Pieter Pelser

'Just like biodiversity, ethnic and cultural diversity make life interesting...'

pieter pelser UC diversity champion

Contact details

Phone: +64 3 364 2987 ext. 45605
Email: pieter.pelser@canterbury.ac.nz


'I am a senior lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences with an interest in conservation, biodiversity and evolution. I am of Dutch descent and after completing my university studies in the Netherlands, I worked in Ohio and Oklahoma in the USA before moving to New Zealand in 2009. One of the most rewarding aspects of my profession is the opportunity to work together with people from all over the world and to learn from their views and insights. A significant portion of my research activities focuses on botanical biodiversity in the Philippines, the country of origin of my wife and closest colleague. Together we have travelled many parts of this wonderfully diverse country and worked with people from all walks of life to document and study plant diversity in the Philippines. At UC, I have worked with international undergraduate, postgraduate and internship students and enjoy introducing them to beautiful New Zealand.'

What does diversity mean to you?

'Just like biodiversity, ethnic and cultural diversity make life interesting. I learned the importance of diversity when I did an internship in Indonesia as part of my undergraduate studies. Despite having travelled overseas as a tourist previously, only then I discovered how stimulating it is to work with people with a different culture than your own. Understanding different views of the world makes one see how much all people have in common, despite the superficial differences that some cannot see beyond. The experience of being embedded in a different culture, as opposed to viewing it from a distance as a tourist, is perhaps one of the reasons why I enjoy living in New Zealand as well as working in the Philippines. And, yes, I also very much enjoy international cuisine!'

What role does diversity play in your work?

'Being a foreign national myself, I know how challenging it can be to move to a new and far-away country. I therefore see it as UC’s and my own responsibility to help international students feel welcome and at home, and to ensure that they will have an unforgettably enjoyable time in New Zealand. In addition, I find it important to expose New Zealand students to other cultures and do so by providing course content that stimulates their interest in people elsewhere in the world.'

What diversity activities have you been involved in?

'I am advocating for a stronger and more explicit focus in UC’s Graduate Profile on international cultural competence. I have been involved in addressing concerns of international postgraduate students regarding university life at UC. Together with my wife, I enjoy having international students over for dinner. We have also initiated trips to ensure that students don’t leave without seeing some of the beauty of the South Island. I think that I would best function as a Champion for Ethnic, international and cultural diversity.'