Beyond the numbers: The importance of social networks

On Wednesday the 4th of September, Deputy-Vice Chancellor Education AO Pip Pattison joined Mandelbaum House as our special guest for formal dinner. Having completed her PhD in Psychology, Pip has used her expertise as a quantitative psychologist as well as an educator in contribution to major educational transformations within the best universities in Australia. After friendly chatters and delicious canapés, resident Kacy played a beautiful piano piece, which then later transitioned the night to the long-awaited presentation of our Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

As an expert on data and social networks, Pip’s passion for her research truly radiates. Through her presentation on social networks, Pip was able to convince us with ease that data and social networks’ are relevant to all disciplines and within every facet of life. To the university graduate, research on social ties tells us that 60% of job hunters find employment through their ‘weak social ties’ as these relationships open doors to a different range of information and skills that were less likely to be found in most immediate relationships.

Even in the face of emergencies and crises, the understanding of social networks is crucial. The visual expression of networks helps public health professionals to treat Hepatitis C patients most effectively, as well as identifying service providers and the members of the community needing treatment for PTSD during the Victorian bushfires. In the context of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Pip revealed to us the importance of understanding the structure of credit through data and social networks.

As the Deputy-Vice Chancellor for Education, Pip gave us an insight into how the research of social networks helps to improve university life for students at the University of Sydney. She shares that researchers have found that ‘study ties’ among students create both better friendship and learning outcomes. Hence, through the analysis of heat maps in social proximity of USYD student societies, Pip shares to us how these findings have resulted in the implementation of learning opportunities with social interactions, in enhancing the student experience at the University.

During her evening at Mandelbaum House, Pip’s approachable presence and genuine passion for research were felt among the residents. Thank you, Deputy-Vice Chancellor for sharing your passion with us, it was truly our honour to have you over at our place!

By Lucy Lu (Mandelbaum resident)