What if Wednesdays - Free public lectures, twice monthly

The University of Canterbury holds free public lectures on campus, twice a month on Wednesdays from 7.00pm.

The What if Wednesdays (WIW) public lecture series is returning for 2015. This year the series will be held twice a month with interesting topics and speakers from the University of Canterbury. You can register your interest by entering your details here..

Should you wish to revisit any of the WIW lectures from 2015, 2014 or 2013, you can view them via our YouTube channel.

Upcoming Lectures

8 July

What if... workplace innovation is killed by centralisation?

Tony Mortensen, Director of International Growth Strategies  

Centralisation is the process where an organisation moves a number of key functions into one central physical or structural location. A number of these activities often relate to the planning and controlling of an organisation but have extended  to a number of key service activities including human resources, finance, IT and procurement (to name but a few). The logic behind such a strategy is that core functions can be kept close to the key decision makers, allowing for a more standardised and strategic approach to organisational development and advancement. There is also the idea that centralisation creates cost efficiencies, as what can often be seen as duplicated cost functions are minimised through the process of consolidation. However, there are growing concerns that shifting certain key parts of an organisation’s operations to the “head office” reduces the level of effectiveness long-term, leading to everything from lower levels of customer satisfaction to branch-based employee frustration and disengagement. It is this loss of effectiveness that can also disrupt organisational flow and can even lead to a lack of innovative thinking.

The last decade has seen an increase in centralisation activity, with more locally housed functions being shifted to the “head office”. For multinational organisations operating in New Zealand this has resulted in a number of services being housed and often controlled off-shore. This in itself can add another level of complexity to the debate as factors such as time-zones and even cultural differences create ongoing issues.

This presentation will consider both sides of this equation and raise critical arguments regarding the costs and benefits of centralisation so managers and decision makers can fully appreciate the impact of such decisions on the organisation they are responsible for.

Tony Mortensen has a BCom (Hon) in accounting and finance, an MCom in accounting and is a registered accountant. Prior to his current role as Director of International Growth Strategies at the University of Canterbury, he was the Director of Executive Development programmes. Starting his career as an accountant with KPMG, he moved into financial controlling and general management roles before taking up a position at the University of Canterbury.

Register now!

22 July

What if... plastic was not used in facial scrubs?

Dr Sally Gaw, Department of Chemistry, College of Science.  

  • Why are plastics the most common contaminant in the oceans?
  • What are the impacts of plastic in the oceans?
  • What are microplastics?
  • Is plastic in the ocean a bigger threat than global warming?

Plastics have become the most common contaminant in the world’s oceans. While most people are familiar with the damage wrought by large plastic debris, there is increasing awareness of the impacts of microplastic particles. Microplastics are either pre-formed or derived from the degradation of larger plastic debris.  Common sources of pre-formed microplastics include cosmetics and fibres released from synthetic fabrics. These small plastic particles have been found in all the world’s oceans as well as in Arctic sea ice.  Microplastics can be mistaken for food by aquatic organisms with adverse impacts including internal damage and starvation. In addition microplastics have been demonstrated to concentrate contaminants that are transferred to aquatic organisms once ingested.  Microplastics have also been found in shellfish consumed by humans raising questions about potential impacts on human health.

This lecture will explore the sources and impacts of microplastics in the world’s oceans and will conclude with measures to reduce the amount of plastic entering the oceans.

Dr Sally Gaw is the Director of Environmental Science and a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Chemistry at the University of Canterbury.  Her research interests focus on the environmental fate and toxicity of contaminants in the environment.  

Register now!

12 August

What if... studying Arts was the best thing for the economy?

Professor Jonathan Le Cocq

26 August

What if... computers could save lives?

Professor Tim David

9 September

What if... buying a house became more affordable?

Tim Nees

23 September

What if... we could make Christchurch the smartest city in the best world?

Dr Malcolm Campbell

7 October

What if... we could predict ground shaking in future major earthquakes?

Associate Professor Brendon Bradley

21 October

What if... we could detect breast cancer without xrays or pain?

Professor Geoff Chase