Postgraduate Meeting Minutes

Agenda for upcoming meeting:

2020 Minutes:

March (4/3 in CO431 1pm-2:30pm)

Caitlin did a quick introduction of herself for those who are new to postgraduate studies in SMS. She is your postgraduate administrator and your main contact in the office if you have any issues. Feel free to email her at if you have any questions. She can also be found in the main SMS reception office.

We had a last minute addition to the meeting as Elizabeth Olsen (PGSA president) to our meeting so Caitlin ran through some agenda items very briefly. Any items that were not covered in this meeting will be covered in the next meeting. If you have comment on any issues in the meeting or agenda times to raise, please get in touch with Caitlin.
CO437 Temperature

Caitlin booked a job with Facilities Management regarding the temperature in CO437. The job was marked as completed on the 25th Feb. If you are still experiencing issues, let Caitlin know.

5th Floor Seminar Room

The 5th floor seminar room CO531 has been taken over by SGEES for the Antarctic Research Post Docs. SMS was given the right of refusal in August and a few options regarding CO431 & CO531 were discussed. In order to keep hold of CO431, the School voted to let CO531 go to SGEES.

Most Hons classes are now booked in Von Zedlitz. We did negotiate better whiteboards to be installed in these rooms for us to use as a condition of that move.

CO540 renovation

CO540 is nearly done and we expect students to start moving in from Friday 6th March. If you are a PhD student or MSc by thesis student, you will have a desk assigned to you. For those who are moving from other offices into the room, please get in touch with Caitlin as soon as possible regarding your requirements e.g. computers to be moved with you etc. Those students may also select their workstation from a layout plan Caitlin has in the office. Student ID cards should work already to let you into the room.

If you need help moving, please come to the office - we have trolleys and occasionally a few extra hands to help out.

Due to coronavirus, there have been a few delays with aspects of the renovation. The partitions inbetween desks and a few whiteboards are help up in China. We have also had delays in the manufacturing of the new airconditioning system going into the room. We are hoping to get it installed either in the middle of the year or at the end of the year - depending on when it is ready. If you have any feedback on when installation is preferred, please let Caitlin know.

Noise in CO437

I have had a few students come to me in regards to noise in CO437. I would like to you remind you all that our graduate rooms are a quiet place for study. If you would like to socialise or do groupwork you will need to go to one of our break out spaces, booking a meeting room or pop into one of the spaces in the ider university.

Additional Note: - PhDs and MSc students should have access to CO431 as an afterhours groupwork space. Please respect this space and clean it up afterwards.

There are consequences if you are identified as making noise in the shared labs:

1st Offence: Verbal warning is issued and a note is put on your record

2nd Offence: Verbal warning. written warning, and a note on your record

3rd Offence: Note on your record, meeting with Head of School

4th Offence: Note on your record, access to labs revoked, and formal University Disciplinary Process initiated

General Notes

Cotton Lift: Lift maintenance is out of our control and taken care of by Facilities Management. The lift itself is very expensive to replace so that seems unlikely in the near future. At this stage all we can do is keep raising jobs when it is broken.

Porirua Revision Sessions: Caitlin is still awaiting a response from trish on how the students went with their exams following the sessions.

School Review: The School is now in the planning phase for how some of the outcomes from the review will be implemented. We had our planning day on Wednesday 26th Feb. We shoulf have more updates soon. Some stuff is already happening such as course requirements suggestions etc. through the relevant committees in the School.


Margaret Hyland the Vice-Provost of Research responded to Caitlin regarding the MRA. There have been talks since last year regarding a new MRA and a draft copy is now with FGR for review. There have been negotiations between the University Executive, Facilities Management and the Postgraduate Students Association to formulate a new agreement. It is hoped that there will be a copy of the agreement with Postgraduate Administrators soon. Caitlin will arrange a consultation with you when a copy is received to include in her response.

Elizabeth Olsen (PGSA president) kindly offered to come speak at the meeting. She explained thet PGSA is aimed at fighting Postgraduate isolation as this is a major issue for Postgraduate Students, they aim to form a postgraduate community. Having offices for postgraduate students seems to be counterintuitive to this goal. PGSA are negotiating for effective shared learning learning spaces with good break out spaces for socialising and preparing meals. Effective includes sound deadening being built into the shared space as well as spaces for discussion and group work alongside silent study being considered in the design.

PGSA is also negotiating for all thesis students to get a desk. They also hope to have the authority of desk ownership handed over to the students. That way Schools are unable to take a desk away from a student, the student has to return it to the pool of desks available.

Currently PGSA is still working on negotiations. Once negoatiations conclude, there will be a draft copy of the MRA sent to PGSA members for students to review and agree to sign off. If students do not agree, then negotiations are abck to square one.

Question: Is there anything in place moderating the number of postgraduate students that can be accepted for study?

At this stage, there is no policy. However, there are modifications being made to the Doctoral Regulations. It is proposed that there will be a regulation covering resources availiable for a students and that schools will have to promise resources included in the MRA before the student starts and inform them of any shortfall before they start. Any additional resources beyond the MRA will need to confirmed with your supervisor as part of your provisional registration. The aim is to ensure schools do not enrol students beyond their ability to provide for those students. This is NOT approved yet, it is only proposed.

Question: What power does PGSA have in negotiations?

PGSA has little in the way of policy based or financial power, they do have relationship focused power. PGSA is strategically placed between various institutions and parties within the university and are able to facilitate discussions and feedback. This has become apparent with discussions between Facilities Management and Postgraduate Students during the devlopment of the MRA. The alternative is that PGSA is able to encourage students to get worked up into a frenzy and force a response form the university. However, this is considered more detrimental to the pre-existing relationships that can be used to achieve the same ends.

Greg Williams is one of our students in SMS who is able to gather feedback etc. from SMS for the PGSA to work with. He has taken on the role of representing MATH taught courses.

Question: What else does PGSA do?

PGSA does an assortment of community events that you can read about in their newsletter and on their website. They also offer travel grants that are applicable to the prior three months or upcoming 10 months when the application is submitted. Each grant can be for up to $1000. They also do advocacy work in a variety of situations.

2019 Minutes:

October (25/10 in CO431 1pm-2:30pm)

Meeting started at 1:05pm.

Attendees: Caitlin Warwood, Jessica Santiago, Meenu Jose, Linus Richter, Julius Juodakis, Malcome Jones, Grace Jacobs-Corban, Hoang Nguyen-Vo, Jasmine Hall

Apologies: Erandi Hasanthika, Del Rajan, Eun Bi Kim

1. Postgraduate Policy Changes

Caitlin gave a summary of postgraduate policy changes and invited any questions, requests for more information etc. The changes discussed included:
  • CDP Changes: the questions and structure of CDPs have been updated to make the process more streamlined. Caitlin has not received a hardcopy yet, so make sure you look at them early when they open (1st November).
    • Question: What is a CDP? CDP stands for Canditature Development Plan, it is used to track the progress and wellbeing of PhD students throughout their research project. They are completed every six months in November and May.
  • Provisional and Full Registrations: There needs to be a secondary supervisor and administrative supervisor on your registrations, otherwise Faculty will not accept the form and this may affect your scholarships and enrollments. Caitlin will let you know as each form comes up if there is noone allocated to these roles on her records.
  • Research Proposal Changes: It is now recommended that research proposals are completed by the 10 month mark, rather than the 1 year mar. This gives time for revisions to be made based on the SRC critiques before your registration is due.
  • Hand in changes: For masters only, only one hardbound copy is required. A soft copy will need to be emailed to Caitlin to distribute to your markers. PhDs still require the same hand in as before, FGR makes decisions for how hand in's are managed at the PhD level so we have no control over that one.
  • There are also other policy changes that are awaiting approval. Caitlin recommended you check out the graduate newsletter for a summary of these changes. If any of these proposed changes apply to you and you would like more information, please get in touch with Caitlin as soon as possible.
    • Question: Why do PhDs need to hand in the marked thesis to the library and not the corrected one? Caitlin will enquire with FGR about this.
    • Question: When will this change to library hand in for thesis students apply? Caitlin will enquire with FGR about this.
2. Christmas Decoration Working Bee

Has been booked in for the 15th November in CO350 10:30am-12pm.

3. CO540 Renovation Project

Caitlin met with the architects the day before the graduate meeting. We now have a summary of what the renovations will entail, an estimated timeline and a proposed start for the project. The project is to take place over summer and is estimated to take 8 weeks - we are hoping to start the project some time in December but this has not been confirmed yet). This timeslot has been chosen to line up with other renovation projects happening in Cotton over the summer break. We expect to improve the airconditioning system in the room (stopping the constant hum and improving the temperature), improve the lighting (improving visibility and making it more environmentally friendly), replace furniture.

Once we have a final date for the project start date, we will give students in CO540 2 weeks notice. Computers etc. will be going into storage during the renovation period. Some students have particular programmes etc on their computer that are not availiable on others to do their work - we will ensure your computer is availiable to you over the summer.

4. Self Review Comments

As some of you may be aware, SMS underwent a self review earlier in the year. We are now putting together working groups to discuss and work on some recommendations from the reviw. We would like graduate input on some of these recommendations.

Question: Who was on the review panel? We had four panelists and one secretary: Dr Anita Brady (Humanities & Social Sciences at VUW), Prof. Kate Smith-Miles (Maths & Stat at University of Melbourne), Distinguished Professor Gaven Martin (Natural & Computational Sciences at Massey University), Associate Professor Ilze Ziedins (Stats at University of Auckland).

