Vice-Chancellor's Column | Issue 15
I have a confession to make – I love the TV programme The Middle. It accurately captures the heart of Midwestern America, the place where I spent my childhood and attended university. In a recent episode, the Heck family was searching for an inspirational alternative to their traditional Sunday church service. At the invitation of a friend, they attended an African American Baptist church where the minister described his bedside vigil with a parishioner. As the man lay dying, the minister asked him, “Did you get your business done?”
This episode made me think about the students at Otago. Unfortunately, you’re only here for a short period of time. Whether you are an undergraduate or a PhD student, at some point you will get your degree, move on, and take on all of the responsibilities of adult life. For a few magical years, however, you have the opportunity to bask in the glory of a world class education while at the same time living in a city that is dominated by like-minded young people. Before this Camelot period of your life comes to an end, I encourage you to “get your business done”.
So what does this mean? Obviously, your primary “business” at Otago is to be a student. As you embark on this new semester, ask yourself if you are making the most of your learning opportunities. If you could redo Semester One, what would you do differently? Attend class more regularly? Study harder? Get your research organised? I encourage you to use the wisdom of hindsight to make your “student business” the best that it can be.
Your other important “business” at Otago involves all the other things that are shaping the person you will become. You should ask yourself if you are the best friend, flat mate, or team mate that you can be. Have you taken the opportunity to get fit, learn to cook, or volunteer your time? Have you discovered a new passion or found a cause worth fighting for? If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then it is well and truly time for you to “get your business done”.
One of the best parts of my job is that I have the opportunity to host alumni functions all over the world. At each one, I meet hundreds and hundreds of people who, like you, relished their time at Otago. They all have remarkable stories to tell me about what they learned, who they met, and what they accomplished here. But many of them also tell me that if they had to do it all over again, they would make better use of the wide range of opportunities that Otago has to offer. I am extremely empathetic with this point of view. It is exactly how I feel about my own university experience.
For each of you, the clock is ticking. When I meet you at an alumni function in years to come, what will you say when I ask “Did you get your business done?”
by Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne