Dave Hursthouse and Sam O’Sullivan are looking to “equip a new generation of leaders and change-makers with skills to navigate the complexity of the modern world”.
Their vision matches the core principles of Otago Polytechnic’s innovative and empowering Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice (Leadership for Change), which both Sam and Dave are hoping to complete this year.
The one-year Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice allows learners to identify a challenge or goal in their work environment or practice. They can then research and define the issue, develop an approach for resolving it, and implement processes to achieve their desired outcomes.
Sam and Dave are part of a team that has developed a shared vision — a “centre for socio-ecological learning” — where they (along with Emma Morris, Cameron Ryan and Chris Anderson) could facilitate ecological design, social psychology, Te Ao Maori, sustainability, permaculture, wellbeing and mindfulness, civics and political literacy and systems thinking, among other concepts.
“Our studies mirror our plans to develop a facility and programme that also seeks to facilitate change in the world.”
Both Sam and Dave say the Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice (Leadership for Change) has come at a great time in their lives.
“We talk to a lot of people around New Zealand and many of them comment about how they’d like to improve their communities. A lot of the time, they need support to do so. It’s fundamental.”
Having just returned to New Zealand after volunteering at the International Permaculture Convergence in India for four months, Dave was pondering his next move, which included engaging in more education.
“Then I discovered this. It was perfect. It hasn’t just supported my ideas – it has made them stronger. What appealed is the fact it is different from more traditional modes of learning – especially in a tertiary context.
“Up to this point, I hadn’t thought the education system had particularly suited me,” says Dave, who has a Bachelor of Arts (Politics).
“Having critical feedback from all sorts of perspectives has been invaluable. We are continually challenged. I really respond to that.”
Like Dave, Sam is no stranger to tertiary education. A Clinical Psychologist, he holds a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology with Classics Minor), a Master of Arts (Psychology) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology.
Sam embarked on the Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice (Leadership for Change) with the view it would help inform his work making online video documentaries for his men’s mental health programme, Tough Talk.
However, Sam says the learning process has expanded that vision.
“The idea of learning in a supported environment and having access to such amazing facilitators is really inspiring,” Sam says.
“When you start the programme you do a ‘review of learning’, a process that helps you understand how your ideas can be expanded.”
“Now I see Tough Talk as part of a continuum that will include other projects. All of this fits into my aspirations around providing people with resources to deal with mental health issues.
“I also have to remind myself that the Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice is a ‘space’ for me to reflect. It allows me to take time away from my ‘normal job. And that’s very important.”
Dave agrees: “There is a real richness to this programme. The collegial way in which people share information and stories encourages everyone to talk about important things they’ve learned.
“Rather than having people telling you what’s going on, you have a supportive team of people asking you what’s going on — then responding to your answers.”