21 May 2018
Dr Janis Swan, PhD, DistFEngNZ, FNZIFST, MNZM, was made a Distinguished Fellow of Engineering New Zealand at the 2018 Engineering New Zealand Fellowship Dinner and earlier in the year was also made an Emeritus Professor at the University of Waikato.
How did you feel when you found out you were going to be made a Distinguished Fellow of Engineering New Zealand?
It was very exciting to get the phone call from Engineering New Zealand’s CE Susan Freeman-Greene saying that I had become the Distinguished Fellow of Engineering New Zealand. In this year focusing on diversity in engineering, the number of women in this category has doubled!
Why do you think it is important for engineering academics to get involved in their community and with Engineering New Zealand?
Most of the graduates from our engineering programmes go on to practice engineering. Tertiary institutions are major contributors to knowledge and ideas and engineering academics need to be connected to the “real” world. One way to do this is to be involved in the community, industry and their profession via Engineering New Zealand. This helped me stay grounded and stopped me being accused of “living in my ivory tower”.
What is one of the easiest ways that academics can be more involved in their community?
This is a hard question so I will fall back on “it depends”. Making a positive contribution is always easiest if one is interested, or has a reason. Over one's life, the causes one is involved in change. There are many volunteering opportunities that allow you to contribute to conservation, restoration, education, etc. The important thing is to take the small step and share your talents.
What has been your greatest achievement in your academic career?
Being a role model for the many engineering students that have come to the University of Waikato.
What have personally gained from volunteering?
Knowing that I’ve added a small part to the whole, the satisfaction of a job well done, and increasing my contacts.
Why do you feel it is important for academics to stop and celebrate the achievements of academics and industry?
The increasing pace of society makes us focus on the next goal almost before we have reached our current goal. Celebrating our achievements allows us to take a small breather and reflect on what we have managed to achieve. We need more of these moments. Taking the time each day to say thank you and good job to our colleagues is also important.
What do you do outside the world of academia?
Lots – gardening, reading, looking after the horses, hens and the cat, films, having my young grandchildren around, cooking, keeping up with friends and relatives, I’m on several committees.