Question: What is a distinguished Professor? Caitlin has now googled this and as assumed in the meeting, a Distinguished Professor is one that is highly regarded in their University, School or Department and has been given tenure.
  • Workshops: One of the review comments raised workshops to improve other skill of grads in the department. Some of the suggested topics include: Programming (R; Python; Maple; MATLAB), handling messy data, computation skills, group work and communications skills.
    • Following the meeting Caitlin discussed this further with staff and this recommendation is more targetted at the undergraduate level as skills they need to have developed upon graduation, and is not as much of an issue for postgraduates.
    • General feedback on the programming aspect of workshops was not favourable - it was felt this is covered adequately in course material.
    • Suggested workshops included:
      • Basic Logic
      • Math Specific Tutoring skills
      • History of Mathematics (specified as around the world, not just the western history of math)
    • Julius suggested he is availiable to help out with programming for non-grads if needed.
  • Postgraduate Colloquium and Seminar Series: One of the recommendations also focused on Postgraduates presenting more frequently, this is to help develop communication skills and confidence infront of an audience.
    • General feedback from the meeting was positive, everyone present seemed pretty keen to see what each other was working and to try and develop more collaborative links.
    • It was specified that the graduates would like to see presentations from each other and were not really interested in seeing what other staff and postdocs were working on.
    • The type of presentations suggested included:
      • Defense practices
      • Proposal practices
      • Conference practices or repeat presentations from conferences for those who were unable to attend
  • Supervisory Practice feedback: We had some recommendations regarding supervisory practice in the department and we had some ideas around getting feedback from you guys on your experiences with your supervisors.
    • Astrid suggested at the tutor thank you lunch that we have some exit interviews upon finishing theses. Malcolm suggested that something regarding supervisor experience be included in exit interviews. There were some cautions around anonymity - but group consensus was this was not practical due to the limited number of graduates in the department anyway.
    • It was suggested the questions try to be objective where possible, but this had some mixed discussion due to ones experience with their supervisor being subjective. It was concluded that there should be a balance of both subjective and objective questions to get a feel for perceived experience with a supervisor and actual time etc the supervisor spent with their students (as a measure of their effort).
    • It was also mentioned that CDPs do ask for feedback on experience with supervisors, but it was mentioned that this isnt necesarilly a comfortable experience as the second stage of CDPs requires a one on one discussion with the supervisor. It was indicated that it would be more genuine feedback if the student knew their supervisor could not see the comments until a third party such as the Head of School etc had viewed the response or something similar. The main point was that students were not comfortable giving feedback that they knew would be viewed by supervisors before the CDP was submitted.
  • Careers information:
    • Caitlin asked if current careers information displays on noticeboards were useful and how they could be inmproved and what else postgraduates would like to see on there. It was suggested that the jobs lists from the Careers department would be useful.
    • It was also mentioned that the Careers department didnt seem to have much information on what types of maths careers are availiable and there are no resources for data science. Improving these resources is needed.
    • Caitlin also suggested a lunchtime seminar series for both grads and undergrads from various math, stat and data science related employers. There was quite a bit of discussion around this point including how relevant that would be to graduates as most are pursuing an academic career. Why they would want to come and talk to us etc. There were concerns about this coming across as a sales campaign for graduate programmes rather than informative sessions on what the starting point of a maths career looks like and what career progression looks like. There were also some comments on how relevant career planning and progression is given that noone tends to follow a preset path anyway - from Caitlins perspective this is more about ensuring the information is avaiable for those that want it rather than making you all plan your careers in advance.
Question: Can the graduates have a copy of the review document to comment on and refer to before participating in working groups? Caitlin does not see why this would be an issue, but will need to confirm with Ivy if the document can be made publicly availiable first. If the document can be distributed, Caitlin will send it out to you all.

5. Tutor training sessions: Sign ups are now availiable on LibCal for tutor training sessions. There are two being run for Tri 3 tutors:
  • 7th November 9:30am-12:30pm in RH104
  • 12th November 9am-12pm in TTR104
Meeting concluded at 2:30pm.

September (25/9 in CO431 2pm - 3pm)

Meeting started at 2:10pm.

Attendees: Caitlin Warwood, Hoang Nguyen-Vo, Malcolm Jones, Virginia Listanti, Jess Santiago, Julius Juodakis

Apologies: Del Rajan, Meenu Jose, Jasmine Hall, Dongxu Mei

1. Strategic Research Grants
  • This was just a quick reminder message that the Faculty has Strategic Research Grants availiable for postgraduate students. These grants are assessed on a case by case basis. The funding can go towards attending workshops or conferences that will be useful to your thesis or if you are presenting. It is preferred that these grants go towards attending overseas conferences rather that domestic ones, as they usually have more costs associated with them.
  • If you are a PhD student you can receive up to 2 of these grants during the duration of your thesis project.
  • If you are a Masters student you can receive 1 of these grants during the duration of your thesis &/or projects.
  • Caitlin is still learning the Strategic Grant Process so if you have any questions, please feel free to ask (It gives her a chance to investigate & learn the process more in depth.)
2. Thesis Students Page & ECS User Registration
  • Caitlin has started updating information on the thesis students page - this includes adding your current working thesis title and supervisors. Pictures have been added as I was trying to work out how to get them to work.
  • Please feel free to send Caitlin a new photo or ask for your photo to be removed if you do not want it up there. You are not obligated to have a photo if you do not want one.
  • We can also remove profiles if you do not want to have your information displayed. However, this will remove you from the phone list so will not be able to have calls directed to you on university landlines.
  • If you have additional information to add to your page, feel free to edit the page. Once you login with your ECS account, you will be able to access the edit button at the bottom of your profile page.
  • If you do not have an ECS login you will not be able to edit your page, your page will also not be created on the system. You will need to create one using this link. Once you have a login, your page will appear overnight.
3. Noticeboards
  • Caitlin has tidied up the noticeboards outside CO437 & CO540 in order to show more relevant information to you all. This is an ongoing work in progress, so if you have any feedback on the content and what you would like to see up there - please let Caitlin know.
  • Caitlin will update the noticeboards weekly, so make sure you give them a glance when you pass by.
  • Currently, there are slots for Scholarships, Job Opportunities, Upcoming Conferences and General Events.
  • Feel free to send posters to Caitlin or drop them in the office if you would like them put up.
4. Christmas Upcoming - Geometric Origami for a tree
  • Virginia suggested we have a working bee or similar to create some geometric solids as decorations for the department Christmas tree. The office currently has a 120cm Christmas tree that is used over the Christmas period.
  • As the NZMASP conference is on at the end of November, it was suggested that the working bee take place suring the middle of November. This will give us time to repeat a session if we need more decorations. November was preferred as we would like to put the tree up at the start of December.
  • Caitlin will book in some time Mid-November in CO350 for us to work on the decorations.
5. First International Mathematics Day
  • This November UNESCO is voting to make Pi Day (14th March) the official International Day of Mathematics. There was interest in doing something for this day.
  • It was suggested we do a booth in the Hub, some for of outreach or a themed morning tea. However, it turned out that March 14th 2020 falls on a Saturday.
  • A follow up suggestion was to have a movie night on that day instead with some Mathematics related movies e.g. Beautiful Mind.
  • If you have some movie suggestions, feel free to send them through and we can work on fleshing out some form of event for Mathematics Day.
6. PGSA Research Excellence Awards
  • Applications for the PGSA Research Excellence Awards will close at 5pm on Friday 27th September.
  • The awards recognise research by VUW postgraduate students that:

