May 27, 2013


Volume 7, Issue 33 – May 27, 2013


New Zealand Travelogue

Raj Sashti and I went to New Zealand last week to establish relationships with five different polytechnics there.  Here’s the blow-by-blow of the trip.

In case you don’t know it, New Zealand is some 8,000 miles from Atlanta and you can’t get there with just one flight.  We left Atlanta on Friday afternoon at 3:46 PM, first flying to Denver and changing there for Los Angeles on United.  The long flight was on Air New Zealand from Los Angeles to Auckland, leaving at 10:30 PM.  Unfortunately, I had an interior seat.  Fortunately, the couple that were scheduled to sit across the aisle from Raj didn’t show up, so I snagged the aisle seat, and the interior one next to me was empty and I had some space to spread out.  The plane seemed to be brand new, with each seat having its own TV screen that you could select a wide range of TV shows, movies, and games on.  The flight was uneventful, and I got a fair bit of sleep on it, intermittently watching episodes from the current season of The Big Bang Theory that I had missed.  We landed in Auckland on Sunday morning at 6:30 AM (losing a day to the international date line), got our suitcases, and I was able to Skype Jill and Mark from my iPhone and tell them that all was well.


Sunrise at Auckland, NZ airport

New Zealand consists of two main islands, cleverly called the North Island (where most of the people live—some 3.5 million) and the South Island (only about 1 million people, but a lot of sheep).  Auckland is on the North Island, and we needed to transfer to an internal Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch, our first meeting place, which is on the South Island.  Here’s an interesting fact:  flying in New Zealand is like flying in the US in the pre-9/11 days—there are no security checks, and we just showed our ticket and got on the plane.  It was about a 90-minute flight and we were greeted at Christchurch airport by a driver arranged for by Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT).  He quickly whisked us to our first hotel—the very pleasant Chateau on the Park, reasonably named because it looks like a chateau and is across the street from the main park in the city.


Chateau on the Park, Christchurch


Loyal readers of the BLAB will recall that last October, I wrote about Christchurch having been hit with several earthquakes (click here for details), and that I have a good friend (who I had taught with on my first Sabbatical in England), Paul Millican, who now lives there.  After settling in at the hotel, we ate lunch, and I then called Paul, who had been tied up coaching a rugby match that morning.  Rugby is the favorite sport in New Zealand, with cricket second and soccer third.  Paul came by shortly thereafter, and despite the rainy fall day (the seasons are reversed in New Zealand, since it’s south of the equator), we were off for a tour of the city.

Christchurch is the most “English” city in New Zealand—its architecture, trees, and flowers resemble a mid-sized English city.  It is very much in earthquake recovery mode, with the most damaged buildings having been torn down, other buildings awaiting demolition, and many buildings being repaired.  There’s even an earthquake museum.  A local controversy centers on the Anglican Cathedral, a landmark, which was badly damaged, losing its iconic clock tower entirely.  There is a hot debate about whether the Anglican Church should repair rebuild the cathedral as it was, or demolish it and replace it with a new one.

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Christchurch Cathedral before (left) and now (right)

For now, a temporary structure (affectionately called the Paper Cathedral) is now under construction.


Paper Cathedral, Christchurch

After walking around for a while, we stopped into the Twisted Hop pub for a local brew, and then drove over to see Paul’s lovely wife Carol and their home, and for an afternoon tea.  After visiting and reminiscing for a while, we then went back to the hotel for dinner, and zonked out soon after.

An odd thing about New Zealand is the price for various things.  Since the NZ dollar has been strong relative to the US dollar, prices are very high, especially in restaurants.  When I was in Australia several years ago, the $A was worth about $0.50 US, and the $NZ was worth about $0.45 US.  At that point, prices in Australia and NZ were normal.  Today, the $A is worth about $0.95, and the $NZ about $0.85, so prices have effectively doubled in US dollars.  A typical restaurant lunch will run you $25 for the main course, with a soft drink adding $4 and a dessert an additional $6.  A beer is $10.  Dinner is more like $35 for the main course.   Most other things are similarly expensive, but strangely, the hotels are “normally priced”, costing from $NZ 79 to 150, and they all include a full breakfast.  New Zealand salaries are similarly high, with a starting tenure-track faculty salary of $NZ 90,000 for a faculty member not being unusual, so their prices don’t seem all that high to them.


