The Otago Postgraduate Association (OPA) here to help postgrads

Throughout 2022 OPA hopes to increase its visibility among postgraduate students by letting them know it’s open and available to everybody.

The Otago Postgraduate Association has been helping postgrad students since it was founded in 2018.

“OPA would feel accomplished if we ease the lives of our postgrad students this year,” OPA Professional Development Officer Sahitya Anand says.

“With the disruptions we have had in the past couple of years, it has been difficult for OPA execs to really get out there and do what OPA envisioned to do.

“But we are feeling confident this year with borders opening up and things returning to the new normal. We have an extremely enthusiastic team this year and are committed to bring to life the mission, vision and purpose of OPA,” Sahitya says.

OPA has a number of events lined up including social events, wellness activities, panel discussions and a mentor match programme. All events will be run with COVID-19 guidelines in place.

“We have already had a casual catch up this month and it has been a great success. We will be running these wee catch ups every month going forward.”

Afternoon teas will not only provide a space to catch up and socialise but provide students with an opportunity to discuss any issues they are experiencing, which OPA could then take up with the relevant bodies such as The Graduate Research School or OUSA, Sahitya says.

The association will also be releasing OPA Perks Cards soon which will enable cardholders to gain discounts from various businesses around town.

“It is going to be a very exciting year, students should make the most of it.”

OPA will be chaired by Ravneel Chand for 2022. He will be supported by an additional 10 execs and an administrator.

Students interested in learning more can follow OPA on Instagram @otagopostgrad , or write to the association by email .

How did OPA begin?

In 2018, upon finding the Otago Uni Postgrad Society defunct, Jade De La Paz decided to take matters into her own hands, spearheading the movement that would become OPA.

“I realized there was no support structure for postgrads at the Uni beyond the Postgrad Rep in OUSA, and the Graduate Research School. I thought it was really important that we had a postgrad-led association that focused on the needs of postgrads.”

The PhD candidate and her partner had just arrived in Dunedin from Hawaii, and she noted there was not a lot in place to help postgrad students develop their social or professional circles.

“I wrote the vision, values and mission for OPA, which gave a three-pronged approach to postgrad representation: community, professional development and wellbeing.”

This set the basis for the executive, which features representatives focusing on each of those areas.
A constitution was written, the organisation was set up in August 2018, and OPA held its first AGM not long after.

“Starting a new organisation for postgrads, who are always busy, was not an easy feat,” she says.

Since then she has secured ongoing funding for OPA, trained executive board members, implemented an annual ball and hosted dozens of events and workshops that have brought postgrad students together.

Jade held the role of Community Liaison Officer from August 2018 until February 2021, before reluctantly handing it over.

“I was pretty sad to leave the OPA, but I am trying to finish my PhD and I have a 6-month-old daughter at home, I really just didn’t have time for it anymore.”

She is proud of what she has achieved and excited to see where the organisation she founded will go.

“I am really loving the direction they are going in and I hope it continues.”

Jade received the Silver Service Award from the University of Otago and Otago University Students’ Association for Contribution to the Postgraduate Association in 2020.