    • Displays academic rigour, excellence, originality, or creativity;

    • Advances knowledge in the field or significantly contributes to knowledge;

    • Is communicated clearly, in a way that an educated but non-expert audience can understand;

    • Has a demonstrated impact within the scholarly, economic, or wider stakeholder communities;

Applicants for the awards must explain, in not more than 1000 words, how their research meets the above criteria.
  • You may also submit supporting documentation. See their page for more details.
Matters Arising

1. Maru & CO540
  • It was raised that Maru is now in use, and questions around how the space has been allocated. At this stage, we have not received any space within Maru - it has gone to ECS PhDs and the Finance team (while Hunter Building is renovated).
  • Question: What would happen with the space in Maru once Finance moves back? Caitlin is not sure who has been allocated the space but can make enquiries.
  • Question: What will happen with the AM rooms that have been vacated by the PhDs? Once again, Caitlin is not sure who has been allocated the space but can make enquiries.
  • Question: Can we be more proactive about acquiring rooms as it is announced they will be vacated? Caitlin is not sure of the process around how rooms are allocated but can make enquiries to find out what this process is.
  • Caitlin let everyone know that while we have not been allocated extra space, we have received some funding to go ahead with renovating some rooms. The priority in CO540, as this is not in an adequate state for statistics and data science students who will be moved in there in the near future. We are currently waiting on a renovation timeline so we can make plans in regards to this renovation. Hopefully next year we can assess some of the other rooms - but this is not garaunteed.
  • Question: How was the new layout & design for CO540 chosen? We had an architect/designer come and look at the office space and take some measurements. She then developed a few options for the layout and sent them through to us. Once we had the designs we consulted with all students on level 5 and all staff in the school meeting to receive feedback. Staff did not have much feedback, but students voted for option B. This layout maximises availiable whiteboard space and ease of access around the rooms. They did request the printer be moved like CO437.
  • Please see the image below for the selected room layout.
  • CO540 reno.png
Meeting closed at 3:00pm.

August (23/8)

Unfortunately, Caitlin was ill and the meeting was cancelled.

July (30/7)

Meeting started at 1:10pm

Attendees: Aleksa Vujicjc, Malcolm Jones, Ranchel Youngson, Sebastian Schuster, Julius Juodakis, Virginia Listanti, Hoang Nguyen, Caitlin Warwood

Apologies: Minah Chau Van Nguyen, Lingyu Li, Jasmine Hall

1. Postgraduate Seminar/Social event
  • A few weeks ago, Linus suggested to Caitlin that a casual event to share each others work would be a good idea. The aim is to build a bit of rapport with each other and learn about each others work. Apparently, a few other universities etc do this within departments. Caitlin is keen to organise this for you all if there is interest.
  • Caitlin proposed adding this to the end of postgrad meetings as a bit of a social mixer.
  • Everyone attending the meeting supported the seminar idea. Caitlin will start making arrangements for the next meeting.
  • Action Point: Caitlin will contact some of our recent hand ins to see if they would like to talk about their research.
2. Open Day Volunteers
  • We need some graduates on open day to help man the Maths, Stat & Data Science booth. This requires being around to answer questions and chat with interested students.
  • Open will be held on the 23rd August.
  • Alec is organising the event although Caitlin will be running it on the day.
  • Virginia, Aeksa, Malcolm and Sebastian all expressed their interest.
  • Action Point: Caitlin will forward on details of interested individuals to Alec
3. Recycling in the shared offices
  • Virginia raised the need to do more with recycling in the office space. She suggested we change the recycled paper bin to a reusable paper bin and put double sided recycle paper in the green bin in the foyer. She has also requested a plastics recycling bin to use.
  • Action Point: Caitlin will update the rubbish signs to reflect the changes to recycling.
  • Action Point: Caitlin will source a plastics recycling bin
4. VicPlus
  • VicPlus is a rewards programme used by the university to recognise your efforts in volunteering, participation in experiential learning and leadership. Participation in VicPlus is recognised on your academic transcript and there are awards for actie community engagement (A few years back, an SMS student won $3000). There are a variety of ways to participate in the programme, including extra curricular participation (including department events which I can sign off for you), personal & professional development workshops and self-reflection & eportfolio building excersises.
  • If you are interested, you can sign up on the VicPlus page here.
5. Porirua Revision Sessions
  • Trish from Porirua College recently got back to Caitlin regarding the dates and time of the revision sessions for this school term. The revision sessions will be starting from the 9th of August, running from 3:35pm -5:00pm. The Secondary School term ends on the 27th September. We will resume the tutorial sessions in term 4, but the times are still to be confirmed. The department will provide food and set up a casual contract for the hours done, food will be provided and any drivers who can take people out to the school (with a full license) will be reimbursed 76c per km.
  • Currently there are 11 NCEA level 2 students and 8 NCEA level 3 students who are registered to attend these revision sessions - (Since this meeting has taken place, Caitlin has been informed that the first session will be on differentiation and that teachers will provide the questions).
  • Currently, Aleksa, Malcolm and Virginia have expressed interest in helping tutor these students - but it would be greatly appreciated if we could get some more volunteers.
6. Tutor Contract Difficulties
  • As most of you are tutoring, the department would like to keep everyone in the loop about what is going on with contracts. We have had a variety of issues that have held up the completion of contacts. The shortened exam period, a change in payroll system and changes to contract requirements have slowed the process this trimester. We are working to get these through as soon as possible and most contracts have been submitted to HR now. It is expected that next pay cycle you will receive payment (14th Aug).
  • If you are facing undue difficulites etc. please get in touch with Caitlin and we will see what we can do to support you.
Matters Arising

7. Students coming in to CO437
  • It was raised that students coming in for help is disruptive to others in the shared office space.
  • Staff have been sending students to see tutors in CO437 or student are arriving unannounced.
  • Action Point: Staff will be reminded that they cannot send students to these rooms, they need to get students to book times to see tutors in a workspace (the office is more than happy to book rooms for you if needed). Staff will also be reminded that your working hours need to adhere to your contract - you are not expected to work hours beyond those stated in your contract.

