One of the things I love about the Fenner School is the annual Research Student Retreat. Each year, all Fenner PhD and MPhil students are invited to attend a 2-day ‘retreat’, which basically involves a mixture of workshops, social activities, wine, cheese and fire pit frivolity.
The School arranges all of the core retreat ingredients – overnight accommodation, catering and transport. A volunteer student committee then works to organise a program with useful workshops and training activities for students at various stages of their research career (as well as some time for fun).
This year I had the privilege of co-organising with several other Fennerites the program for the retreat, held this year for the first time at Greenhills Centre on the edge of Canberra. I may be biased, but I reckon we had a cracker of a program ;-) Some of the highlights included:
- “Speed networking” ice-breaker activity (something I’ve seen done successfully at a CEED conference), where all students and staff had 3 minutes to chat with someone they may or may not have met previously;
- A session on publishing in the sciences, led by David Lindenmayer (arguably one of the most qualified scientists to speak on this topic)
- Liz Visher, Director of Program Partnerships at the Australian Research Council gave a fantastic presentation on how to capitalise on your PhD in the job market – including tips on everything from searching for jobs, writing the application to what to do in the interview
- “Draw Your Thesis”, led by Katherine Schmutter involved butchers paper, thick textas, science communication and varying degrees of artistic talent amongst Fenner students
- Megan Poore, academic skills adviser at the Crawford School gave us some practical tips for mapping out your thesis, including some quick and dirty tips for structuring introductions and conclusions
As is tradition, the evening of the first day saw the Fenner School Director, Steve Dovers, give a brief backgrounder to the School for newcomers (which this year morphed into a synopsis of the thesis examination process explained with smiley and frowney faces). We were also treated to four short “show and tell” presentations from international and domestic students working overseas, featuring photos from countries as diverse as Chile, Malawi and Mauritius.
We also had lots of time for frisbee,
soccer football, volleyball and a walk along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River at the end of the last day.
A big thanks to this year’s student organising committee (Shana Nerenberg, Dean Ansell, Stacy-ann Robinson, Kathy Eyles, Marcos Tricallotis and Rick Zentelis), as well as all of the students and staff who facilitated sessions. Finally, the retreat would not be possible without the hard work and support of Kev Mahoney, Jack Pezzey and Steve Dovers.