday 13 March. Human beings speak approximately 7,000 mutually unintelligible languages around the world, giving our species the curious distinction that most of us cannot understand what most other people are saying. In these free public lectures, Professor Pagel will explore the origins of our language capability and highlight the features that allow languages to evolve and adapt. Tickets are available online.

A team of University of Waikato Sir Edmund Hillary Scholars and supporters are back from Khumbu Valley in Nepal, after follow in the footsteps of Sir Ed. The team of Inaugural Step Higher Award recipients Caitlin Easter, Alex Hitchmough, Josh Blue, and fellow Hillary Scholars Shannon O’Donnell and Sami Flay, spend 17 days trekking through Khumbu Valley, stopping at Lukla-Phakding, Monjo, Namche Bazaar, Khumjung, Pangboche, and Thyangboche before returning to Kathmand. The Step Higher Award is sponsored by the Compass Group, a supplier on campus for a range of hospitality services. Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarships are the University of Waikato’s most prestigious scholarships and are awarded to students who are high academic achievers, who are also achieving in the arts or sport and have leadership qualities. They blogged about their experience at

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