June (28/06)

Meeting started at 1:10pm.

1. Block bookings for collaborative spaces
  • Starting when Trimester 2 begins, CO431 has been block booked as a collaborative workspace for postgraduate students. There is a range of times booked throughout the week to enable access within office hours and outside of office hours. Both Masters and PhD students have had their card access updated to allow entry into CO431 after hours. If you would like to access the room outside of the allocated hours, please check its availiability in the office.
  • Booking are as follows:
  • Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
    5pm onwards 3pm-5pm 5pm onwards 3pm-5pm 2pm-6pm
  • The times of the bookings will be reviewed at the end of the trimester before we rebook the space for tri 3

2. Whiteboards
  • A bunch of desk sized whiteboards have been purchased for students to use and are availiable to loan from the office.
  • Priority has been given to mathematics students in CO437 at this stage but if there is high demand we may get a few more whiteboards.
  • Caitlin has tried to visit or contact most people in regards to loaning a whiteboard, if you have been missed and would like a whiteboard please contact Caitlin in the office.

3. New Chairs
  • The office has received approval t purchase some more chairs, which we have now ordered - but we are not sure when they will arrive.
  • We have ordered around 20 ergonomic chairs like the ones currently at the reception area. We have gotten a range of chairs with and without arms.
  • At this stage priority is going to those in CO437 as that room is currently being used the most and the chairs arent up to standard in there.
  • The department is working on some submissions to improve CO540 but if we have remaining chairs they will go to CO540 and PhDs who are still in offices.
  • Caitlin will let everyone know when the chairs arrive to arrange their distribution.

4. Porirua Revision Sessions
  • Every year the department runs revision sessions for students at Porirua College to help them prepare for their exams. This has acheived really good results in the past with students acheiving higher grades than they expected.
  • We have not set any dates for the revision sessions yet but they will likely be in the school breaks of term 3 & 4.
  • Currently, we are looking for expressions of interest in tutoring these sessions. If you are interested in tutoring, please contact Caitlin.
  • As more information becomes availiable it will be distributed to those interested in tutoring.

5. Maths & Stats Scholarship Judge Needed
  • The School of Maths and Stats offers a prize every year at the NIWA Science and Technology Fair. The prize goes to the most imaginative and creative use of maths and stats. The fair organisers have asked for a judge for this prize. Judging will take place on Thursday the 29th August.
  • Please let Caitlin know if you are interested in judging

6. Scholarship season has begun
  • A reminder was given that scholarship season is in full swing right now and many scholarship application deadlines are coming up at the end of July.
  • Quite a few scholarships of interest have been added to the PGx newsletter, but there will be more availiable on the scholarships page if you are interested in applying.

7. Workspace evaluations
  • A second round of workspace evaluations are being organised for those who missed out on an evaluation or were recommended to have a follow up.
  • If you are interested in having a workspace evaluation done please let Caitlin know.

8. Research Page Interviews
  • As mentioned in previous meetings when we asked for some student volunteers, the Research page on the SMS website is being revamped. We have decided to split the page into research specific areas, which are:
    • Statistics & Probability
    • Logic & Algebra
    • Geometry & Analysis
    • Applied Mathematics
    • Data Science
  • As part of the content for the page, we would like to interview a range of students doing postgraduate work in each of these categories. An interview will consist of having a chat about your work with me and having your photo taken, so dont get concerned about it being a formal interview. If you are interested please let Caitlin know, otherwise I will ask supervisors for their recommendations and approach you myself.

9. Postgraduate Outting
  • The department as a whole recognises this year has not been great of you guys with the office moves and challenges around getting everything up to standard for you. We have really appreciated being able to have open discussions with you guys and receiving candid feedback. As part of our appreciation for your patience and openness with us, we would like to arrange an outting for postgraduate students.
  • At this stage I would like some suggestions on any activities you would like to do - I was thinking axe throwing, go carting, or a puzzle room. If there are any ideas please send them through to caitlin and we will make up a way of voting for an outting.

