Daughter’s PhD completes family hat trick

University of Otago vice chancellor Harlene Hayne with the latest doctor of psychology in the...
University of Otago vice chancellor Harlene Hayne with the latest doctor of psychology in the family, daughter Marea Colombo, who graduated with a PhD in psychology on Saturday. Photo: Christine O'Connor
University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne has sat through dozens of graduation ceremonies, playing her part of a special day for thousands of families.

The Saturday 1pm ceremony was Prof Hayne’s turn for that special family day, as daughter Marea Colombo crossed the stage to be awarded her PhD in psychology.

Dr Colombo’s doctorate completed an unusual family hat trick — her father Prof Mike Colombo and Prof Hayne both have doctorates  in  psychology.

"My parents were always really good at saying we could do whatever we wanted," Dr Colombo — who in her undergraduate days in Vermont was originally going to study political science — said.

"But what I love about psychology is that it’s an empirical science and what you get to study is people, which was my big passion.

"They never ever encouraged me to do psychology, but probably watching them and their wonderful careers and cool research helped that passion form."

Dr Colombo’s thesis, supervised by Prof Jamin Halberstadt, examined what adults really thought about each other — their thoughts, feelings, and visual perspectives.

She is not qualified to practise, but she is not eyeing up a career at the university as an alternative.

"Right now my future does not quite look like being an academic although that’s always on the table," she said.

Instead, Dr Colombo will be demonstrating her versatility by teaching marine science in California.

"The reason why I did a PhD was I thought it would help me write better, think critically and communicate clearly," Dr Colombo said.

"Come 2020, I think I will be looking for a job which involved people and where I get to use some of those skills, even if it’s not quite in the psychology field."

Prof Hayne said her daughter chose to do her post-graduate study at Otago, and was thrilled that she would be on stage to see three years of hard work capped off.

"We are incredibly proud of her — it’s an amazing achievement," she said.


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