Meeting with the Polytechnics

Higher education is done differently in NZ than in the US, and everything has an NZ qualification level number.  Here’s a comparison table

Level                           NZ                                                      US

3                      H.S. Grade 12                                     H.S. Grade 12 (HS Diploma)

4                      H.S. Grade 13 (HS Diploma)               1st year college

5, 6                  National Diploma (2 years)                  Associates Degree

7                      Bachelors Degree (3 years)                 Between 4th year college and B.S.

8                      Bachelors with Honors (4 years)        Between B.S. and 1st year M.S.

8                      Postgraduate Diploma (1 year)           1st year M.S.

9                      Masters Degree (1-2 years)                Masters Degree

10                    Doctorate                                            Doctorate

Polytechnics in NZ typically offer degrees from level 4-9, thereby comprising everything that a technical college or a non-doctoral university would offer.  There are several possible interactions that we discussed with each of the polytechnics: faculty exchange (teaching and research), student 1:1 exchange (i.e., our student goes there, their student comes here), and articulated degree completion programs (their students with a national diploma, bachelors degree, or postgraduate diploma comes to us to get an SPSU bachelors degree or masters degree).

Polytechnics generally have an ethnic mix of “European” (30-85%), Maori and Polynesian (10-50%, the number rising as one goes north), and international (5-20%) students.  Most campuses have nice classrooms and labs, common areas (a student union or hub, library, offices), extensive industrial trades facilities (i.e., facilities to learn carpentry, plumbing, machining, etc.), and a beautiful marae—a meeting house where the Maori language and culture are celebrated and important ceremonies are held.

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT)

On Monday, we met with the Chief Executive Kay Giles, Mark Hamilton (International Marketing), and other representatives from Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT).  CPIT has a very nice campus and some 28,000 students.  They offer programs (degree level noted in parentheses) in Architectural Studies (7), Construction Management (6), Surveying (6), Design (7), Information Design (8), Fashion Technology (6), Broadcast Communications (7), Sustainability and Outdoor Education (7), Laboratory Technology (7), Engineering Technology (Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, all at 7), Applied Management (7), and Information and Communication Technology (7), so there are a lot of potential articulations.  There was strong interest in articulating programs and exchanging students with SPSU.  We also talked about research collaboration and exchange possibilities with their Manager of Research, Margaret Leonard.

The campus at CPIT had some interesting features.  There were several Maori totem poles, which were highly reminiscent of ones I had seen in Vancouver, British Columbia at Stanley Park.  Chief Executive Giles had seen them too, which led to a discussion of Emily Carr’s artwork (a Canadian artist who did impressionistic paintings of Pacific Indian culture).  They also had a number of structures with design features consisting of stones in mesh containers, reminiscent of the rubble house structure on our campus two years ago.


With Mark Hamilton at CPIT

Universal College of Learning Polytechnic (UCOL)

That evening, we flew to Palmerston North, on the North Island.  The Travelodge Hotel where we stayed had old-fashioned metal elevators where you had to open the outer and inner metal doors by hand—I hadn’t seen anything like this since staying in a tiny hotel in Paris 22 years ago.

On Tuesday, we met with the Universal College of Learning Polytechnic (UCOL) Chief Executive Paul McElroy, Director of International Business Bruce Osborne, and Julia Pedley.  CE McElroy explained that the “universal” in UCOL’s unusual name referred to their mission to grant universal access to higher education.  Programs of interest at UCOL included Fashion Design (6), Interior Design (6), Business (6), Computer Graphic Design (7, 8, and 9), Applied Visual Imaging (7), Electrical Engineering Technology (6), Construction (6), and Information and Communications Technology (7).  UCOL was interested in student exchange, and also in having SPSU refer American students to them in program areas that we don’t offer.

After lunch, we made a quick dash to UCOL’s branch campus in Whanganui (the “wh” combination is pronounced “f”) which hosts most of their design and graphics programs.  The trip was quite beautiful, with lots of cows and sheep grazing contentedly in the hilly countryside.

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Left: On the way to Whanganui.  Right: Graphics lab at UCOL.

We then zipped back to the airport to fly down to Wellington.  The plane was a little 10-seater, with barely any room to stand up.  The views from the plane were spectacular.


View of the mountains north of Wellington

Waiariki Institute of Technology (WIT)

We changed planes in Wellington, and took a somewhat larger plane up to Rotarua, a popular tourist destination in NZ and home to Waiariki Institute of Technology.  There is a mild smell of sulfide all around the city from the geysers that Rotarua is known for.  We stayed at the Distinction Hotel, which has a swimming pool filled with geyser water.

On Wednesday, we met with Prabha Ravi, the Director of the International Center, as well the Director of the Forestry Program Jeremy Christmas and the Director of Computing, Technology, and Communications, David Scadden.  WIT offers programs in Applied Management (7, 8), Computing and Communications Technology (7), Forestry Management and Operations (6), and Tourism Management (7).  They were interested in faculty and student exchange, and in articulation.  They have extensive sawmill and botanical sustainability facilities, which were quite fascinating.

The campus has a substantial Maori student population, and the marae there was quite beautiful.  Image

The Marai at WIT

In the late afternoon, just before leaving, we had a little time to go see two of the lakes in Rotarua–the Green Lake (sacred to the Maori people and hence closed to tourists), and the Blue Lake.  Both are stunningly beautiful.