10. Gillian Turner (Associate Dean - Science Postgraduate Students)
  • Ivy suggested I invite along Gillian Turner our new Associate Dean for Postgraduate Students in the Science Faculty. This was a great opportunity for Gillian to talk a bit about what she does aswell as take some questions from you guys. Gillian accepted this position 2 months ago and knows a bit about everyone as she reviews all the paperwork that goes through to the faculty. This includes CDPs & registrations for PhDs and progress reports for Masters students.
  • Gillian has open office hours on Thursday afternoons if you are interested in having a chat with her about any of the topics raised or any additional issues you think of. Outside of Thursday afternoons she is availiable by appointment.
  • The Science Faculty tends to be involved with the PhD process right at the start of your enrollment and right at the end as you prepare for examination. Everything inbetween is mainly the responsibilty of the Faculty. For the Masters process, this is a bit more of a grey area as currently much of the paperwork goes through the Faculty. However, in the coming month the Masters paperwork process is being reviewed so you will likely hear about some changes.For Hons the Faculty is mainly involved in a similar way to undergraduates. They handles agrogat applications, withdrawals and course changes.
  • If you have any issues in regards to these things with your enrolment, it is recommended you pop in to the Faculty office on the ground floor of Cotton for a chat. Even if you have general issues in regard to the structure of your course etc, it is good to pop in there. Day to day issues such as the furnishing of your office space will be handled by the school and issues related to your research project should be handled by your supervisor.
  • Long term, Gillian would like to develop the postgraduate community within the Science Faculty. But as she is new to the job she is taking a couple of months to get the hang of the bread and butter of her role. She welcomes anyone with ideas on how to improve the community to come on down to her office for a chat.
  • Gillian also works alongside PGSA, judging the 3 minute thesis competition. She recommends if you are participating in this competition to really think about your topic in general terms and the applications of it in the 'real' world. She also participates in some promotional work with undergraduates, encouraging them to enrol in postgraduate studies.
  • Jessica asked about changes in scholarship rules. Gillian advised that there have been no explicit changes in the VUW scholarship application rules, but there has been a massive increase in applicants. This has forces the scholarship committee to take extracurricular experience and publications into account and give them a heavier weighting in the application process. Scholarships are also heavily supported by your supervisor, it is highly recommended to have prior discussion and planning with your supervisor as this will again strengthen your application. Gillians role in scholarship applications is reviewing and ranking them for presentation to FGR and the scholarship committee. She represents all applications within the Science Faculty and argues for the scholarships to be awarded to you guys. There is no set number of scholarships awarded to the faculty, however they generally sit around the same amount (11 for Science). In total approximately 30-40 scholarships are given out each round.

The meeting concluded around 2pm as there was another booking for the room. The next meeting will be announced via email when the space has been booked.

May (29/5)

Meeting started around 3pm - Caitlin was picking up the pizza and missed the start so exact time not recorded

1. Research Committee:
    • The Research Committee is looking at revamping our Research Page and would like to have some student input. They will be meeting in CO431 on the 11th and 18th of June at 10am. If you are interested in helping with the redevelopment of this page please pass on your contact details to Caitlin.
    • Aleksa Vujicic, Grace Jacobs-Corban & Jasmine Hall have all expressed interest in helping out - If you would like to add your name please send through your details.

2. Thesis students page details:
    • Since it was raised in our last meeting there has been little progress on the Thesis Students page.
    • This page is to help you out with job and scholarship applications so make sure you put something in there.
    • When you have logged in to your ECS account there should be a bar at the bottom of your profile page allowing you to edit your profile. If this bar does not appear, feel free to send through your profile information and any pictures you want used to Caitlin.

3. Printer Move:
    • The survey regarding staff concerns about the printer move has been completed. The majority opinion expressed no issues with the printers being moved out of CO437. However, we now have the logistical issue of finding a place for the printer or getting some outlets installed to enable the installation. We are currently waiting on some quote but will keep you in the loop with the process.
    • Until the quotes come through, nothing is set in stone for the printer move but we are working on it.

4. Hons Desks:
    • There has been an expression of concern regarding the Hons desks and how they have been placed and used. Virginia expressed she rarely sees all three desks used at the same time and that there are some access issues with the entire space due to how they have been arranged. The corner of one desk is inaccessible and the end of one desk blocks the whiteboard.
    • Action Point: Caitlin will start making a record of how frequently the honours spaces are used over the coming weeks and build a case for how the space is being used.

5. Desks:
    • The issue of the desks not being up to standard and wanted them replaced with stand alone desks. As the workspace evaluations have been done, we are rectifying everything in line with the recommendations made by the Occupational Health and Safety Nurse. She only raised an issue with one individuals desk which we are working on finding a solution for this individual given the space and financial constraints we are facing.
    • The department is restricted with funding and cannot afford to replace all desks, thus we are forced to prioritise the students that have a health and safety risk associated with their workspace. This not only applies to the desks but all furnishings.
    • As the desks are built in to the wall if they were to be replaced it would be during a refurbishment which we have no control over either as refurbishments are planned by Facilities Management and signed off by the PVC. Before a refurbishment is even on the radar both ECS and SMS would need to reach a stable point where there is not so much movement in offices and staff growth.

6. Room Bookings
    • Administration staff were unaware that Postgraduates could not see all the availiable rooms on the ECS booking system.
    • Action Point: Caitlin will ask ECS jobs about giving you guys access to book CO344 & CO345 alongside the other rooms.
      • Follow up: Caitlin did check in about getting access but ECS wont do it as they cannot select who hass access to what rooms, they would have to give access to everyone for everyone and this is not possible for security reasons. Caitlin is more than happy to book in rooms if you flick an email through with the timeslot that you need. I will continue to work on a way to get access to some bookable spaces outside of office hours.
    • CO322 is not an option for a groupwork space as it is actually an ECS booked room even though it is in our part of the building. The room is full so does not have the allowable space for additional researchers to be coming and going. CO322 is currently in a hotdesking situation much like the honors students due to space restrictions.
    • It is also recommended that you discuss room availiability with your supervisor as you can make use of their space.

7. Workspace evaluations
    • If there is enough interest another round of workspace evaluations can be organized for those that are interested. Please send your details through to Caitlin if you would like to make arrangements.

8. Furniture Issues:
    • Jasmine raised that her chair is collapsing - a job has been booked to swap the chair out.
    • If anyone has concerns about their furniture being broken, please email or visit Caitlin in the office and we can try and work something out. Things like fixing heaters, blinds and chairs arent too big to sort out, we just need to know about it to get it done.

Meeting Concluded at 3:50pm and continued on into a session for writing the MRA letter without staff present.

