The director of a groundbreaking new graduate programme in sustainable practice is celebrating the success of the future focused qualifications as the inaugural group of students complete their first year’s work on a wide range of projects.
The programme is offered by Otago Polytechnic’s Centre for Sustainable Practice with most projects developed in conjunction with the partners of the Queenstown Lakes Sustainable Business Programme.
Director Steve Henry says the project based model for the programmes have provided a win/win loop for students and the community with most projects centred on community development.
“We are incredibly pleased with the success of the programme. It’s hands on, applied learning for people who want to focus on a new future – one that has fewer available resources and more demand for them. It is designed to be a positive, uplifting qualification that balances practical projects with academic rigour.”
Students joined the programme with their own projects or worked with the Centre to find suitable, forward looking projects with wider community benefits. Students then worked on an individual project and also contributed to a group project as part of their course.
“We have several business people studying part time and looking for ways to innovate in their businesses and fulltime students developing projects or conducting research. Much of the study is about applying decision making frameworks to solve issues presented by the global realities of the 21st century. Our first students have completely embraced this and have produced some amazing, inspiring work.”
The group project this year was to design and plan a biodiesel development for Wanaka – a project chosen because of high vulnerability of the town to fuel price fluctuations and also a project the community wanted. The 2011 students have completed required planning and have secured a site for biodiesel tanks. The 2012 students will continue to implement the project as part of their course.”
The Graduate Programmes are offered through blended delivery – block courses, online work and webinars. Block courses are offered in Wanaka, and for 2012 in response to demand, will also be available in Raglan through a partnership with Solscape.
“Our students this year came from all over the country – Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, Wanaka and Dunedin. Indications are there will be more from the North this year so we’ve agreed to run the block courses in Raglan as well as Wanaka.”
Mr Henry says the course was designed to prepare people to work towards a sustainable future - learning to find ways of living with the issues presented by a global decline in available resources and increase in demand for resources.
He says the inaugural students loved the programme and have worked on some fascinating and highly beneficial projects.
Amelia Smith of Queenstown researched the barriers to participation in community and political projects for 18 – 34 year olds living in the resort.
Tim Ryan of Wanaka developed a local food accreditation system that is now ready for business ‘incubation’ to get it to market.
Auckland’s Isabel Hunt studied full time with a project that reviewed ‘Success Indicators’ for the Queenstown Lakes District.
Part time student Dawn Devin from the Department of Conservation’s Wellington head office, said the more she looked into the programme, the more she realized it was exactly what she wanted to do.
“This is always going to be a learning experience, it’s not going to stop at the end of the course.”
Mr Henry was particularly excited about the future of tertiary education for Wanaka, made increasingly possible with web based delivery.
“There is no longer any real need to go and study in a city. Offering this course in Wanaka has been quite amazing. There are many inspirational people here and students have fully enjoyed the lifestyle of studying block courses for a couple of weeks in Wanaka then carrying on from wherever they live. We have had no shortage of applied research projects available in the town, from commerce to design to community development, although of course students can choose suitable projects from anywhere.”
Enrolments for the 2012 course is now open with space for 18 full time and 12 part time students. Prospective students are advised to enroll as soon as possible.