Blue Lake in Rotarua

Waikato Institute of Technology (WINTEC)

We took the bus that evening from Rotarua to Hamilton, home of Waikato Institute of Technology.  The bus company was called Naked Bus (“We strip away high travel prices”).  We had to take a taxi from the bus station to the Ibis Hotel, and when we got out, the driver didn’t take credit cards and we didn’t have any NZ currency.  Raj told the driver to wait and we’d get some money from the hotel front desk, but when he went down to pay him five minutes later, the driver had taken off.  The hotel was fine, but had the worst wi-fi policy I’ve ever seen–the system would bounce you off after 10 Meg of downloads, which is essentially nothing.

The next day we were picked up by International Partnerships Coordinator Emma Valdes, who likes international programs so much that when she was studying abroad in Chile, she married a fellow student from there.  Wintec has a sustainability village consisting of several houses that people live in, but that have meters and monitors on everything to measure power consumption.  Gert Hattingh is the Research Team Manager, and doing research on ways to reduce energy consumption.  We also met with Shirley Huang (International Market Director) and Margi Moore (Head of School of Media Arts).  Wintec offers programs in Engineering Technology (7), Business Studies (7), Sport Management (7), Landscape Design (6), Information Technology (7), and Media Arts (7).  They were interested in faculty exchange (research and teaching), student exchange, and articulation.  That evening, we had a nice dinner with Wintec’s Chief Executive, Mark Flowers.

Northland Polytechnic (NorthTec)

We spent the night in Hamilton, but had to get up at 4:00 AM to take a bus to the airport to catch a 6:00 AM flight to Auckland.  A bus from the airport took us to the Ferry Terminal, and we caught another Naked Bus to our last stop, Whangarei, home of Northland Polytechnic, about two hours north.

At NorthTec, we met with George Norris (Head of International Programs), and several faculty including Lindsay Marks (Graphic Design) and Olivier Ball (Ecology/Conservation).  NorthTec has very nice facilities for art, design, and media arts, including multiple studios and their own art gallery, all for about 150 arts students.  Our ETCMA folks would be very jealous.  The environmental area also has its own building, with some nice research going on in sustainability.  Olivier Ball is a NZ beetle specialist, and has published a number of good papers with his students on the subject.

NorthTec offers programs in Applied Science–Biodiversity (7), Architectural Technology (6), Applied Arts (7), and Applied Management (7).  They also have a huge career trades building, in which they teach carpentry, MET (5), and automotive.  They are interested in student exchange and in articulation.

We had a chance to look over the city of Whangarei in the afternoon, and had a beautiful day in which to do it.  It gets warmer as you go north in NZ, and Whangarei is pretty far north, so it never gets very cold there.  One of the faculty (sorry–I forgot his name) let me drive one of their cars to Parihaka Scenic Preserve, a small mountain that overlooks the whole area.  Driving in NZ is on the left, with cars having their steering wheels on the right, so it was a bit of a challenge navigating through town and to the preserve.  The view was spectacular.


View of Whangarei from Parihaka Scenic Preserve

We spent the night in Whangarei, and took the Naked Bus back to Auckland on Saturday morning.  We had a few hours for shopping and looking around, and then it was back to the airport and to the US.  We left NZ at 7:40 PM on Saturday, and arrived in LA at 12:55 PM Saturday, having gotten back the day we lost on the international date line.  We were able to switch onto an earlier flight to Atlanta, which got us in at 10 PM–not bad at all.

Amazingly, I never got jet lagged at all either way–I got enough sleep on the planes to adjust to the new time zone pretty easily.  Watch–I’ll probably fall asleep at the Senior Staff Meeting Tuesday morning.

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last issue’s trivia challenge focused on “Lilies”.  The winner was Jennie Rogers, with a perfect five correct.  Here are the answers:

  1. Holiday that the lily is the traditional flower for.  Easter.
  2. Married to Herman, mother to Eddie, Yvonne De Carlo played her in the TV show.  Lily Munster.
  3. Stylized lily that is the royal symbol of France, it also appears on the flags of Quebec, Detroit, Louisville, and New Orleans.  Fleur de Lis.
  4. They toil not, neither do they spin.  The lilies of the field.
  5. First woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering and first honorary member of the Society of Women Engineers.  Two books and a movie are based on her life (“Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Belles on Their Toes”).  Lillian Gilbreth.

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s contest will focus on the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”.   No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. He went into outer space.
  2. How Sheldon knows he isn’t crazy.
  3. Penny’s home state.
  4. What happened to Leonard’s first (and only) girlfriend before he met Penny.
  5. Why the elevator doesn’t work in their apartment building.
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2 Responses to May 27, 2013

  1. rcoleacm says:

    Naked Bus sounded a lot more interesting until I looked it up.

  2. zobecarol says:

    Loved the trip details. A NZ visit or temporary relocation is on my bucket list.

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