March (29/3)

  1. Erica Schouten:
    1. Erica works full time a VUWSA as the student advocate and is here to discuss responses PG students can take to the changes in office space and the MRA. Her job also includes facilitating dialogue with the University including our Head of School, the vice-provost etc. She can also help with other issues related to tenancy, supervisor issues, employment etc.
    2. VUWSA has 10 members, 1 is full time and the rest are undergraduate volunteers. But staff include Erica herself and Joseph the Student Representative Coordinator (suggested as another useful point of contact).
    3. PGSA is also a volunteer organization and Erica recommended joining as they ate a strong voice for Postgraduate representation, but they are not a professional organization for representation. PGSA was forced into a corner with the MRA due to a weak executive and lack of participation – thus the interim MRA exists. There is ongoing back and forth between parties at this stage.
    4. Email is not considered the best means of communicating here. Erica recommended writing a letter together.
      • Action Point: Arrange time to write letter
      • Action Point: Postgrads meet to write letter
    5. The vice-provost (Prof Margaret Hyland) is the signatory on the MRA so it would be best to aim the letter towards her. Erica also suggested including the Dean of Science and Head of school in this letter.
    6. Question: What are the differences between the previous MRA and the current Interim MRA?
    7. Answer: This is difficult to answer as the old MRA is no longer available, there is only the existing interim MRA. Someone might have to ask Erica etc to find a copy of the old one for your review.
    8. Action Point: Try and find a copy of the old MRA
    9. Erica has offered to come and look at the new shared office space and help identify any Health & Safety Issues that may exist in the room. If the issues can be linked to Health & Safety the Uni is more pressed to respond to them.
    10. Current concerns include:
      • Desk blocking access to the whiteboard in CO437
      • Conflict of interest having Hons students in the room as PhDs and Masters students work as tutors etc to quite a few of these students
      • CO540 would like dividing walls between the desk spaces
      • Both rooms have expressed concerns about the level of lighting and ventilation
      • There are concerns about the necessity of including Hons students in the shared spaces as only 2 seem to come in frequently.
      • Other issues need to be documented in detail and included in the letter
      • Action Point: Document all grievances with the shared spaces to record in the letter
      • Action Point: Caitlin will print off original list of grievances sent from Susan for your reference during the letter writing sessions once they are booked.
  2. Sara Cotterall:
    1. Sara represents the academic side of studying. She organises many of the workshops and events for Postgraduate students, mainly PhD students. She also assists with supervision experience difficulties, employment issues with the university for tutors etc.
    2. Sara strongly recommends and supports the actions recommended by Erica. Erica knows who to talk to and the actions that can be lobbied for. She recommended building a case together, linking it to Health & Safety where possible as that pushes things through to completion faster. Sara also supported contacting Margaret Hyland the Vice-Provost with these concerns and issues. See the roles that fall under Margaret’s scope here.
    3. In addition to this stuff, Sara talked about a PhD presentation evening that she plans on organizing. Many of our social networks at university are developed within departments, the goal is to break down the academic silos and have more knowledge sharing and networking between disciplines. She wanted to gauge who was interested in the event and work from there to organize something for later in the semester.
      • Action Point: Send on Information about this evening to students to talk to their supervisors.
    4. Shut up & Write events were suggested as a good way of working and also meeting other postgrad students. However, Sara was uncertain if there events would work with Maths as this department has a different style of writing etc. The group at Kelburn is very mixed so may be of interest to some of you.
      • Shut up & Write usually takes place at Milk & Honey on Tuesdays (2pm-3pm) and Wednesdays (9am-10am).
  3. Communication:
    1. There seems to be difficulty getting through the amount of emails that are sent through. It is difficult to discern what is urgent and what is not – this is part of what contributed to issues with responding to the MRA. People didn’t understand how important it was when the email came through as it was just one of many and not distinguished from the others.
    2. Emails that are urgent need to be prioritised as urgent/important and need to include possible effects e.g. changes to the MRA needed to include something along the lines of “this will impact your resources for study in the coming years”. Although consultations need to be framed as events, that can be attended for discussion.
      • Action Point: Matters for consultation will be included in graduate meetings and additional meetings if there is a lot to discuss e.g. the changes to MRA letter writing meetings that will be organized.
    3. Caitlin suggested creating a newsletter to include the not urgent news and events, while also creating a record of achievements for postgrad students. This is also where information about upcoming meetings and workshops will be included. We are undecided on how frequently this newsletter should be sent out. Meenu suggested it should be complimentary to our PG meetings and offset them by 2 weeks approx. Everyone in attendance agreed this would be a good trial for a few months and we will touch base on how it is going in future meetings.
      • Action Point: Start the newsletter as a complement to our meeting, release approx. 2 weeks after meetings.
      • Action Point: Follow up on how newsletter release is going, in next meeting.
  4. Workspace evaluations:
    1. Not everyone has offices so did not sign up for a workspace evaluation.
    2. It was raised that issues with chairs can be included in CDP, this will encourage their replacement.
      • Action Point: Virginia would like to be added to the workspace evaluation list
      • Action Point: ACC Habit to be sent out to students to help with desk set up
  5. Latex:
    1. Jessica mentioned that some computers are missing latex packages.
      • Action Point: If you are missing latex packages that are needed for your work, contact your supervisors as they will be able to arrange their installation. Or email Caitlin to follow this up – although this may be a slower option.
  6. Headphones:
    1. If you would like a pair of sound deadening headphones, they are available to Masters and PhD students. Please email Caitlin, or come into the office to get some arranges.
      • Action Point: Both Jessica and Meenu want some headphones.
  7. Meeting time:
    1. The afternoon meeting time is considered workable by everyone
    2. Caitlin may occasionally book other time slots to try and capture other students that are unavailable during the afternoons, but generally we will keep using the afternoons.
  8. Swipe Cards:
    1. Jessica mentioned difficulties with her swipe card.
    2. Caitlin asked for her to check and report if it was not working so a replacement could be organized.


Meeting concluded at 3:00pm.

