PhD Student Ambassadors: Partners in Promoting Graduate Research

Keywords: student partners; administration; graduate research; PhD students


The aims of this research were to explore the experiences of staff and postgraduate students in an ambassador scheme, develop a model of partnering with postgraduate students in the administrative space, and consider implications for partnership initiatives. A qualitative case study was undertaken of a “Graduate Research Ambassador Scheme”, involving a dean employing two PhD students as paid ambassadors to help promote a vibrant graduate research culture. Research diaries were kept by each partner, regular research discussions occurred, and each partner wrote a reflective account of their experiences. These data were collaboratively analysed using a general inductive approach. All partners had very positive experiences, but there was some uncertainty regarding the nature of the role and some institutional challenges. A model of staff-student partnership within the administrative space was developed that included three main influences on effective partnerships: roles in partnership, structural characteristics, and personal characteristics. The model highlights the need for clear articulation of roles and tasks, the challenge of institutional cultures, and the way that resources, time, and space can either hinder or help partnerships. Personal characteristics such as trust, respect, and informal communication can significantly mitigate challenges and build fruitful partnerships. 

Author Biographies

Liesel Mitchell, University of Otago

Liesel Mitchell is a PhD student with the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, and employed as a Graduate Ambassador at the University of Otago. Liesel currently researches participation in nonviolent civil resistance, and has broader interests in education, conflict resolution, restorative justice and ways to use online learning.

Shabnam Seyedmehdi, University of Otago

Shabnam Seyedmehdi is a Doctoral Student in Marketing Department at the University of Otago. Her research interests lie in the multidisciplinary areas such as tourism marketing, branding and non-profit organisations. Prior to academia, she has had practical business experience in Malaysia. 

Rachel Spronken-Smith, University of Otago

Rachel Spronken-Smith is a professor in higher education and geography. She is currently Dean of the Graduate Research School at the University of Otago. Rachel continues to teach and research, with her interests in higher education including inquiry-based learning, graduate outcomes and doctoral education. 


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How to Cite
Mitchell, L., Seyedmehdi, S., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2017). PhD Student Ambassadors: Partners in Promoting Graduate Research. International Journal for Students As Partners, 1(2).
Research Articles