World-class team lures academic

Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles is impressed by what she has seen of Dunedin since moving to the city last month to take up a job at the University of Otago. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles is impressed by what she has seen of Dunedin since moving to the city last month to take up a job at the University of Otago. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
New University of Otago staff member Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles talks to reporter Vaughan Elder about moving to Dunedin and her O-Week plans.

Q: When did you move to Dunedin and where were you before?
A:
I moved to Dunedin in early January. I came from Adelaide, where I lived for 17 years and worked as a lecturer at the University of South Australia. Prior to that, I developed a background of work and study in various countries such as Tonga, England and North Carolina, United States, where I grew up.

Q: Why did you make the decision to move here?
A
: It wasn't easy leaving Adelaide after living there so long, but the attraction of Dunedin was the friendly, talented and world-class team in the department of tourism at the university. I had met individuals working in the department at international conferences and was familiar with the exciting work being developed by the group. In the broader context, I have always regarded New Zealand as a special country from both its environmental beauty and amazing Maori culture.

Q: What position did you take up at the university?
A:
I am serving as a senior lecturer responsible for teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the field of hospitality. I will also be continuing research work in critical tourism and hospitality studies and hope to expand my knowledge and experience of indigenous tourism in the New Zealand context. In Adelaide, I was responsible for an innovative teaching and research portfolio in indigenous tourism which featured collaborative partnerships with South Australian Aboriginal communities. I hope to explore links between interested Maori communities and Aboriginal communities and foster learning on using tourism for social and community wellbeing.

Q: What did you know about the city before you came here?
A:
I must confess I knew little about the city before my arrival, but I heard that it is a very beautiful and liveable city from my colleagues who attended the Australian and New Zealand leisure studies conference here a little over a year ago. This shows how conferences can serve as showcases for cities like Dunedin that feature a quality of life long lost elsewhere.

Q: What are your impressions of Dunedin so far?
A:
I have been enjoying a lovely discovery of the people and places of Dunedin. It is one of the friendliest places I have lived. I am also amazed at the beauty of the coastline and the marine species that are a feature of the place. I am finding some comfort in some shared attributes with Adelaide, which is making my transition easier and is opening up some thoughts for comparative research.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about your first year at the university?
A
: The first year is always a challenge, but I look forward to learning as much as I hope to share with my students and colleagues.

Q: Will you be going to any O-Week events?
A:
The O-Week programme has a great variety of events and it seems an exciting way to welcome students to campus. I like the music of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, but I think they've sold out. However, the International Food Festival on Saturday is a definite point of attraction. I will be teaching an undergraduate paper on events and conventions management so I can call it part of my lesson-planning.