February (27/2)

Meeting begins 1:30pm
  1. First meeting of the year and due to updates in the mailing list at the last minute we were not able to accurately record attendance or apologies. This will be done for next time
  2. There was not previous meeting to have minutes approved.
  3. Matters Arising: No matters arising as this is the first meeting of the year
  4. Introducing Caitlin: Caitlin is the new postgraduate and stakeholder liaison and will be replacing Kelsey. Please forward any concerns or questions etc. through to Caitlin via email ( or visit her at CO358 reception.
  5. Space
    1. The department has been asked to give up some office spaces to ECS staff members. Offices need to be made available. It has been decided that thesis students will no longer have a fixed office space but will share the level 4 (CO437) & 5 (CO540) labs.
    2. This change is not taking place immediately, but will be happening at some point in the future. What is known is that CO346 & CO345 need to be made available first; the students in these offices will need to move in May.
      • Question: Will the academics have to double up their offices too? Some schools have academics sharing space, but it is not confirmed is the academics will have to share their office spaces.
      • Question: What is the long term plan? There is a long term plan outlined but this is prone to change due to enrolments, changing numbers in programmes. Our knowledge is limited around what is going to happen long term.
    3. The priority will be given to PHD by thesis students within the labs to have their own desk space. Masters by thesis will follow and then Honours students. Hons will probably have to hot desk with the remaining available space. The final allocations will depend on enrolments into programmes as mentioned earlier.
      • Question: For those that have signed the minimum resource agreement earlier (e.g. 2013 version) and it has now been updated – which agreement are they bound by? And what avenues can be pursued if the disagree with the current agreement?
      • Action: Caitlin will find a point of contact for the graduates to discuss these changes and any disagreements with these changes.
      • Question: Who made this decision? Mike Wilson made this decision but has since left his position. Supervisors have been consulted as we plan the move.
    4. There are 15 desks in the shared space and it can be loud when the room is too full. Can a collaboration space be made available for group work?
      • CO350 is available and we have the keys, but the request has been to have a space available 24/7 where possible for the students to access.
        • There was mention of some other rooms that are meant to be available but are usually found locked. (CO344, CO345 & CO359 mentioned)
      • Action: Caitlin will look in to the availability of these rooms and their potential for use as collaboration rooms/discussion spaces for work.
      • CO255, CO247A&B suggested as collaboration rooms
      • Request has been to ensure there are whiteboards available in any space that might be made available as a collaboration space.
    5. Question: What is the purpose and future plans for K-pod? One level will be for students, but it will be an open plan office and not suitable work space for SMS.
    6. There is some concern about Graduates finishing in June and being requested to move in May. There have been requests to work on a case by case basis in these instances to allow them to finish and leave the office right after, rather than moving twice.
      • Action: Caitlin will have a look at what can be done and try to formulate an action plan to ensure a smooth move and that more accurate information on the moving timeline is available where possible to enable the graduates to plan.
  6. Our role in helping you
    1. We work to support the graduates. Ginny endeavours to find funding and work opportunities for graduates. While Caitlin also works to ensure needs are met. Please email us if there are any questions that need to be addressed or if you need help finding the right point of contact etc for and issue.
    2. Currently there are 2 PhD grants available and 1 Masters Grant. Email your applications in to Ginny or feel free to ask any questions. There is also some funding available to attend conferences, graduates will need to talk to their supervisor and Ginny about getting funding or addressing any shortfalls in funding.
  7. Lab furnishings
    1. There has been a request to shift the printers out of the room as they are loud and many people come in and out to print without actually working in the space.
      • Action: Will look into the potential for this happen. Space availability may limit where the printers can be placed.
    2. There has been concern about the storage space available in the shared labs (Particularly drawers and shelving). The spaces do not have equal amounts of storage with some areas have more shelves than others. Desks were also raised as an issue, some students cannot fit under the desk and find it difficult to work in that space.
      • Action: Any concerns about current furnishings need to be emailed to Caitlin to follow up.
    3. There have been concerns raised about the availability of whiteboards in the shared space. As mentioned above there was a request to have them available in a collaboration style space. But there are currently not enough to go around in the shared space for individual work.
      • Action: Caitlin will look into what can be done about this, and if there are other options.
    4. Blinds in the labs. Afternoon sun is apparently quite harsh, there has been a request to look into blinds for this room. Although it has not been confirmed which rooms are being affected by the sun.
      • Action: Caitlin will look into the harshness of the sun in these rooms and if blinds are needed.
  8. Headphones
    1. Noise cancelling headphones have been purchased by the department to help with the noise in a shared space. We encourage the graduates to pick up a set of headphones if needed. While they do not address all the issues, we hope they can help you out while we formulate solutions.
  9. 5th Floor Space
    1. We are trying to retain this space as long as possible. Currently the undergraduates have access to this space, but there hopes to change this to a postgraduate only space.
      • Action: Caitlin will look into the plans for this space
  10. Help desk spaces:
    1. Many of the SMS postgrads are doing work on the behalf of the department in tutoring etc. Concerns were raised about how this shared space would impact office hours and if it would be inconveniencing for other graduates for help desks to be taking place in a shared space like that.
      • Action: Caitlin will look into the plans for office hours and help desks.
  11. The graduates have requested more dialogue with VC.
      • Action: Caitlin will look into providing discussion opportunities with PGSA, VUWSA and the Student Advocate for future meetings
  12. Future Meetings:
    1. Caitlin will send out a quick Qualtrics survey to SMS graduates regarding how often you would like to meet and any topics of interest. Once this is completed, you will all be notified of the next meeting time.


Meeting concluded at 2:45pm
Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
CO540 reno.pngpng CO540 reno.png manage 38 K 27 Sep 2019 - 14:49 Main.warwooca