RAID Networking Event – Armidale
A bustling room of international attendees, swarming a cosy pub in rural Armidale, was an invigorating site after the COVID hiatus. Over fifty researchers and students attended a long-awaited Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) networking event on the evening of Wednesday 26 October 2022. Being home to the University of New England (UNE), International Development has a strong following in Armidale, nourished by passionate researchers and many international and domestic students. This casual and fun networking event was needed to restore cross-disciplinary linkages between the Business School, The Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences School and The School of Environmental and Rural Science, which suffered due to the prolonged impacts of COVID-19. It also fostered new collaborators, with 17 Meryl Williams Fellows from the Indo-Pacific regions, associated with the ACIAR funded Meryl Williams Fellowship, adding exuberance and experience to the room.
With the help of RAID Event Coordinator, Jessica Fearnley, RAID representative’s Dr Luisa Olmo and Zelalem Lema organised the event. Dr Olmo scoured the entire UNE campus to pester busy academics and students about the event, ensuring that the flyer did not get lost in their ocean of emails. The event was also promoted on the RAID Facebook page and the UNE International Development Facebook page.
These efforts were successful, with a swarm of attendees arriving at 6 30pm. Dr Olmo reminded the attendees that RAID is a network that was founded by Australian scientists for the purpose of promoting International Development as a worthwhile career option. Three speakers gave their first-hand testaments to this. They consisted of an early-career researcher (Dr Olmo, UNE), a mid-career researcher (Dr Daovy Kongmanila, National University of Laos) and a late-career researcher (Associate Professor Rebecca Spence). Each presenter provided a short overview of their experiences and advice aimed to inspire researchers to work in this space. Rebecca reminded the audience that it’s a privilege to work in International Development an we should never assume we know everything, while Dr Olmo recounted her accidental venture into Animal Science, which she is grateful led her to International Development. Dr Daovy shared her appreciation for working with Australian Scientists and encouraged more people to get involved.
Some ‘forced’ fun followed with attendees asked to walk toward images of emoticons posted around the room that best reflected their feeling towards words that Dr Olmo called out (e.g. Harry potter, Korean pop-music, cats, gardening, etc). A representative from each emoticon group was encouraged to share why they chose that emoticon. The activity succeeded in creating initial linkages between attendees to promote conversation during the event. The attendees where then free to socialise and several new relationships were sparked.
The high interest by UNE researchers resulted in funding from the event being received from the RAID Network, The School of Environmental and Rural Science, The Geared Project and the Lao-Vietnam Goat Project.
The event was a much-needed opportunity for students and researchers working in International Development to reconnect and boost the RAID profile among the new generation. Armidale RAID representatives, Dr Olmo and Jori Bremer, are motivated to plan exciting new RAID events in Armidale for 2023.